by Suzanne Wentley
At one point in my life, I was one of those women who wore big, flowy dresses. I rocked tie-dye and natural fibers — a look that screamed, I’m an environmentalist!
But then, I grew up.
I became a professional with an office job. I started traveling internationally. I didn’t want to always look like I was rolling out of a Grateful Dead concert (even though that would be kinda awesome). I needed a wardrobe that helped me feel prepared and confident, no matter what.
The thing is, I’m still an environmentalist. I’m not interested in having a closet overflowing with fast fashion, and I’m more conscious than ever about the importance of zero waste. So, even though it’s not a place I particularly enjoy, I often find myself at the mall when I need (or want) a new piece of clothing.
That’s why I loved learning about sustainable brands at Nordstrom, a perennial mall favorite with almost 400 stores in 40 states throughout the nation. For fashionistas looking for brands with zero-waste manufacturing, sustainable fabrics, and ethical values, a trip to Nordstrom (or a click on Nordstrom.com) is worth a try in our endless quest to look good and feel even better.
Sustainable Brands at Nordstrom
It’s tough to find a clothing brand that’s:
1) Easy to find — meaning you can get it at the mall or online without endless searching
2) Looks good — like I said, I’m totally over the hippie look even though I still love Jerry Garcia
3) Isn’t greenwashing.
I’m no fool, so I don’t want a company to pretend to be environmentally conscious if they’re just doing it to make a buck. So, it’s nice to see some of the sustainable brands at Nordstrom that actually seem to care about the Earth.
I have to say, I was surprised to learn that Adidas is such a sustainable brand. While they launched a shoe made from recycled plastic waste in 2015, they’ve since upped their game. Today, more than 90% of the polyester they use is recycled. By 2024, they plan to only use recycled polyester.
Their goals include climate neutrality and zero waste manufacturing, and that’s awesome. The fewer new items we produce and consume, the healthier the Earth will be. But you can’t deny when you need a new pair of shoes (replace those runners every 300 to 500 miles). I am an avid runner and hiker, and I love the Adidas Terrex Free Parley Trail Hiking Boot. These boots are made from recycled ocean litter, and they look super-cool.
I love clothes that you can pack for a weekend trip that look timeless and rich at the same time, and I really love it when these pieces are made sustainably. Marine Layer, another brand available at Nordstrom, fits the bill.
This brand features a Re-Spun recycling program. Give them an old t-shirt and they’ll recycle it into a new garment (and give you $5 credit!). Since 2018, this program has kept 400,000 tees out of the landfill. I wonder if any of them are Grateful Dead concert t-shirts?
I can totally see myself in the Marine Layer Jamie Cotton Minidress, a perfect LBD that’s easy to pack and easier to wear. I’m also a fan of the Corrina Wide Leg Cotton Gauze Pants. Their burnt-orange color, sierra, is having a moment, and the flowy style is a sophisticated upgrade from my previous earthy garb.
Some more facts about me: I’m always cold, and I love being outdoors. So, I was all ears to learn about another Nordstrom brand called Rumpl. They make blankets out of the same cozy materials you’d expect to see in a puffy jacket or a sleeping bag, but somehow they fold up tidy and are more space-aged than throwback.
These blankets are made with mostly post-consumer recycled materials — saving literally millions of discarded plastic bottles since the brand launched in 2019. They take zero-waste manufacturing to a new level, and that reminds me: You aren’t using plastic bottles anymore, right?
Rumpl certifies its products as climate neutral. They even pledge 1% of their profits to environmental causes like the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and First Peoples Fund.
Nordstrom’s Other Environmental Programs
Besides stocking a few sustainable brands, Nordstrom as a company also makes some additional efforts to steer their customers away from fast fashion and help protect the environment.
One program they have is an ongoing clothing donation drive, but I’m not so sure it hits the mark. While it’s admirable to have a goal of saving 250 tons of used clothing and accessories from the landfill by 2025, all Nordstrom does is ship the donations to either Goodwill or Housing Works.
Why wouldn’t you just bring your used stuff directly to these charities or any other charity that relies on secondhand shops to raise money? While you’re there, you may find a name-brand find that makes buying new unnecessary.
Conversely, I am impressed with a Nordstrom program called “BeautyCycle.” With a vision of encouraging men and women to adopt zero-waste beauty routines, they accept empty bottles, tubes, and caps from all kinds of products in their beauty departments.
That’s a big deal because many cities don’t recycle those trial-size tubes, vials, twist-up containers, or cosmetic palettes. Nordstrom wants to save 100 tons of beauty packaging from the landfill by 2025, and I hope you help them reach their goal.
Finally, Nordstrom also provides tips for caring for clothes. After all, the better we care for our items, the less we’ll need to go buy more. The desire for long-lasting garments is why we’re shopping in high-end stores, anyway, right? Some tips include:
Wash your clothing less, which sounds crazy but makes sense
Wash clothing in cold water, which saves electricity as well as preserves the fibers
Hang dry … because who doesn’t love the smell of sunshine in clothes?
Mend and repair items instead of throwing them away
Alter or tailor when clothes don’t fit right
They also recommend investing in a filter by Cora Ball or Guppyfriend for your washing machine. Why? Microfibers. These are tiny plastic bits that are shed from synthetic materials whenever they are washed. Those bits of plastic end up washing into nearby waterways and evidently into the oceans. By simply purchasing one of these filters (or getting a permanent washing machine filter), you can stop tiny pollution that causes big trouble downstream.
Shopping at the Mall: Look Good and Do Good
It’s encouraging to know that some of the high-quality stores like Nordstrom are stocking sustainable brands that are fashionable, too. Before, I’d just have to get lucky and stumble upon small boutiques with beautiful, versatile clothing by brands that cared about the environment. Now I can just go to the mall.
It’s about time that high-quality brands realize they don’t have to sacrifice style to offer pieces made with zero-waste manufacturing or recycled materials. I believe we really can have it all — if enough consumers demand it. Whenever I find an item that I love that’s also environmentally conscious, I make sure I tell the employee at the store how much I appreciate it.
Next time I’m at Nordstrom, I’ll make sure to do that, and I hope you do too. If you know another high-quality clothing brand that cares for the Earth, I encourage you to suggest it to Nordstrom — and also leave a comment! I’m always on the lookout for cute clothing made by companies with a conscience.
Conscious Living is a Lifestyle. Download our guide with 25 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint