I spoke recently via email with Jill Spiritus, Co-Founder, Compassion Couture, LLC regarding her 100% vegan and eco-friendly handbags, shoes and accessories that are both fashion-forward and high quality. Her e-boutique, Compassion Couture, only sells brands which incorporate sustainability into their practices – whether they reduce their carbon footprint at factories, are made of recycled materials, organic materials or sustain the local economies of developing countries through fair trade practices. She founded this venture with her sister, and together they strive to provide environmentally friendly and fashionable options for the eco-conscious consumer. When asked how Compassion Couture supports a green lifestyle, Jill replied “Compassion Couture was started because we wanted to offer a green fashion alternative to consumers and prove that ‘eco’ fashions are just as stylish and high-quality than those that they find at mainstream stores. Our ultimate goal is to prove that you don’t have to sacrifice your sense of style for your values!”
Jill goes on to say, “We solely carry eco-friendly and cruelty-free handbags, shoes and accessories.” Jill says. “All of our brands incorporate sustainability into their practices – whether they take an active stance to reduce their carbon footprint and waste at their factories, make their products out of recycled or organic materials, or actually sustain the local economies in developing countries through fair trade practices.” She mentions that, “Additionally, just by being ‘vegan’, our products are less harmful on the environment than products made of leather. From start to finish, the amount of energy required to create a leather hide is 20 times greater than the production of a synthetic material. The production of leather requires the transportation of feed to animals, removal of waste, electricity in housing facilities, electricity for operations and killing, pesticide use, vaccine and antibiotic use, transportation to remove carcasses and transportation of pelts. In addition, hundreds of thousands of acres of land are cleared for the raising of livestock.” Of the office itself Jill added that, “In addition to carrying green products, internally, we only use recycled packaging, all of our marketing materials are printed on recycled paper with soy ink and we try to reduce the amount of printing we do whenever possible.”
When discussing her personal environmental consciousness, Jill said “I am personally environmentally conscious in several ways and am an avid believer that a little effort can go a long way. I check labels on all of the products that I purchase. It is not easy to find green clothing right off the rack so I stick to online when it comes to buying fashion. Additionally, I use green cleaning supplies such as ‘Greenworks’ and eat local, organic foods whenever possible. I always bring my own eco-friendly tote when shopping for everything. I take care of my bills online to save paper. And, if I can walk instead of drive I will!”
She goes on to talk about her start in the world of fashion and the marriage of it and environmental consciousness. “I got started in this business because as a vegetarian who is extremely eco-conscious I was having a really hard time, personally, finding products that had qualities in line with my values. I searched and searched for accessories that were not made from animals and were equally as conscious of the environment. I wanted to start a place where I could find all these items in one spot. I wanted to develop a site that people would be able to come to and not have to weed out items that were ‘vegan by accident’, made cheaply using non-sustainable materials and not up with the latest fashion trends.”
Jill’s advice for a person who would like to start living a greener lifestyle is this: “I would tell them to start small. Every small action counts. Using a reusable bag when shopping is an easy swap for paper or plastic bags. Drinking out of an aluminum water bottle instead of plastic water bottles is another easy switch. Taking shorter showers can easily save water. Walking or biking to work saves a huge amount of gas. And, of course shopping smart by cutting down on buying excess and buying from eco-friendly shops like Compassion Couture makes a difference.”
I asked Jill about Compassion Couture’s support for non-profit charities working to build a greener environment, and she said “We haven’t supported any charities in the green arena just yet but we have big plans to in the future! Since we have only been open for a little over a year we’ve so far focused on animal rights non-profits such as Farm Sanctuary, Mercy For Animals, The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, The Humane Society and the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (among others.)”
Although she knew of many brands she wanted to start with. Jill chooses the new suppliers Compassion Couture works with using the following process:
· “First, they must be 100% vegan (not made of leather, wool, silk or fur is ever used)
· Secondly, they must be sustainable in at least one way. Either they have to be made out of recycled/organic materials, created at factories that take an active stance in reducing their carbon emissions/waste or they must be fair-trade.
· Thirdly, they have to be fashionable. This is very subjective but being huge fans of fashion, my sister/business partner and I handpick every item based on our own personal style.
· Fourthly, they have to be high quality, premium products that will hold up. This usually comes hand-in-hand with being sustainable.”
Interested in learning more? You can find Compassion Couture on Facebook, and on Twitter @CompassionCtre.
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