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How This Blogger Left A Career In Fashion To Advocate For Sustainable Living

Girl wearing chic outfit on a natural pathway

In our series 'New Reformists' we talk to change-makers, creators and visionaries who are taking alternative paths, living sustainably and doing things better.

Natalie Kay Smith is the creator of Sustainably Chic, a blog where she covers topics like eco-friendly fashion, ethical products for your home, and living a more sustainable lifestyle. Learn about her inspiration, challenges, and advice for how to go green without feeling overwhelmed.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. 

My name is Natalie, and I’m the gal behind the blog Sustainably Chic. I’m 28 years old, and I live in Jacksonville, FL {which is why my blog is full of beach shots, hah}. I’ve had a love for textiles and fashion for a long time because of my mother. She went to school for fashion, was an excellent seamstress and owned a store selling sewing machines and fabrics. It just made sense to study it further in college. Towards the end of my studies, I was getting a bit fed up with the industry and found it extremely wasteful and unethical. This is when I started speaking about the subject of sustainable fashion {almost 7 years ago}, and then started a blog a few years after in the summer of 2014.

What inspired you to launch Sustainably Chic?

After several years digging into the topic of sustainable fashion on my own {in college and a bit after}, I just felt as if I wasn’t doing enough to spread the message. The blog was a great outlet for me to speak on an issue I cared deeply about while hoping others would find it just as interesting and relevant. Luckily, it caught on quick. I believe I started it at the perfect time.

You mention you have experience in the fashion industry. What didn’t you like about it and what part specifically, in your opinion, do you think needs radical change?

Waste was one of the biggest issues I would encounter. No matter where I worked, what department I was in, everything had an excess amount of waste. I also grew sick of fashion marketing and trend forecasting. It seemed to really take hold of a lot of my peers, and many became obsessed with trends. It was a way to create more product based primarily off of aesthetics. This constant need to produce {& quickly} is what we need to radically change. We have created too much junk without thought of what to do with it after it becomes ‘out of fashion’.

What sorts of challenges did you encounter when transitioning to a greener lifestyle?

I think time and available resources have been the biggest challenges. I don’t have a bulk store nearby, and the farmer’s market in my neighborhood is only on Saturdays. It also takes a lot of planning, and some days, I’m so consumed with work I cut corners {like go out to eat, and it’s rare a restaurant doesn’t use some sort of paper while I’m there}.

What are the biggest changes you’ve made in your process of living more sustainably?

Oh wow, I feel like this could be a long answer! I had to change a lot, and it all came in baby steps over the last 7 years rather than one big change at a time. I’ve changed the type of food I eat {I’m getting more into where the food is produced & stepping away from items that aren’t transparent or imported without a fair practice}, what I put on my skin, what I use to clean the house, how often I drive and travel and of course, my closet.

How do you shop for sustainable clothing?

There are a few questions I ask myself before buying a new garment I have my eyes set on. Who made it? What’s it made out of? Will I get a ton of use out of it? If it is made fairly from eco-minded fabrics, then it’s something I would love to add to my wardrobe. I have an extensive list on my blog of sustainable clothing brands, but if you want other ways to search, I also recommend going through the #sustainablefashion hashtag or scrolling through Pinterest for ideas. Not saying all of these brands you find online are up to my standards in sustainability, but it’s a good starting point!/span>

What advice do you have for people who want to make their wardrobe more eco-friendly?

First, work with what you have. Whenever you need a new garment, ask yourself the same questions I do. Most ethical websites will have disclaimers on who creates their clothing and what materials they use. If you have additional questions, reach out to them. Many of those brands are more than willing to answer your questions. In terms of a garment being eco-friendly, look for brands who use factory cut-offs/end-of-bolts or up-cycled materials, as well as the natural fabrics like organic cotton, linen and wool. By sticking to fabrics that are either already made or can biodegrade, your closet is already more eco-friendly than the next!

Many people want to fully embrace living an eco-conscious lifestyle but don't know where to start. Do you have any tips for how to start the green transition process?

Don’t overwhelm or beat yourself up in the beginning. I think we take on too much at a time, and then find it almost impossible to implement. Every week {or month}, take one thing in your life you feel you have excess or little knowledge of - maybe your favorite breakfast foods or your shoes - and ask yourself if there is a way you can enjoy those things more sustainably in the future? Maybe approach it by thinking about each room in your house. What can you stop buying or start purchasing that eliminate wasteful processes? It helps to go through lists online of people who are pros at zero-waste or building sustainable wardrobes, like I have on my own blog and so many other bloggers do as well. You can try searching Google for specific things like 'best sustainable clothing brands' or 'eco-friendly alternatives to toilet paper' (bidet anyone?) and see what you find. Books like Going Zero Waste are a good place to start. The community on Instagram is pretty active, and people are always curating and sharing their own ideas. Searching hashtags like #zerowastekitchen and #zerowastewardrobe might be helpful.

What reusable products could you not live without?

I use my organic eye scrubbies every night, and I made them myself so that is quite special. I also have some peace silk hankies in the works, as well. Also, my reusable water bottle & mug go everywhere with me, and I have a ton of totes & veggies bags for all my grocery shopping. We use fabric napkins at home, and I plan to cloth diaper my son as long as we are home {which is most of the time, hah} :D

Follow Natalie's blog Sustainably Chic where she covers the latest and greatest in eco-conscious products and green living.