Old-school environmentalists, with their emphasis on function over form, have a certain aesthetic that can read as virtue-signaling – or worse, frumpy – outside of the environmental movement. There is an inherent benefit in buying less, but you can care about the environment without being crunchy. As sustainability starts to go mainstream, it’s getting easier to help save the planet and still look cool while you’re doing it. These companies are making it easier to be “eco-cool.”
Sure, a lot of people love their Prius, and electric vehicles in general have started to go mainstream. But Tesla’s sporty designs and high performance have achieved a level of cool that could even tempt a climate denier. Although other carmakers are starting to catch up, for now, Americans aren’t buying EVs, they’re buying Teslas. Whether you’re drawn to the 358-mile range of a fully charged Model 3 or the 1,020 horsepower of the Model S, Tesla is the epitome of eco-cool.
There are lots of ready-to-wear sustainable clothing brands for men and women. Some of them, like Everlane, are even popular in fashion circles. But now the world of high fashion, notorious for prioritizing luxury and looks over literally everything else, is finally catching on to eco-cool. Entirely handcrafted in New York and Brooklyn, each Rentrayage piece is one-of-a-kind or limited edition. Rentrayage (French for “make whole again”) pieces are almost entirely made from old clothes, vintage fabrics, and deadstock. And if you prefer your clothes to look romantic and feminine instead of obviously recycled, consider slow fashion darling Olivia Rose the Label. Every single item is designed and hand-made to order by Olivia Rose in her Edinburgh studio. So there’s almost no waste.
There are a lot of sustainable shoe brands out there, with variable results on the fashion front. Allbirds‘ often colorful running shoes come with Rolling Stone’s seal of approval. With careful chain-of-custody tracking, Allbirds makes uppers from sustainable wool and plant leather from FSC-certified tree parts. They make soles from their trademark SweetFoam, a carbon-negative, rubber-like polymer Allbirds makes from sugarcane. You can even buy slightly imperfect and gently used pairs through Allbirds Rerun. But if you’re going for an even more traditional (and collectible) look, check out the Converse Renew line that experiments with reengineered knit and repurposed scraps from the manufacturing process to make eco-Chucks.
It’s getting easier to recycle eyeglasses, but there still aren’t a lot of choices for a sustainably designed new pair. Bird eyewear is a family-run business recommended by Harper’s Bazaar. The B Corp Certified company makes frames for prescription eyewear and sunglasses using certified woods, bio-based acetate, renewable cork, and recycled aluminum. With every pair sold, Bird donates to SolarAid to replace kerosene lamps in Africa with solar lights. Now that’s eco-cool.
Gone are the days when a bare face was a prerequisite for eco-cred. There are so many makeup brands dedicated to nontoxic materials and sustainable practices that it takes some research to choose among them (Vogue could barely keep their list below three dozen recommendations). So why try to limit yourself? Burlesque star Dita Von Teese recommends clean beauty retailer Credo in her book “Your Beauty Mark.” From cruelty-free mascara to paraben-free moisturizer and safer sunscreens, Credo sells it all.
Zoë Chicco Jewelry
A diamond is forever, but that doesn’t make it sustainable (although it might be made from captured carbon!). Fortunately, finding sustainable fine jewelry is getting easier. Zoë Chicco designs are handmade by fairly paid artisans in Los Angeles using Kimberley Process conflict-free diamonds and recycled 14-karat gold. You can purchase her jewelry through her website and at Nordstrom.
Room in a Box Furniture
Cardboard furniture went viral during the pandemic, and Architectural Digest thinks the trend has potential. While it takes a special person to pay nearly $1,800 for a cardboard stool that looks like a cat’s scratching post, the origami-like offerings from Room in a Box are much more affordable. They test their modular storage units for sturdiness. And you’ll never lose your socks under their family bed. Maybe you can become your own designer and add eco-cool furniture to your list of DIY upcycling projects for all those Amazon boxes.
Whether your bed is cardboard or something more traditional, home decorating and fashion websites The Spruce and Refinery29 both love Parachute bedding. Their praise got even stronger when Parachute joined the ranks of sustainable bedding brands. Parachute made a sustainability pledge this year and released a new GOTS organic cotton collection. The new line includes bath towels, bedding sets, quilts, and even loungewear.