Sustainability advocates will often say that the most environmentally friendly thing is the thing you already have. If you want to do your part in protecting the planet, merely buying more “eco-friendly” stuff, no matter how sustainably made it purports to be, isn’t the answer. It’s important to remember that as you’re sure to see scores of headlines inviting you to buy sustainable goods in light of Earth Day on April 22 this year.
Rather than buying things to buy them, consider instead moving forward with products that are so well made you won’t have to replace them anytime soon. When your jeans inevitably meet their end, and your favorite watch stops ticking, or when your best travel sweater or rain jacket tears beyond repair, replace them with these items built with both the environment and the long haul in mind. Each product will help you conserve more and buy less this year.
These sustainably-made, durable-beyond-measure and water- and plastic-reducing gear and apparel picks will help make your closet greener for years — if not decades — to come.
One Eleven SWII Watch
Not only is this stylish watch from One Eleven made from 85 percent recycled materials, but it’s also solar-powered. The battery recharges as you wear it and will last for up to 10 years with no extra effort needed. When the battery does eventually wear out, send it back to One Eleven for a replacement. The SWII’s plastic case made from a castor bean oil byproduct rather than petroleum and the strap is recycled water bottles.
Fjällräven Keb Eco-Shell
Many European brands have been ahead of U.S.-based companies on ridding harmful, air-polluting perfluorocarbons (PFCs) from waterproof coatings, though many American brands are now catching up. Ditching them all together is a tall order — for years, these chemicals have coated rain jackets, snow pants, backpacks, tents and more, keeping you dry no matter how bad the rain gets. Swedish Fjällräven has found an environmentally-friendly, PFC-free alternative in its Keb Eco-Shell, made from partially recycled polyester. This waterproof jacket wears more like a softshell than a hard one, as it’s super pliable and comfortable. Seam zips under the arms are generously long to help you quickly dump heat when needed. There’s ample storage in two large chest pockets, which each have stretchy mesh sleeves to keep your phone or credit cards secure.
Klean Kanteen 5-Piece Straw Set
Americans trash millions of plastic straws every day, many of which end up in the ocean and harm marine life. Do your part by asking up front to skip the straw next time you order an iced coffee or, even better, bring your own. Klean Kanteen’s stainless steel reusable straws have a bendy silicone sipper up top for ease and comfort. They’re dishwasher-safe, and cleaning is a breeze with the included straw brush. One caveat — dust and crumbs will stick to the silicone mouthpiece if you leave the straw to linger at the bottom of your bag. Consider storing it wrapped in a bandana or handkerchief to keep it clean. It won’t do you — or the ocean — any good if you’re not psyched on using it.
Cotopaxi Libre LT
Cotopaxi’s llama wool Libre sweater helps you save water by cutting down on laundry. Llama wool fibers repel odor like nothing else, so you can wear this sweater dozens of times without stinking — I’ve done it. Just air it out in between wearings by hanging it up or draping it over the back of a chair in your hotel room. The original Libre is a heavier-weight sweater, with perforations across the mid- to lower back to vent heat while backpacking, climbing or sprinting through an airport. The LT version is ideal for spring and summer, with perforations throughout the torso and sleeves. The first wear (or two) may be itchy so wash it once before taking it on the road.
Cozy fleece pullovers are hiding a nasty secret: When they go through the laundry, they shed plastic microfibers, which end up in the ocean and can harm marine life. The Guppy Friend washing bag catches those fibers before they can sneak out through the drain in your washing machine. Zip your fleece jackets and polyester and nylon base layers into the Guppy Friend and then toss the whole thing into the washing machine. After washing, pull the microfibers out of the bag and throw them away in a trash can.
We all know that we should be avoiding single-use plastic and opting for reusable bottles instead. But carrying one all the time can get annoying — they’re often either too small or too heavy and bulky. But Vapur’s flat-packing water bottles change the game. I’ve yet to find a better one for travel and hiking, and I’ve used a one-liter Vapur bottle over the past three years. They’re strong, durable and fit inside a pocket when empty or a backpack side pouch when full. Bonus: duct tape fixes punctures — which are a rarity (unless you puppy swipes your water bottle).
SOLE X United By Blue Jasper Wool Eco Chukka
United By Blue and SOLE have joined forces to make cozy merino and bison wool-insulated chukka. Made from nearly all natural components, it is one of the most sustainable shoes yet. The Jasper’s lightweight, soft merino wool upper is insulated with bison wool diverted from landfills. The insoles of recycled corks and algae foam are springy, and the midsoles feature the same cork Natural rubber and would-be-trash rice husks create grippy treads on the outsole. You can pre-order the shoes now for November delivery.
Bare Republic Sunscreen
Sunscreen with the active ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate will be banned from Hawaii, starting in 2021. The two elements damage fragile coral reefs even in small quantities. The best thing you can do is not use sunscreen at all, instead opting to protect yourself with UPF clothing — even all-natural sunscreens have ingredients that aren’t great for marine life, such as botanical extracts that act as natural pesticides, which are sometimes toxic to invertebrates. But for the times that that’s not possible, Bare Republic’s Mineral SPF 30 Body Sunscreen Lotion is one of the best mineral sunscreens you can buy without paying an arm an ounce for it to be reef-friendly. It feels more like a lotion than sunscreen and smells like light vanilla coconut. And unlike the chalky zinc-based sunscreens you’re probably thinking of, it’s a relatively invisible sunscreen.
Duer Performance Denim Slim
These jeans are fantastic for everyday wear as well as for traveling. They offer just the right amount of stretch and are durable where other jeans fail. One freelance photographer we know tested them for 18 months and, unlike other jeans that fray at the crotch seams from crouching and kneeling while shooting, these have shown no signs of strain. These may be the last pair of jeans you need to buy.
Taj Hemp Long Sleeve Shirt
Cotton is a thirsty, thirsty plant. Factor in the pesticides often used to protect the crop from bugs, and you have a natural fiber that sounds a lot better for the environment than it is. Consider hemp as an alternative next time you shop for a new button down, like Toad&Co’s Taj Hemp shirt, in both short and long-sleeved styles. Though it feels quite similar to cotton when it’s spun the right way, hemp is a much hardier plant, requiring significantly less water and no chemicals. The Taj is made from a blend of hemp, Tencel and Spandex, and is intended to mimic linen but with better performance. Unlike cotton, hemp naturally wicks moisture and has antimicrobial properties.