Brand Spotlight: Girlfriend Collective

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If you’re like me, every day you’re bombarded with new ads on your social media and web pages, maybe for companies you’ve never even heard of before, its just the internet doing its creepy mind-reading thing. (Yes, I understand it’s algorithms and targeted advertising, but it still feels like the robots are in my head sometimes). I usually ignore these ads out of sheer indignation of what feels like my computer assuming things about me; but every once in a while one catches my eye and I take the bait for one reason or another. Girlfriend Collective was one of the ads that caught me.

Yeah, the leggings are cute as hell, but it was the information about sustainability that made me click on the ad and look into the company (damn you computer, you do know me). After reading every single piece of manufacturing information on their website, and there is a formidable amount, I decided that this was a company worth supporting and I ordered a pair of leggings and a shirt.

Not only does this company use post-consumer recycled plastic and waste from the cotton industry, they brought to my attention the revelation that some companies do not use post-consumer plastics to make their “recycled” clothing. Meaning, in an impressive and terrifying attempt to greenwash, some companies manufacture NEW plastic bottles, make polyester from them, and sell the clothing as eco-friendly, recycled clothing. I don’t know why this came as such a shock, but that was truly mind blowing to me.

Along with their responsible materials, Girlfriend Collective explains everything about where and how their clothes are made. The factory they use in Vietnam is SA8000 certified, and no, you’re not supposed to know what that means. They go into detail about the certification, the owners of the factory, the fact that the workers are paid 125% of the minimum wage, and that they all receive free healthcare. SA8000 certification ensures all the workers are safe, well-paid, and most definitely not children.

As if alllll of that wasn’t enough, their cotton Cupro (that incredible “slubby” material that makes everyone feel like a supermodel) is made in a zero waste, zero-emission facility in Japan before being sent to Vietnam to be cute and sewn into their tops. This is the stuff made from waste from the cotton industry that has previously only ended up in landfills. It also hangs off your body in cascades of effortlessness that make you look like an off-duty model/magical unicorn. 

I could geek out on the ethical sophistication of this company all day, but it wasn’t until I tried on their stuff that I absolutely lost it. Y’all, it fits like a damn glove and makes me feel like a QUEEN. And btw, their sizing guide is basically just a bunch of different women that embody all the available sizes, so you can see how it will fit by comparing your measurements to the model wearing the size you want. Its fucking revolutionary.

Now, all these photos you’re about to see were taken with my phone’s self-timer, and I’m terrible at posing. But I DID IT BECAUSE THESE THINGS MADE ME FEEL LIKE I COULD. That’s saying something.

I personally enjoy being able to wear everything in my closet with almost anything else, so I gravitate towards grays, mauves, blacks, and other neutrals, especially for basics. I happened to be looking for a pair of basic black leggings to replace the 2 pairs of nearly see-through cotton ones that I’ve had since high school. When I add things to my closet, I take out at least double the amount I added. So, when I purchased these awesome leggings, I got rid of 3 pairs of black leggings that I either didn’t wear or were damn-near threadbare. As for the shirt… I admit, I didn’t need it. But I still managed to rehome two shirts that are in great condition to make room for the new one.

This whole capsule wardrobe thing is hard, and I hate the idea of dumping my clothes at a Goodwill, so I take my stuff to a local charity that has incredible turnover rates and takes care of their items and facilities much better. If you’re trying to change the way you shop, start by only buying some super sustainable staples, and try to pare your closet down from there.

The Verdict: Girlfriend Collective is my new first choice when I need staple items like leggings, sports bras, or t-shirts. They’re sustainable, ethical, and well-made products that make me feel like I stepped out of an closely-curated Instagram account. If you’re in the market for new workout clothes or basics to wear all the damn time, then I’d highly recommend this brand, ‘cause they’ve got their shit together.

~Sophia

The (Beautiful) Connection Between Zero Waste and Nutritional Health

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What was the last thing you ate? Think back to the last snack, meal, or beverage you consumed and consider it for a moment. Did you make it at home? Was it prepared at a restaurant? Was it wrapped in packaging? Did it come with a straw and disposable cup?  

Of those specifications, it was, based on a typical American diet, most likely one of the latter. This concept is called Food-Away-From-Home (FAFH) (lol at that abbreviation). According to a study by the USDA Economic Research Service, FAFH now accounts for about 50% of our total food expenditures, as compared to about 29% in 1984.

So, we’re all leading busier lives and either don’t have time to make our own food or don’t have the money to spend on quality food items to make our own food, leading us to depend on food away from home in the form of full and limited service restaurants, convenience stores, and vending machines. When there is a recession, there is generally a decrease in FAFH spending; but, as you can see in the chart I linked above, it always bounces back.  

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We like to treat ourselves! When the economy is going well and we’ve got the means, we all get that urge to go out and have a cute brunch or try a new spot in town. Eating out is also a huge part of our social interactions. I know it’s a contributing factor to my own social life; if there’s no food, there’s no Sophie. But when eating out becomes our norm, and not our treat, we start to become wholly dependent on others for our nutrition...and that’s an unsettling thought.

Enter: Zero Waste. The reason most zero waste blogs and social media accounts are full of those perfectly manicured photos of food in cloth bags is because eating out comes with extra disposables like straws, utensils, and packaging. In turn, most zero waste followers eat out very little. In an effort to produce less waste, we end up eating healthier because we’re preparing meals at home from ingredients that are fresh and not in a box or bag. It’s a hard transition, one that I’m still in the midst of wrestling with due to that whole Sophie-only-socializes-with-food-present thing. Fast food restaurants are unable to fill up your reusable cup and only provide polystyrene (Styrofoam) or wax-lined options, so no more milkshakes from a drive-through for me. Food trucks are sometimes awesome at providing responsible packaging, but sometimes not. Unless you ask beforehand, you may get handed a plastic box with plastic forks individually wrapped in plastic and oh my god now what do I do with all this plastic?!  

Vegetarianism, Veganism… it’s all great and great for the environment because meat is the one of the largest contributors to climate change. This from the University of Michigan carbon footprint factsheet: “Meat products have larger carbon footprints per calorie than grain or vegetable products because of the inefficient transformation of plant energy to animal energy… and eating all locally grown food for one year could save the GHG [greenhouse gas] equivalent of driving 1,000 miles, while eating a vegetarian meal one day a week could save the equivalent of driving 1,160 miles.”

But technically potato chips are vegetarian and have you ever paid attention to all the packaging that comes with tofu or vegan “cheese” products? My point is, no specific diet will be perfectly zero waste, so we can't beat ourselves up about it.  Focusing our attention on less processed, more local, and fresher ingredients for our food will force us to eat an exponentially healthier diet compared to fast, processed, and packaged foods. Instead of spending 30 minutes scrolling through Instagram four times a day, use just one of those regularly scheduled social media breaks to prepare a snack that you can pack up and bring with you, avoiding plastic granola bar wrappers. With the advent of more commonplace bulk bins and package-free stores, we can get virtually all the products we’re used to without the excess plastic and preservatives.

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5 Ways to Lower Your Food Impact

  1. Prepare meals at home.

    An obvious one, but still, it bears repeating. Resolve to make all of your snacks at home, or 3 meals a week at home.  

  2. Use ingredients that are in minimal or no packaging.

    This means shopping the grocery store’s perimeters, not the inner aisles.  Look for stores that offer grains in bulk bins and for the love of god don’t buy a plastic bag of vegetables. Vegetables have this wonderful superpower of naturally not needing packaging; so, opt for the loose tomatoes as opposed to the ones mysteriously placed in cellophane. (I will never understand that phenomenon.)                     
  3. Look for a local alternative.

    Not everything is going to be grown in your area all the time (shedding a frustrated tear for sweet, conflicting avocados...) but you’d be surprised how many local farmers use high tunnels and other methods to grow greens and other produce in the off season.  Also, HONEY.  You can walk into almost any grocery store and find local honey; it tastes way better than the store brand stuff and it’s usually raw, offering a multitude of health benefits.

  4. Use reusable bags.

    Another obvious but necessary point.  Plastic bags are very hard to recycle, can only be recycled a finite number of times, and are super flimsy to boot. This should be second nature to most people by now, but please stop getting plastic bags. Just bring your own bags, or use a cardboard box from the store.                                                                                                                                                                    
  5. Reduce the amount of meat you consume.

    As referenced above, it’s no secret that meat is incredibly energy-intensive to produce. This isn’t a political stance, it’s simply a scientific fact. That doesn’t mean everyone in the world has to stop eating meat immediately; as someone who isn’t vegan or vegetarian, I don’t have any authority to advise that. But take this into account: “Replacing all beef consumption with chicken for one year leads to an annual carbon footprint reduction of 882 pounds CO2e” (University of Michigan). Local chicken is also cheaper and easier to find than other local meats. *score*

 Winter farmers' market haul.

Winter farmers' market haul.

**BONUS: Bus, bike, or walk to the store when possible. I grew up 35 minutes (drive) from the nearest supermarket, so I understand if this isn’t possible for everyone. But if you’ve got the time, try to devise a plan to get to the market without driving your car. It’s kind of fun, and you’ll feel more like you’ve really earned that food.