A Non-Designer’s Guide to Sustainability

A Non-Designer’s Guide to Sustainability

A Non-Designer's Guide to Sustainability

By: Malka Hershkop

February 13, 2019

Hey, my name is Malka, EFE’s Director of Team Building. I’m currently a sophomore at Hunter College majoring in biochemistry. I got involved with EFE last year after I saw a flyer requesting people who were interested in “fashion, sustainability, or modeling”. For me, getting involved had almost nothing to do with fashion and almost everything to do with sustainability. Personally I don’t consider myself a creative person but I still wanted to participate and get involved with the team. It was reassuring to me to know that I didn’t need to create to limit waste. I’m sure many of you may be wondering how you can reduce without creating so here are my best suggestions and ideas on the topic.

I found that being involved with EFE was a way for me to spread awareness about sustainability regardless of if or if not I was interested in fashion. I think that fashion is an important and relevant part of almost everyone’s lives, and that drawing awareness to it was an important part of sustainable efforts. EFE creates a space where both fashion and sustainability can come together in a practical and convenient way. I wanted to share some other ways one can reduce waste without the need to create with one’s personal clothing, food, and beauty choices.

There’s a bunch of talented folks on our team that can sew, but don’t worry if that’s not you!


Even though I knew I wanted to get involved I wasn’t really sure what I could bring to the table. During our first Eco Fashion Expo event, I took on the role of stage manager which allowed me to help with some more technical tasks instead of something more creative. I was happy that even if I was not able to help with the creations I could still help bring the message across to the audience. It’s important to know that even if you don’t know how to design and sew clothes, you can reduce waste by offering your other abilities.There are so many ways in which one can reduce waste or aid in the process of promoting or advocating for sustainability.

I like to keep wardrobe pretty simple. Most (okay all) of my clothing is black because it makes getting dressed easy. Keeping it neutral also means that an outfit can be worn to many different events or activities. I shop mostly on Poshmark or at local thrift stores. I try not to shop often and only buy the things that I need.

Access to ethical clothing is easier in New York City compared to other areas because there are thrift stores nearly everywhere as well as flea markets and clothing swaps. Some of my favorite thrift stores are The Housing Works as well as Beacon’s Closet. There are also apps such as Poshmark and Thredup that make searching for clothing and accessories easy and affordable. I recommend that before you purchase something new, you first do a search on some online thrift stores and consider the second-hand option before purchasing a new item.


Possibly more important than clothing to me is food. Zero waste or low waste foods are a large source of disposable plastics and wastes. Nearly everything on grocery shelves are in some way or another wrapped in plastic. Even fruits and vegetables come in plastic bags and containers. Shopping in bulk and at farmers markets is one of the ways to reduce this plastic waste. My favorite in bulk store is Integral Yoga Natural Foods because of their large selection of bulk dry goods as well as their bulk liquids such as shampoos, conditioners, and moisturizer. GrowNYC can help you find the nearest farmers market location near you. I like farmers markets because the produce is usually cheaper and fresher then the produce at the grocery store.

Additionally, adding fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, and legumes to your diet is another way to reduce your waste and carbon footprint. Cutting down on animal products saves our planet’s water sources and ecosystem, and reduces all kinds of pollution. Caitlin from “From My Bowl” and Ellen Fisher are two of my favorite influencers who make plant based living both affordable and abundant. They both have e-books and Youtube channels where they share healthy plant based meal ideas and lifestyle tips.

Shopping in bulk requires planning ahead and bulk shops are not not accessible to everyone. Plant based foods and produce may also not be easily accessible. Sustainable grocery shopping is a privilege and not always practical for everything. It’s important to do the best you can with the resources around you and know that your seemingly small effort is significant in the efforts of sustainability.

Throwback to our EFE Friendsgiving — a great way to make sure food doesn’t go to waste! 

Photo Credit: Melissa Lent


Skincare and other beauty products were the last of my personal belongings to switch to a more sustainable version. Finding the right deodorant, shampoo, and face wash was difficult because although there were many options for me, they didn’t always operate like I wanted. I ended up with many half empty bottles of moisturizer, conditioner, and face creams. It took awhile for me to work out what worked for me and my routine. While all of the half empty containers have been passed along to friends and family who will put them to good use, here are the things that stuck.

When I look for beauty products, I look for something that I can buy in bulk first even though, even in New York City, there aren’t many options or much variety. Next I look for something with minimal plastic packaging, preferably a glass bottle that can be recycled or reused. You should remember that you will not always be able to find something that fits these guidelines. In that case, try making it yourself or try a new product than one you’re used to using.

Think of all of the things you consume on a daily basis. How can you choose a more sustainable and ethical version of it?  Try reaching outside of bamboo toothbrush and metal straws and really challenging yourself to find sustainable alternatives for your favorite things.Amongst the many things that I’ve learned about sustainability is that  you don’t need to know how to create to be sustainable. There’s already so many resources available to you, and you just have to look for them.

Back to Top