Fashion

7 Cute Eco-Friendly Pieces To Wear This Spring

Plus, 4 new sustainable fabrics to have on your radar.

A black cactus leather wallet against a green background made from paper, with a prickly pear cactus.

Photo, Carmen Cheung. Styling, Chad Burton/Plutino Group. Art direction, Stephanie Han Kim.

One of the best things you can do for the planet is buy less stuff, but we know that’s easier said than done. Here, four sustainable(-ish) takes on popular textiles that can help reduce your fashion footprint.

Cactus leather

What it is

An alternative to vegan leather made from plastic, this plant-based option is produced by responsibly harvesting mature leaves from prickly pear cacti. The resilient plants require very little water and can grow in harsh soil that isn’t suitable for other crops.

What the experts say

Cactus leather is purported to be 80 percent biodegradable, but Anika Kozlowski, a professor of fashion design, sustainability and ethics at Ryerson University, warns that it’s mixed with plastic, making it impossible to compost or recycle through currently available processes.

Recycled polyester

What it is

Made by breaking down and melting existing plastic—like landfill-bound water bottles—and spinning it into a durable fibre, recycled polyester is an increasingly common offering for sustainability-minded brands who use it to make everything from activewear to puffer coats.

What the experts say

“Anything that can repurpose waste for something useful is a good thing,” says fashion columnist Donna Bishop. While the fabric is not biodegradable, it requires less energy to produce than virgin polyester, which is made from non-renewable, petroleum-derived raw materials.

Algae-based foam

What it is

In recent years, major footwear brands—including Native Shoes, Aldo and Adidas—have partnered with eco-innovation company Bloom, which turns harmful algae buildup into a component that’s used to make flexible foam soles for sneakers, sandals and boots.

What the experts say

For each pair of shoes that contains even a small percentage of algae-based foam, the Bloom process is said to return 80 litres of filtered water to the environment. And with companies also working to turn algae into yarn, it’s a material worth watching, says Bishop.

Water-conscious denim

What it is

It takes around 6,815 litres of water to produce a single pair of jeans, with an average of 42 litres going into the finishing process. Some brands are now adopting techniques that use ozone and laser technology to wash and dye their denim, requiring only about a cup of liquid per pair.

What the experts say

“The processing stages use less water than traditional finishing techniques, but growing cotton still uses up enormous amounts,” says Kozlowski. “It’s better to buy less denim,” adds Bishop. “But if you’re going to buy a pair of jeans, buying it from a brand that’s water-conscious is the best option.”

Ready to reduce your fashion footprint? Scroll to shop a few of our favourite picks.

A black card holder made from cactus leather on a white background.

Poppy Barley

Cactus Leather Card Holder, $48, poppybarley.com

457 Anew

Cactus Leather Satchel, $247, 457anew.com

A cream fleece sweater made from recycled polyester on a light background.

Everlane

Recycled Polyester Fleece, $79, everlane.com

Reformation

Recycled Polyester Sports Bras, $68 each, thereformation.com

A pair of cream sneakers from Aldo made with sustainable algae-based foam against a light grey background.

Aldo

RPPL Algae Sneakers, $90, aldoshoes.com

Native Shoes

Bloom Algae Sneakers, $65 each, nativeshoes.com

Levi’s

Waterless Jeans, $118 each, levi.com