How to Go Green: Fashion Accessories
Humankind has adored adornment ever since Ogga the cavewoman popped the head of a prehistoric sloth between two very large rocks and paraded its pelt to the girls back at the cave. Whether as part of an exercise in creativity or simply because part of our reptilian hind-brain goes "Ooh, shiny," accessories often make the outfit. Here's how to put together a killer look without being destructive.
|Top Fashion Accessories Tips||Further Reading on Fashion Accessories|
|Fashion Accessories: By The Numbers||Fashion Accessories: From the Archives|
|Where to Get Fashion Accessories||How to Go Green: Index|
Top Fashion Accessories Tips
- Pick a good vintageThe second of the three Rs, "reuse," is there for a good reason--granting an existing item a second lease on life, instead of purchasing brand new, means no new manufacturing resources had to be tapped into. As a bonus, we're spared from any additional pollution and carbon emissions.
- Make it a fair tradeShelling out for fairly traded gear supports fair labor conditions and workers' rights, especially in developing countries. Helping producers get a fair price for their labors and promoting self-reliance also empowers them to break the cycle of poverty they're often caught in. Just keep in mind that trade, not aid, is the answer to improving livelihoods everywhere.
- Repurpose for a purposeBecause the mining of precious gems and metals from the earth is an environmentally ravaging process, some jewelry designers have been taking a different, more eco-friendly tack. Recycled metals have been making their rounds of late, including a form of silver that is reclaimed from used photographic film. For your green wedding: engagement and wedding rings made from recycled gold and set with repurposed or lab-grown gems.
- Suss out sustainableAccessories made from sustainably produced or recycled materials are lovely to behold and kind to the planet. On the fabric front, choose textiles such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and even soysilk.
- Beg or borrowPlunder the contents of someone else's closet--with permission, natch--instead of shopping for your own. One company, Bag Borrow or Steal, even lets you rent as many as five designer handbags, belts, or pieces of jewelry at a time for a flat monthly membership fee (plus an additional fee per borrowed item). You can sate your desire for straight-off-the-runway ensembles without overtaxing the planet's resources.
- Buy conflict-freeConflict or "blood" diamonds are sold, often illicitly, in war zones and used by rebel movements to fuel conflict and human-rights abuses in countries such as Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone. Make sure your diamond retailer can provide paperwork or otherwise prove that the diamonds are conflict-free.
- Take care of your waresRepair a torn purse strap or restring a broken necklace instead of consigning slightly damaged goods to the rubbish heap. Treating your accessories with a little TLC will also go a long way to extending their longevity, which is kinder to the environment than running through a series of semi-disposable replacements.
- Brevity is the soul of witAccessories are meant to complement your outfit, not take it over. And, anyway, wouldn't you rather be remembered for your sparkling wit rather than that blinding hunk of ice that was weighing your neck down? Jewelry that is simple and classic will stand you in good stead, regardless of the occasion--or decade, for that matter. Which brings us to our next point.
- Don't go with the flowPilot your own fashion destiny and unchain your heart from the vagaries of fashion trends. Being a follower instead of a leader will only bring you to a dark place filled with tears and the gnashing of teeth, plus a closet and dresser full of dated gewgaws and doodads that have long fallen out of favor with the fashion gods. One word: poncho.
- Buy indieThink of "mall" as a four-letter word. Instead of shopping at a big-box retailer, which is likely to cut corners by purchasing from sweat shops, undercompensating employees, and cheapening quality, check out the offerings of one of the thousands of indie crafters bringing their creative talents to market. Because craft businesses tend to be small one- or two-person operations, their carbon footprints are infinitely smaller to those of multinational retailers such as Wal-mart or Kmart. By supporting independent artisans, you're also taking a stand against the onslaught of crass commercialization and unmindful consumerism. Viva la revolution!
Fashion Accessories: By The Numbers
- 3 percent: Percentage of conflict diamonds in the total rough-diamond trade, according to estimates from the diamond industry. Others put the number as high as 15% of the total trade.
- $7.9 billion: The market value of rough diamonds produced in 2001. These were then converted into jewelry worth $54.1 billion.
- 80 percent: The percentage of gold minded each year that goes into jewelry, out of 2500 tons.
- 6: The number of handbags the average woman in the U.S. owns. According to marketing research by The NPD Group, ownership is highly correlated with age: four in 10 women age 55 and above said they own seven or more handbags each.
Where to Get Fashion Accessories3R LivingaGaiN NYCA Greater GiftBeg Borrow or StealBrilliant EarthBTC ElementsEcoistEco-handbags.caEscamaFreitagGreenKaratGreenloopHip & ZenJunk to Jewels Recycled Bicycle JewelryMoonrise JewelryNewspaper JewelryPasschalPristine PlanetReusable BagsSalvationSacksUncommon GoodsVerde Fine Natural JewelryVivaTerraBack To Top Λ
Fashion Accessories: From the ArchivesDig deeper into these articles on fashion accessories from the TreeHugger and Planet Green archives.Accessories TipsCheck out these five reuses for old handbags.
Here's what do when you find yourself with too many plastic bags.
Learn more about greening your clothing in our How to Go Green: Wardrobe guide.
BagsKeen bags, from fine people who brought us Keen shoes.
Flatbags from Snowline Designs use reclaimed materials.
One reader wants to know what eco-friendly field bags are available.
KASTd designer bags from recycled rubber.
Vintage barkcloth finds new life in custom bags.
Ashley Watson makes bags from used leather goods.
Another unusual accessory combination: From chips to handbags.
Recycled bike inner tubes get transformed into bags.
Recycled inner tubes + recycled seatbelts = Freitag bags.
Escama bags are sexy and scaly thanks to their unique material of choice: recycled pulltabs.
Drink in these fruit-juice-box bags.
Here's how to make your own recycled tote bag.
Ecoist makes shiny bags from recycled candy bar wrappers.
Cartearte bags get the refurbished treatment.
JewelryKenyan artisans use recycled-glass beads to make jewelry.
The Cork Cuff is 100 percent recycled and recyclable.
EcoKarat makes ecologically and socially responsible jewelery.
LED cuff links make for a well-lit night on the town.
Artist Kirsten Muenster uses ethically mined materials.
Popular NYC-based home store ABC Home strikes gold.
Beautiful jewelry made from the oddest things: check out these earrings made from reclaimed cans.
Recycled plastic makes fantastic jewelry.
Liana Kabel turns vintage knitting needles and Tupperware into funky wearables.
Unwanted items turn into treasures of the wasteland.
Dangle your breakfast from your ears.
Verde jewelry is all about conscientious adornment.
Vintage Bakelite jewelry is always in style.
Get a charge out of this recycled-credit-card pendant.
Blissen's notecards can double as necklaces.
This ring is definitely bad for your health.
Katherine Hamnett goes for the green gold.
Old cashmere sweaters get turned into fresh-looking scarves.
The Lenore Collection gathers news you can use.
Further Reading on Fashion AccessoriesLearn more about green fashion accessories from these other worthwhile sources.
Grist's Umbra Fisk gets matrimonial.
Ethical Metalsmiths aims to stimulate demand for responsibly sourced materials.
The No Dirty Gold campaign wants to end destructive gold-mining practices.
Learn how to make a recycled jeweled brooch.
Ideal Bite talks about eco bling.
The Green Guide to Accessories.
How to avoid buying conflict diamonds.