Where to Shop for Ethically Made Basics (for All Bodies and Budgets)

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Whether you fancy yourself a fashionista or wear clothes for the primary purpose of, you know, being clothed, basics are the cornerstone of a well rounded wardrobe. You know the ones, the white v-neck tee you wore till it had holes in the armpits and looked more yellow than white from coffee stains. The t-shirt dress you can dress up or dress down effortlessly. The striped long sleeve shirt you can wear anytime you want to add a layer or two of Parisian style to your day to day.

Try as I may, I can’t seem to gravitate from a wardrobe made up of mostly basics. And now that I’m more familiar with my style and “life-style” than ever, I don’t really want to. Even in outfits where I throw on a statement piece, like my MATTER Prints pants, I pair it with a basic to keep it feeling like “me”. Most days, you can find me in a striped tee and jeans (although, at nearly 8 months pregnant, I’m ditching the jeans most days). In the summer, a pair of mom shorts and a cozy button up or tank top are just fine.

Basics are the cornerstone of a well-rounded wardrobe. Make sure they're made to last when you buy from these ethical and sustainable brands.

However, considering the wear and tear that most basics get, I’m finding it more and more important to invest in ones that are made well. There are some pieces that work well buying secondhand, but for basics, buying new, from brands you trust, ensures the long life of the product.

Fabric content and quality, production standards, and price tag all pay a role in finding basics that will actually last more than a season. Most brands, ethical or not, have some kind of collection of basics, but finding the ones that will last AND are worth supporting can be tricky.

This post, I hope, will act as a resource when you’re on the hunt for a new closet staple. It’s not an exhaustive list, of course, but it does include the majority of brands I know, love, and have tried in real life. I’ll be focusing on textile type (NOT a black and white matter, as you’ll soon see) size inclusivity, ethics and price point making notes on which brands prioritize what aspect.


Fabrics to Look For

  • Organic Cotton

    • As conventional non-organic cotton becomes rightfully more and more controversial, GOTS certified organic cotton is a highly sustainable alternative that is making it’s way into more and more brands’ pieces. Conventional cotton is widely grown worldwide and it uses a shocking 6% of the world’s pesticides and 16% of the world’s insecticides. (Source). Furthermore, it takes 2700 liters of water to make a single t-shirt. These chemicals are both harmful to the consumer and, mostly, to the farmer growing the crops and to the environment.

    • Organic cotton on the other hand, uses no chemicals, pesticides, or insecticides to produce, isn’t hazardous to the health of the farmers, and uses much less water to grow and turn into fabric.

    • A Quick side note on cotton: I got a few questions about the difference between conventional cotton, Pima cotton, and organic cotton so here’s a quick breakdown in addition to what’s above.

      • Conventional cotton: grown worldwide in relatively unregulated conditions, usually using harsh chemicals

      • Pima cotton: called the “cashmere of cotton”, Pima cotton is simply a higher quality cotton than conventional. It yields a longer fiber which makes for a softer, better quality fabric. (Source). It can be both organic and non organic.

      • Organic cotton: cotton grown without the use of any chemicals or pesticides. This is the ideal type of cotton for sustainability, health, and fabric quality.

  • Hemp

    • Hemp is one of the most sustainable fabrics out there. It requires little water and grows extremely fast (producing around 250% more crop in the same amount of land as cotton). (Source).

    • Similar to linen, hemp produces a sturdy fabric that wears well and lasts years. It’s also naturally UV ray resistant. It can be blended with other fibers, like organic cotton, to yield a variety of textures and weights.

  • Linen

    • Linen, like hemp, is easy and quick to grow/harvest and requires even less water than organic cotton. It’s moisture resistant, becomes softer with wear/wash, and biodegrades when you’re done!

    • It’s grown from the flax plant, which is able to be used in its entirety, meaning no part of the plant is wasted. (Source).

  • Tencel/Lyocell/Modal

    • Here is when the controversy sets in. Few people will argue any cons about the above fabrics, but these last two definitely aren’t pure sustainability.

    • All three of these fabrics are created and made by Lenzing, in a closed-loop process. They’re similar, but made from different plants using the same process.

    • Pros:

      • Tencel (Lyocell) is a cellulose fiber marketed by Lenzing (the third generation fabric of second generation modal) made from the pulp of sustainably harvest eucalyptus trees certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC). Modal is made from the pulp of beech trees.

      • All three are produced in a closed-loop process, which means that all resources/materials/solvents used to produce it are recycled back into the process to do it over again.

      • It uses less water than organic cotton

      • Since it’s a naturally derived fiber, it’s also biodegradable

    • Cons:

      • It’s not a chemical free process and conventional chemicals are used to turn the fabric into Tencel from wood pulp (however, Lenzing noted that it has a 99% recovery rate of the solvents due to the closed-loop process). (Source).

      • The production method uses a lot more energy than is ideal. No fabric is exempt from using energy, but Lenzing has work to do in the coming years to produce a product that uses less energy to produce. (Source).

  • Bamboo Rayon/Vicose vs. Bamboo “Monocel”

    • Pros:

      • Although calling a fabric “bamboo” is slightly misleading because of of the processes the bamboo goes through to become a textile, it is plant based which means it will biodegrade.

      • Bamboo self-regenerates from its own roots, requiring little water and little grow time.

      • Bamboo Monocel is another Lyocell fabric, but this time made from bamboo, so it’s made in a closed loop, more environmentally friendly process. However, it’s harder to find.

    • Cons:

      • Although the cultivation phase may be more eco-friendly than growing cotton, manufacturing the fabric from bamboo is when the cons arise.

      • Most bamboo fabrics are labeled “rayon from bamboo” and the process to create this fabric is similar to that of Tencel or Modal but MUCH less sustainable since it isn’t a closed loop process, so the chemicals are released into the environment without reusing them. (Source). It’s essentially a synthetic fabric derived from a natural fiber.

      • There isn’t evidence that the properties of bamboo (UV ray resistant, antibacterial, water resistant) are present after the bamboo is processed into fabric.

Of course, there are plenty of ethical brands that use synthetic fibers to create their basics and any brand that takes steps towards sustainability should be lauded for their work. I would, however, push the envelope even further by asking if they consider themselves holistically “ethical” if they aren’t prioritizing the use of truly natural fibers and working to minimize their brand’s footprint.

It seems fairly cut and dry doesn’t it? Simply choose fabrics that are 100% organic and made from natural fibers at all costs.

However, like most issues of ethics and sustainability, it’s not always that simple.

The Unsustainable Reality Check

Why, you might ask, would any brand owner ever choose to use fabrics that are factually not great for the environment? I’ve noticed that bamboo derived fabrics are especially popular among ethical brands — have they just not done their research? I don’t think that’s the usually case.

The reality is that brands have A LOT to factor in when it comes to producing a quality product. First, they have to consider where the fabric they’re planning to use was grown, before it’s ever harvested or turned into fabric. Were the farmers treated fairly? Paid a living wage (an issue all on its own)? They have to source a fabric (regardless of what kind it is) from a responsible factory that pays its employees well. They need to design a product that represents their clientele well. They need to design a product that won’t disintegrate after a few wears/washes. They need to consider affordability and the “true cost” of the product and charge accordingly without marking it up too much or too little.

Obviously, you know all of this. But I think it’s all too easy to judge brands a bit harshly for not scoring a perfect 100% on the ethics/sustainability/inclusivity/price front. Indeed, we as the consumers should push for high standards and hold our ethical brands to even higher ones, but celebrating progress and steps in the right direction is important for growth in the industry too.

Ethical shopping isn’t a black and white matter in the least, not even when you’re trying to buy something as simple as a new white tee.

All of that said, below are a few brands that I’ve fallen for and whom, I believe, meet the criteria to be considered ethical/sustainable/inclusive and worth supporting.


Brands to Love

Encircled

Price point: $$-$$$

Encircled is a Canadian brand that prioritizes quality, longevity, and versatility. I’ve worked with them several times, own 3 or 4 pieces from them, and can say with full confidence that their pieces are worth the investment. On the size inclusivity chart, Encircled ranks higher than most with pieces that are meant to fit a wide range of sizes and, of course, fluctuate with your own body throughout life’s seasons. They offer sizes xs-xxl and considering that most of their styles are stretchy and oversized, can fit quite the range of body types.

As far as sustainability and fabric choice goes, they offer a healthy mix of fabric types. The majority of pieces I’ve tried from their line have been a Lenzing Modal blend (incredibly soft, stretchy and durable). They also work a lot with bamboo based products for its softness, but blend it with cotton for the strength and durability.

I chatted with Kristi, Encircled’s founder and designer about the murky issue of choosing sustainable fabrics and she wisely noted that oftentimes 100% natural fibers don’t hold up as well over time when they aren’t blended with other fabrics (oftentimes elastane, polyester or lycra) and, instead of creating a fully sustainable product that deteriorates more quickly, have opted to balance the two by mixing their natural fibers with less sustainable options for the sake of the longevity of the garment. Sustainability can be argued from both sides in this matter and although I don’t claim to be an expert, I can say that Encircled’s pieces truly stand the test of real life and real bodies.

(Pictured above: Encircled’s Nomadic V-Neck and Encircled’s Everyday T-Shirt Dress (soon to be released!))

The Natural Edition

Price point: $-$$

You’ve all heard me rave about The Natural Edition’s basics for a few months now, but I’ll say it again — I’m so impressed with this newly launched brand and their dreamy first collection of basics. I’ve spoken extensively with Nicole, the brand’s designer and owner, and she, like Kristi of Encircled, noted the struggle that goes into creating a brand that is as sustainable as it is practical and high quality.

The Natural Edition’s first collection features pieces made of GOTS certified organic cotton and Tencel, both of which (especially organic cotton) rank high on the sustainability charts. Their first collection is likewise oversized, excluding the Striped Breton Dress which fits true to size, with sizes ranging from xs-l (Nicole noted that this most accurately means sizes US 4-12). She’s also told me that her plan is to include more and more sizing options as her collections grow.

(Pictured above: The Stretch Jersey Long Sleeve Top and The Organic Cotton Oversized V-Neck. Use the code LIV20 for 20% off.)

LA Relaxed

Price Point: $-$$$

Another amazing brand with a wide selection of styles, sizes, and fabrics, LA Relaxed creates some of the coziest and easy to wear pieces I’ve ever tried. They’ve recently added hemp and organic cotton to their repertoire which is a huge step towards ultra-sustainability. They also use Tencel and Modal fabric so you can rest assured that their pieces are even softer than they look.

As far as sizing goes, they offer sizes xs-xxl (conventional 0-18) which is beautifully inclusive. I’ve worn all of the pieces I have from them during my third trimester and they’ve accommodated my baby bump perfectly.

(Pictured above: The Norah Dress in grey and the Lila Tank in black stripe. Use the code SIMPLY25 for 25% off.)

ROUND + SQUARE

Price point: $-$$

ROUND + SQUARE is one of the most mission driven and sustainably focused brands I’ve encountered in a while. All (yes, all) of their pieces are made with organic cotton (aside from their bandanas and scarves which are 100% silk). They sell a line of thoughtfully designed tees meant to inspire equality. Although their graphic tees are pretty amazing — you’ll see more of those soon — their solid color shirts are beautifully made, slightly thin and stretchy, and come in a lovely variety of colors.

Their sizing is refreshingly inclusive as well, offering xxs-xl with an emphasis on oversized fit. Their models show a variety of body types that will hopefully make ordering the correct size easier!

(Pictured above: The Relaxed Long Sleeve Tee in plum and the Basic Boxy tee in Olive Nights. The first photo in this post features their Sunflower Silk Bandana.)

Honorable Mentions:


Let’s end this novel of a post by restating that slow fashion is messy and choosing to support sustainable brands comes with lots of grey area that, luckily, is up to the consumer to push for and decide what to prioritize.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the sustainable fabrics listed above or any other struggles you might face when trying to shop for not-so-basic-basics.


*This post is part of a long-term collaboration between several brands and myself. As always, all opinions, photographs, and storytelling are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make SL&Co possible!*

Turkish Textiles || Quiquattro

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The longer I work with brands and write about their products, the more fascinated by textiles I become. I find the process from plant to thread to fabric so fascinating and, when done ethically and sustainably, something to be truly celebrated and supported. There are so many ways to “spin it” when it comes to fabric creation, but hand-woven pieces made from natural fibers have to be some of the most heirloom-worthy.

In my pre-slow fashion days, I would run to Target or H&M or *Insert-big-chain-fast-fashion-store-of-choice-here* when I needed something like a blanket or a towel (in fact, my freshman year of college, I literally had one orange towel that I bought from Target). And although I was thrifty, my purchases reflected their true worth. They’d unravel after a few uses, pill after a few washes, or dull in color after a bit of wear and tear.

I’ve been in seasons of life when it’s financially necessary to choose the cheaply made option and, without a doubt, recognize the privilege involved in being able to choose better made alternatives, but let me tell you — the difference between supporting handmade versus unnamed-factory-somewhere-made is palpable.

There’s something about cozying up with a blanket or drying off with a towel knowing that the hands who made it were treated fairly, paid well, and were supported through its creation.

Quiquattro is one such brand who takes the “weaver to customer” mentality seriously.

Their products — a beautiful collection of pestemal towels, bedspreads and beachwear — are all handloomed by women weavers in Turkey using bamboo and cotton. The result? Gorgeously intricate detail and a textile that can withstand day to day use and washing.

I packed the Stone beach towel in my suitcase on our babymoon to Cancun because I loved how beautiful the towel was and couldn’t pass up an excuse to put it to use (no surprise that Colorado winters don’t allow for many beach days). It doubled as a cover up, beach blanket, and towel and was just absorbent enough to keep me dry without becoming too wet. It’s woven with stunning detail, but is still sturdy enough to act as a true towel.

And because my girls are over the moon when they get special surprises in the mail too, the sweet folks at Quiquattro sent over two matching bathrobes to keep them cozy and dry. We use them after showers, at the pool, and most recently, on a family morning trip to our local hot springs.

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We’ve also been loving their Navy Blue Bed Cover and have had it for four or five months now. It’s surprisingly heavy, intricately made, and very high quality. We put it on top of our duvet cover and it’s been the perfect thing to keep in the heat all winter long.

Although running to the closest fast fashion store is undoubtedly the more convenient and instantly gratifying option, choosing to support brands like QuiQuattro to furnish your bedroom and bathroom means that women artisans are able to make a living for themselves, sustainable craftsmanship is pushed forward, and you’re left with a piece that will last you years and years, instead of only a few rounds through the washer and dryer.


*This post was in partnership with QuiQuattro. All opinions, photographs, and creative direction are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make SL&Co. possible!*

Jackalo || Strong Enough for Kids, Gentle on the Planet

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Ah, children’s clothes. Although the vast majority of my kids’ clothing is secondhand or hand-me-downs, on the rare occasion that we buy a new piece for our girls, it usually lasts about as long as it takes for them to outgrow it or for them to rip a hole in it. Children’s apparel isn’t designed to last, because at the rate kids grow, why would it be? When you’re continually having to size up, wash away the ketchup stains, patch ripped knees, and wish for better options, it’s no wonder that shopping sustainably for your kids (at least for me) is one of the first things to go.

Aside from there being shockingly few options for ethically made kids clothes, when I have come across brands in the past I have a hard time justifying the price tag for the amount of wears my kids will get out of the item. If a piece lasts only one season before E & M outgrow or destroy it, what’s the point?

Luckily, "hard to find” doesn’t mean impossible and today’s brand goes above and beyond in terms of sustainability AND practicality for kids.

Marianna, the owner, designer, one-woman-show behind Jackalo, knows a thing or two about the struggle most parents face while looking for clothes that will last for children. A mother of two herself, she grew frustrated with the lack of sustainable options that wouldn’t cost her an arm and a leg, especially since her sons would play their way through each pair in no time.

She decided to take matters into her own hands and design a kid’s pant that could withstand normal rough and tumble and check all of the boxes in the sustainability field. Thus, Jackalo was born.

Their pants, the brand’s first product along with a coverall, are made from organic, fair trade cotton. The knees are doubled with a reinforced layer, to make them extra durable and rip free. To sweeten the deal, each pair comes in gender neutral colors and is able to be rolled up to save a bit of length until your child grows into them.

In this post, Evie is wearing the Ash Lined Engineer Stripe pant (paired with leopard print, of course) and Mara is wearing the Jax Berry pant, both in size 4 (they’re 3 and 5 but roughly the same size, so I went in the middle).

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Circular Consumerism

One of my favorite things about Jackalo is their Trade Up program. Marianna knows how quickly kids grow and even though her pants are meant to accommodate a wider range than most, her Trade Up program takes over when time has done it’s work and the pants no longer fit. They will take back any Jackalo pant, to repair and resell at a discount, and give you a 20% discount towards your next pair. It keeps their pants out of landfill and ensures that each pair is truly getting the maximum wear.

Jackalo is refreshingly transparent about where and how their organic cotton is grown, and even share links for customers to learn more about the milling, weaving, and assembly process.

In my chats with Marianna (I also work with her on a freelance basis, so I’ve gotten a more in-depth look into her brand than most), she’s mentioned how much of a labor of love growing Jackalo has been. Sourcing organic and fair trade materials isn’t the convenient route by any means, and neither is accepting old product back for resale, but she’s so committed to bettering the world (and our children’s quality of play) through her pieces that each extra step is worth it.

Keep an eye out for new pieces from Jackalo soon — they’re truly doing their part to create conscious and practical clothes for kids who play hard.


*This piece was sponsored by Jackalo — thank you for supporting the brands that make SL&Co. possible.*

Simple, Affordable, Organic Skincare with Bohemian Rêves

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When it comes to skincare, I’m a minimalist at heart. I’ve shared bits and pieces of my skincare lineup before (if you can call it a “lineup”…I really only use one or two products consistently), but each time I have the opportunity to work with a skincare brand I feel extra spoiled. There’s something about taking extra great care of my skin, bathing it in ingredients I can pronounce and trust, and supporting organic, sustainable brands that feels like such a win/win/win.

Pregnancy is a mixed bag when it comes to skin health — for some, they’re glowing like the proverbial goddess for 9 months straight with no concern about switching up their normal routine, for others, they’re battling more breakouts, dryness, and unevenness than they did when they were 14. I’ve been in both camps and have learned to listen to what my body needs (typically, more moisture) at each phase of pregnancy/postpartum/breastfeeding/menstruation, as well as to not stress about whichever “phase” my body is in at the time.

Bohemian Rêves is my newest skincare obsession and once you learn a little more about their ingredients, packaging, and mission, I think you’ll fall in love too.

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Last Spring I shared a post listing my “skincare criteria” when it comes to which products I try and which brands I support. If you missed it, here’s a quick recap of the questions I ask before committing:

1. What is my skin type and what issue am I trying to address? 

2. Can this product be used in more than one way? 

3. How transparent is the brand about their ingredients/sourcing?

4. Is this product worth the investment? 

I’d also add a note to consider the brand’s packaging, since this is my year of #InspiringZeroWaste…

When I consider Bohemian Rêves’ products in relation to these questions, I’m even more convinced they’ve earned their place in my natural (albeit minimal) beauty routine.

The brand crafts all of their products using organic, plant based ingredients. They use glass jars for packaging (which I love to reuse when I’m done), AND they’re much more affordable than other brands I’ve tried in the past. Featuring a beautiful line of body butters, botanical perfumes, face masks, rollers, and more, I’m already hooked on the sweet products they sent over for me to test out.

The Mask

Doing a weekly face mask has become a mini-ritual for me lately, especially at this phase in my pregnancy when rest is hard to come by. Bohemian Rêves’ Rose Clay + Ginseng mask is as luxurious as it sounds and their custom bamboo mask brush makes putting it on simple and mess free. I typically put mine on a few minutes before showering and then let it soak into my skin before washing it off mid-shower.

The Botanical Blends

One of the products I was most excited to try was Bohemian Rêves’ Botanical Blends. I love softer scents and knew that these blends would be just enough of a mood boosting perfume to lighten my mood and keep me feeling just a little bit fancy (I mean, how gorgeous are the bottles?!). I tried the Sol Dorado scent and it’s a fun, citrus-y, earth-y concoction that leaves me feeling awake and smelling fresh.

The Body Butter

Although I primarily requested this body butter for my baby belly — stretch mark prevention and all that jazz — I’ve been using it everywhere and on everyone. Mara is prone to super dry, eczema-like patches, especially in our ultra-dry Colorado winters, and this body butter has helped to keep her skin moisturized and non-itchy.

The Matcha + Green Tea body butter isn’t greasy, like many other body butters out there, and has a light scent that makes it perfect for everyday use.

The Deodorant

Although it’s not pictured, I also tried Bohemian Rêves’ Patchouli and Blood Orange natural deodorant. As someone who is extremely picky when it comes to natural deodorants (and have tried quite a few in my day), this one has come out on top as one my favorites I’ve tried. I’m waiting till I’ve used it for a bit longer to make up my mind officially, but for the first week or so, I’m wonderfully surprised. Instead of many alternative deodorants that use baking soda, this one uses arrowroot powder and magnesium to absorb odor, making it much gentler on the skin.

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If you’re on the hunt for clean skincare alternatives, Bohemian Rêves is the perfect one-stop shop for everything from candles to soap to lotions to cleansing oils. Their ingredients are thoughtful and non-toxic, their packaging is zero waste and reusable, they’re budget friendly, and have products for all skintypes, what more could you ask for?


*This post was sponsored by Bohemian Rêves. All photos, opinions, and creative direction are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make SL&Co. possible!*

#InspiringZeroWaste || March Goal

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And just like that, we’re at the three month of this little zero waste challenge. How is it going for you all, friends? Now might be the point when you’re starting to feel your motivation waning — a year is a long time to commit to anything, especially something as big as waste reduction. I’d encourage you to use this month as a check-in. Ask yourself how achievable your monthly goals have been and, if necessary, readjust. Living a lower waste lifestyle doesn’t have to feel impossible, rigid, or boring. I hope breaking your biggest zero-waste goals into month-by-month chunks makes it feel as approachable and do-able as it actually is. If you’ve made it this far in the challenge OR you’re just joining in, comment below with how it’s going!

You can read each month’s goal and recap by going to the #InspiringZeroWaste tag on my blog, but as a quick reminder, here’s what I’ve tackled thus far in the challenge. For January, I zero-waste-ified my shower routine (I swapped my last shampoo bottle for a shampoo bar from Natural Vegan, bought a safety razor from Leaf, and have been switching out my conditioner and body wash to bars as they run out). In February, I researched textile recycling and wrote a giant post of resources for sending old clothing.

February Update:

Textile recycling seemed like a giant of a topic, and really, I only scratched the surface of the issues of clothing waste and the difficulties associated with recycling textiles in general.

What I Learned:

  • Primarily, I learned that textile recycling should be the norm. Although in an ideal world, all of our clothing would be organically grown and free from synthetic additions so that it would biodegrade naturally on its own, but of course, that’s not reality (yet, anyway). An easy solution is to send off your unwanted, well-worn clothes to textile recycling facilities or upcycle them at home.

  • More than anything, conscious consumption is key. When it comes to clothes, don’t buy more than you need, shop for ethically made pieces that are built to last, and recycle them when you no longer need them.

  • To read more of my findings, as well as a big list of places to send just about any type of clothing, click here.

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March Goal

My goals so far have all been practical and informative for my personal life and March’s goal is no different. For the next few months, my ZW goals will likely have to do with baby preparation. I’m due in two short months and am hoping to focus my (minimal) energy on making a plan to lessen waste during the postpartum months and beyond. I’ve had two kiddos of course, but low waste living wasn’t as high of a priority for me then as it is now, so I’m excited to dive in and change up my “baby phase norm” a bit.

For March, I’ll be focusing on finding (making/buying) zero waste baby essentials. This post won’t be as informative for my readers who aren’t in the baby-phase, but it’s something I need to dive into for myself and I hope my findings will be useful to some of you (both now and for future mamas!).

I’ve always said that you don’t need as much stuff to have a baby as everyone says and this time around I’m truly putting that to the test. Of course, we don’t have space for much excess, but after my two older girls turned 2 or 3, I sold or donated all of our baby stuff and am essentially starting from scratch this time around.

At the end of this month, I’ll share everything I plan to use to lessen waste once baby arrives, so stay tuned on my thoughts on cloth diapering, low waste pumping, and more. And, as always, leave me any tips or suggestions on the topic below!