Accessories in an outfit are like the delicious spicy-sweet sauce on your meal, or the one little part in your favorite song that makes the whole thing work. The best ones give your outfit contrast and unity, while still often serving a real, functional purpose.
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It’s unfortunate, then, that accessories often don’t get the love they deserve when we’re talking about fashion choices. On top of that, they especially tend to get left out when we talk about eco-friendly fashion, which is shaping up to have some of the most important fashion trends of the 2020s.
Fashion innovators have seen the need for eco-friendly accessories, and brands large and small are now stepping up with cool green gear made using innovative, eco-friendly materials and designs. From compostable phone cases to ethical belts, if you’ve been considering how to be more eco-friendly in your fashion choices, these seven accessories offer smart and stylish ways to get started.
A great hat can be one of the most head-turning (no pun intended) accessories you can add to an outfit, while simultaneously keeping the sun out of your eyes and off your face. Now, hat lovers can also choose from a wide array of hats produced using sustainable fabrics and more eco-friendly processes.
We love the hats available from Cuyana, which offers classic hat designs like the Panama hat, handmade in Ecuador from sustainable straw and wool. If you’re looking for something sporty, Patagonia’s hats are tough and sustainable options from a company known for high quality and eco-friendliness. And for those seeking the highest ecological impact, it’s hard to get better than Tentree — they’ll plant ten trees for every purchase a customer makes.
2. Phone Cases
Most people consider a phone case to be a must-have for protecting their devices. The problem is that most cases are made of non-biodegradable plastic that contributes to our huge and growing problem with plastic waste pollution in the ground and in our waterways. But innovation in the phone case market has created a revolution in the design of sustainable phone cases.
Pela, the company that invented the compostable phone case, is still the leader in the eco-friendly phone accessory space. They now offer dozens of designs on their 100 percent compostable phone cases, which, we should note, offer excellent protection for your phone in addition to their green credentials. Pela has even branched out into other accessories like eco-friendly Apple Watch bands, grip protectors and more, all of which are made using compostable green materials.
Whether you’re keeping clothes in place or just accessorizing for fashion’s sake, belts are a useful and flexible part of any wardrobe. However, many are made from commercially-produced leather. Eco-friendly fashionistas (and -istos) are now gravitating toward belts that either use higher quality, sustainably produced leather or eschew it entirely for wholesome plant-based materials.
Nisolo is a perfect example of the former approach. They produce high quality genuine leather belts in their ethical factory in Peru, which pays all workers living wages and offsets 100 percent of its carbon emissions. Seeking vegan belt options? Italy’s NOAH is one of the world’s leaders in stylish vegan belts that are built to last and designed to turn heads.
If there’s any accessory that truly combines fashion and function, it’s handbags. A quality bag helps you keep your life together while also complementing your outfit. However, handbags often haven’t been particularly eco-friendly. They’ve often been made either from commercial leather or potentially toxic plastic compounds. But thanks to some major passion for green fashion, we’re actually now living in something of a golden age for sustainably made purses.
Who’s got the goods? Canada’s Matt and Nat has become a leader in eye-catching vegan purse designs, and they’ve also expanded into accessories like briefcases and fanny packs. Melie Bianco is another great handbag brand with funky styles aplenty, and Angela Roi bags are popular among those chasing a luxurious, high-fashion look in a more sustainable package.
Sunglasses have never been just about shielding your eyes, though they’re good at that, too. They’re also a must-have fashion accessory for many people. Thankfully, we now have plenty of options for sunglasses that aren’t destined to be just another piece of plastic pollution in a landfill.
Some of the best eco-friendly sunglasses come from Proof Eyewear, which makes swanky shades from materials like sustainably-sourced wood and recycled aluminum. Sunski is another big name in green sunglasses, offering frames that are made from recycled plastic using carbon-neutral processes. But what seals the deal for many folks is Sunski’s lifetime warranty, which guarantees free repairs (such as lens replacements) to your Sunski shades forever.
Sustainable jewelry gives you the opportunity to add some naturally-influenced beauty to your outfit while feeling good about what you’re purchasing. The best sustainable jewelry companies use ethical production methods, including paying jewelry artisans a living wage and avoiding materials sourced from mining companies that exploit workers and cause environmental damage.
We should mention here that platforms like Etsy, which are great for all kinds of accessories, are especially good for jewelry. Thousands of independent jewelry creators sell their designs through these platforms, and many offer creations that are recycled, upcycled, vegan or otherwise eco-friendly. But there’s also tons of great sustainable jewelry brands out there now, including Ten Thousand Villages, which sources its products from a global Fair Trade artisan network, and Aurate, which offers luxurious but sustainably made looks.
What’s better than a nice, comfy pair of socks? A pair of socks that’s also made using sustainable materials and fair labor practices, of course! Once you’ve started buying high quality eco-friendly socks, you’ll never want to go back to cheap bulk socks made from who-knows-what and sourced from who-knows-where.
So, where to start? PACT is one of the biggest names in eco-socks today, and once you see their sweet designs made from organic Fair Trade cotton, you’ll see why. Another great option is Conscious Step, which offers specific sock collections that you can purchase depending on what you want to support — book distribution, affordable housing, LGBTQ rights or any of several other worthy causes.