Sustainable shopping is something of an oxymoron. As hard as we try to make environmentally friendly choices in our wardrobes, beauty routines and living rooms — recycling our empties, shopping secondhand and steering clear of fast homeware — the truth is that every product we purchase has an impact on this planet we call home.
While there is no simple definition of the word sustainable, especially in a shopping context, Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “causing, or made in a way that causes, little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time”. But in a world where the beauty industry produces more than 120 billion units of packaging every year globally and the UK alone throws away or incinerates around 300,000 tonnes of textile waste yearly, our consumption is clearly getting out of hand.
Of course, the most sustainable thing you can do is use products and pieces you already own, borrow bits from friends, rent styles or shop secondhand. Reuse, resell, recycle — we all know the drill by now. But for when you do want to buy something new (as many of us often do), here’s our monthly edit of fashion, home and beauty picks that are as fabulous as they are planet-friendly.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by us. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy or click on something we link to on our site, we may earn a commission.
Australian label DK Active was born out of a desire to make activewear more inclusive. Always open to improving its practices, the brand is continually bettering itself with biodegradable packaging, lower environmental impact garments, solar panel-run HQ and carbon offset delivery. Made from 85% recycled plastic bottles, this bodysuit is just one example of the brand’s innovation.
You can read more about DK Active here.
DK Active Juniper Bodysuit, $, available at DK Active
Made in east London, E.L.V. Denim turns unwanted jeans destined for landfill into fun, funky styles. From low-water washing and electric car transportation to sourcing leather labels from nearby factory offcuts and donating scrap fabric to local artists and schools, the brand’s commitment to sustainability is admirable. Yes, they’re expensive, but the unique design, attention to detail and brilliant business model make these jeans perfect in our book.
You can read more about E.L.V. Denim here.
E.L.V. Denim Straight Contrast Rigid Jeans, $, available at Anthropologie
Founded by sustainable fashion pioneer Safia Minney, People Tree is the place to go for high-quality garms made with top-tier principles. The first fashion brand to receive a World Fair Trade Organisation product label, People Tree puts its makers — their safety, skills and pay — first. What’s more, you can see where every piece is made, throwing the supply chain into sharp focus. For everyday basics like this organic cotton tee, it’s hard to beat.
You can read more about People Tree here.
People Tree Gaia Tee in Eco White, $, available at People Tree
Damson Madder doesn’t claim to be perfect but it is always striving to improve. From using deadstock fabrics whenever possible to reducing water in its denim production, the London-based brand is bringing better practices into the core of its business. Pretty in pink, this organic cotton midi dress is bold and beautiful. Carefully written care instructions are designed to ensure each piece stays in your wardrobe for longer, reducing additional emissions while curbing excess consumption.
You can read more about Damson Madder here.
Damson Madder Pia Midi Dress, $, available at Damson Madder
If you’re looking to make one small switch in your wardrobe, upgrading your lingerie with sustainable brands is a great start. Unlike a fancy frock or bold bag, almost all of us need underwear, and we no longer need to feel guilty for investing in new.
As the name suggests, Organic Basics offers all your everyday essentials (bras, pants, vests, leggings and more) with a sharp focus on sustainable practices. Designed and made in Europe, it’s one of the most transparent brands we’ve found: there’s a page on its website entitled “Our F*ck-ups“, listing the initiatives it’s yet to deliver on. Open, honest and home to quality, comfy pieces — we’re seriously impressed.
You can read more about Organic Basics here.
Organic Basics Triangle Bra, $, available at Organic Basics
Close to 20 years old, Thought has come a long way from its hemp and ramie days. Now boasting a range of clothing and homeware styles, Thought urges us to buy better and buy less. The brand has taken the time to find stockists and suppliers that share its values, creating timeless pieces that aim to last a lifetime in your wardrobe. These white dungarees are a year-round staple and will never go out of fashion.
You can read more about Thought here.
Thought Sarai Organic Cotton Cord Dungarees, $, available at Thought
We-Ar4 The Wave Bag, £310
Founded by Anna Bakst and Michele Rutigliano in 2021, We-Ar4 is rising up the ranks as one of the most exciting sustainable fashion brands around. With a combined 50 years of experience in the fashion industry, covering a wealth of bestselling luxury brands, the duo set out to create a more planet-friendly label that’s both fashionable and fun. The small-batch styles, which use only deadstock and upcycled materials, are striking yet timeless. Only 100 units of The Wave Bag have been produced so grab one while you can.
You can read more about We-Ar4 here.
WE-AR4 The Wave Bag, $, available at WE-AR4
Allbirds is all about reducing carbon emissions, supporting its staff and adopting planet-friendly practices as much as possible. By sharing where each shoe is made and sourcing innovative materials such as its sugar-cane-based soles, the brand always strives to be better. This Tree Dasher style is made from eucalyptus tree fibre, bio-based nylon, recycled plastic bottles and a castor bean oil-based insole — and it looks great, too.
You can read more about Allbirds here.
Allbirds Women’s Tree Dasher 2, $, available at Allbirds
SmartGlass Sea Glass Necklace, £46.38
Etsy is the place to go for handmade finds from small businesses. These sea glass necklaces are just gorgeous but their make-up may surprise you. A mixture of Bombay Sapphire, red wine, vodka and sake bottles, these beautiful beads are given a soft, sea glass feel and fed onto a gold-tone chain. Made in the USA, there is the issue of shipping if shopping in the UK, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
You can read more about SmartGlass here.
Smartglass Sea Glass Necklace, $, available at Etsy
Mashu Irene Green, £260
Faux leather often gets a bad rap but at Mashu it’s delightful and durable. This bag is made from apple leather, sourced from 100% organic industrial waste (mixed with recycled PU), reducing the use of plastics in the production process. All products are vegan, crafted by artisans in Athens, and the handles sourced from furniture factory offcuts. They aren’t the most purse-friendly pieces but they will last you a lifetime, thanks to the brand’s repair service.
You can read more about Mashu here.
MASHU Irene Green, $, available at MASHU
Lylie Petite Oria Hoops, £115
Ever heard of e-mining? Us neither, but this is what Lylie relies on. Precious metals like gold and silver are salvaged from discarded tech and dentistry (yes, really) and turned into covetable pieces of jewellery like these elegant hoops, which are inspired by coral. Lylie also runs a gold exchange programme, offering credit in return for your unwanted gold jewellery. Made to order in the UK, there’s no excess and each piece is totally unique in origin. What more could you ask for?
You can read more about Lylie here.
Lylie Petite Oria Hoops, $, available at Lylie
Bybi is a registered B corp brand, meaning it has passed rigorous tests to ensure it operates on a high level for both people and planet. Using a mix of superfood ingredients with science-backed formulas (while keeping the price point accessible), it’s a more planet-friendly pick than many other beauty brands. Bakuchiol is an alternative to vitamin A (aka retinol), said to make skin smoother and brighter.
You can read more about Bybi here.
Bybi Bakuchiol Booster Facial Oil, $, available at BYBI
Another B-corp brand you’re sure to know, The Body Shop has been striving for change since it was founded in 1976. Campaigning for workers’ rights alongside its global activism, the brand goes beyond beauty to make the world a better place. This Coconut Body Butter is a bestseller and combines three Fair Trade ingredients: shea butter, coconut oil and babassu oil. It’s suitable for even the most sensitive skin.
You can read more about The Body Shop here.
The Body Shop Coconut Body Butter, $, available at The Body Shop
Farm-to-table is a familiar concept in the restaurant industry and now Oway is bringing the practice to beauty. Based in Bologna, the brand grows its own ingredients on a farm in the Italian countryside, extracting all the oils and goodness needed to make its products. It aims to cut back on plastic too, opting for glass and aluminium packaging instead. This hair mask tube is a great example.
You can read more about Oway here.
Oway Moisturising Hair Mask, $, available at Paul Edmonds
French skincare brand Typology takes each product back to basics with only a handful of ingredients. Another B-corp brand, its practices have been recognised as some of the best in the industry. Boasting one of the most important ingredients in any skincare routine — vitamin C — this serum is sure to go down a treat. Glycerin, citric acid and sodium ascorbyl phosphate provide hydration and help to achieve a glowing complexion.
You can read more about Typology here.
Typology Radiance Serum With 11% Vitamin C, $, available at Typology
Paul Mitchell is a famous name in hair care. The planet-friendly Clean Beauty range boasts vegan formulas housed in carbon-negative, mainly bio-based plastic packaging. Drawing on cold-pressed essential vitamins, minerals and botanicals, it encourages us to take a closer look at what we put on our scalps.
You can read more about Paul Mitchell here.
Paul Mitchell Clean Beauty Shampoo & Conditioner, $, available at LookFantastic
Let us introduce you to under-the-radar, London-based brand Juggurnauth. Gender-inclusive with a small range of tops and trousers, it’s a great place to buy everyday basics, and this candle is quite the cop. Two years in the making, it’s hand-poured in the UK using a vegan soy wax base and combines notes of oudh, jasmine and patchouli.
You can read more about Juggurnauth here.
Juggurnauth The 1810 Candle, $, available at Juggurnauth
Included in our round-up of the best sustainable furniture, Scaramanga is a “treasure trove of upcycled pieces”. If you’re after a truly unique find, this is the place to go. This stool, salvaged from a school science lab in Dundee, makes a fun and quirky addition to any home. There are just 19 available, so be quick.
You can read more about Scaramanga here.
Scaramanga Shop The Old School Stool, $, available at Scaramanga Shop
Grind Coffee Subscription, from £9.95
Now this could be the easiest sustainable shopping swap we’ve found: coffee. Combining everything from compostable coffee pods to carbon-neutral packaging and removing ocean plastic, Grind strives to do things a little bit better. It pays its coffee farmers over the Fair Trade wage (often double, in fact) and works with small farms that focus on quality over quantity. A monthly subscription starts from £9.95, which works out much cheaper than takeout, and the pretty pink packaging is an added bonus.
You can read more about Grind here.
Grind Coffee Subscription, $, available at Grind
Vegetable-themed tableware has been trending for a little while now but Portuguese brand Bordallo Pinheiro is one of the game’s OGs. Founded in 1884, the family-run business is renowned for its kitsch yet cute ceramics, which continue to be produced in the same factory by talented artisans. Made in small batches, these are pieces to pass down through the family, lasting a lifetime and beyond.
You can read more about Bordallo Pinheiro here.
Bordallo Pinheiro Aubergine Earthenware Platter, $, available at Matches Fashion
Also included in our best sustainable furniture guide, Rockett St George is both an online marketplace for other brands and a producer of sustainable pieces. Designed and made in Sussex, this side table uses FSC birch plywood found in a nearby dump, recycled coffee grout and upcycled pallet wood to create a striking item of furniture that’ll be the envy of all your friends.
You can read more about Rockett St George here.
Rockett St George Sustainable Round Side Table, $, available at Rockett St George
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