Riding the Wave of Shopping Sustainable and Eco-Friendly

Words by Carmen Macri 

 

Summer is right around the corner and it’s time to finally ditch that old ratty bikini and trade it in for something better — for you and the environment.

 

It’s always a mission to find a swimsuit that’s both durable and easy on the wallet — every girl’s dilemma. With high-end brands charging a fortune for a bikini and the dark side of fast fashion wreaking havoc on our planet, it’s tough to navigate. That’s why when local businesses start rolling out eco-friendly, sustainable and affordable swimwear options, it’s time to jump on board.

 

Choosing eco-friendly, sustainable swimwear isn’t just about following trends; it’s about aligning our values with our actions. By opting for swimwear made from recycled materials or produced ethically, we’re making a statement about what matters to us. It’s a way of saying we care about the health of our planet and the well-being of those who make our clothes. With each purchase, we’re not just buying a piece of clothing; we’re investing in a better future — one where our oceans are cleaner, our communities are supported, and our impact on the environment is minimized. So when we slip into that eco-friendly swimsuit, we’re not just making a fashion statement; we’re making a conscious choice to swim in style while doing our part for the planet.

 

Among the limited local brands that truly catch attention stands Noelani The Label. Based right here in Jacksonville, Noelani represents a local, sustainable, eco-friendly, and budget-friendly bikini line. Every thread of this brand is the creation of Kyla Noelani, who serves as its founder, owner, designer, seamstress and everything in between. Launching her venture right out of high school in 2019, Noelani was driven by frustration shared by many toward the subpar quality of available bathing suits.

 

“It’s all handmade by me. I just love bikinis, I love fashion and I love sewing. So I kind of combine that all into my little business,” Noelani shared. “I was getting bikinis from Target and Shein, and I just never liked how they felt on me and how they fit. And then when I started learning about how it’s made, the materials and the labor, you know, it’s kind of questionable.”

 

Noelani discovered her passion for sewing during her middle school years, initially finding joy in it as a simple hobby. However, it wasn’t until she explored the fashion industry, particularly the bikini sector and witnessed the staggering amount of waste it generated, that she felt inspired to take matters into her own hands. Balancing the creation of a fully eco-friendly, sustainable swimsuit line alongside staying abreast of trends is undeniably challenging. It requires extensive research to ascertain whether materials are ethically sourced and environmentally friendly.

 

“I figured I would just do it myself. Simple,” Noelani explained. “I started learning about sustainability and how much waste fashion produces. So it’s kind of a hard compromise, wanting to try new styles and trends and then also trying to balance that with being sustainable.”

 

One crucial aspect Noelani prioritizes in her brand is minimizing waste that could accumulate during manufacturing. That’s why every item crafted by Noelani is made to order, ensuring that no excess material is left behind, thus reducing the risk of it ending up in landfills. When it comes to the actual material used — all regenerated material. Plastics, carpets, fishing nets, and water bottles are all gathered and transformed into a type of yarn, which is then repurposed into a new fabric. Or she uses deadstock fabric. 

 

“Sometimes brands have extra fabric that they never end up using to produce their items. So they’ll have like hundreds of yards extra of fabric just like wasted,” Noelani explained. “And so sometimes I come in and buy some. Then I’m able to turn that into something new, whereas it either would have been sitting in a warehouse forever or they would have just thrown it away.”

 

Noelani’s bikinis offer added value with their reversible designs, essentially giving you two swimsuits for the price of one. Instead of sticking to plain solid colors, Noelani prefers vibrant hues and eye-catching patterns, drawing inspiration from the iconic swimsuits of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s.

 

“So I always try to have kind of more timeless and like vintage-inspired, the 90s florals, plaids and gingham,” Noelani explained. “I like to create things that I can see people wearing for decades, not just something that’s a micro trend right now.”

 

Recently, there’s been a growing spotlight on Arcane Swim, another local swimwear line renowned for its eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable practices. The attention it’s garnered is completely warranted — here’s why. 

 

Arcane Swim’s fabric, crafted with biodegradable materials, is manufactured by garment workers represented by IndustriALL Global Union, a force for better working conditions and trade union rights worldwide. The brand ensures carbon-neutral shipping and employs compostable packaging, supporting projects like the Cambodian Water Purification Project through EcoCart. Partnering with One Tree Planted, Arcane Swim plants a tree for every purchase, contributing to global reforestation efforts. They offer a range of second-hand and vintage clothing at affordable prices to promote sustainable living. Committed to slow fashion, Arcane prioritizes quality and fair treatment of workers, avoiding rushed production. They educate consumers about sustainable practices and textiles, advocating for a kinder approach to the environment. Their fabric, OEKO-TEX 100 Certified, boasts CO2 control technology for environmentally friendly production and UV protection. The Light (CO2), a circular knitted fabric made with biodegradable nylon, decomposes rapidly, exemplifying Arcane’s dedication to eco-conscious innovation.

 

The women behind it all? Kirsten “Lulie” Mayo. 

 

“I came up with the idea for Arcane back in 2016, but it wasn’t until a few years later that we really got things going. It took a lot of research, figuring out how to start a business and testing out tons of fabric swatches to find the right materials. Finally, in the spring of 2019, we were able to launch our first collection,” Mayo shared. “After we launched, we didn’t even get our first order until two or three days later. But within two weeks, we completely sold out of the collection.”

 

In an effort to reduce waste in production and packaging, Arcane Swim implements several important measures. They prioritize shipping all products in biodegradable mailers, ensuring customers feel good about the eco-friendly delivery of their swimwear. Through a partnership with EcoCart, they offset carbon emissions from shipping, making all shipments net zero and lessening their environmental impact. This collaboration also supports The Cambodian Water Purification Act, contributing to global sustainability efforts. Arcane also ships tagless and often includes a metal ring as a “tag” for hanging suits on towel racks after handwashing, enhancing sustainability throughout the customer experience.

 

“We’re all about sustainability. We’re guided by the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), focusing on areas like climate action, responsible consumption and production, and gender equality,” Mayo added. “This means that every swimsuit we make is not just stylish — it’s also helping the planet and supporting social causes. We’re also part of the Fashion Revolution movement, which is all about making fashion transparent, sustainable and ethical. It’s about changing the way we think about clothes from how they’re made to how we wear them. By partnering with Fashion Revolution, we’re working to create a fashion industry that’s better for everyone.”

 

In high school, Mayo dove into the world of retail at a Jacksonville Beach surf shop, where tasks ranged from handling shipments to arranging products. This hands-on experience shed light on a couple of things: the limited inclusivity in sizing and modeling, the questionable ethics of some big-name brands and the over-priced products. Immersed in Jax Beach’s swimwear scene, Mayo realized that when she eventually started her own swim line, she wanted to do things differently… And she did. 

 

“Creating and maintaining an eco-friendly swimwear brand comes with its challenges, but I think something I’ve recognized and see not only in Arcane but other brands as well is that sustainability is a privileged conversation. Some people can’t afford to be more sustainable because eco-friendly products are often more expensive with higher cost usually due to the better quality of the products and the fair wages paid to workers,” Mayo shared. “But here’s the thing: just because you might not have the budget for it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to make sustainable choices. We believe it’s our job as the company to make sustainable products that are accessible to everyone, regardless of their budget. We want to make it easier for you to find products that not only make you feel good but also help the planet. Finding the balance between affordability and sustainability is tough, but as we grow and learn more about running a business, scaling up and sustainability, we’re getting closer to finding our footing.” 

 

Residing in a beach town, it’s crucial for our community to play a role in enhancing the environment and preserving our oceans. And if bikinis aren’t your thing, fret not. “Folio” recently chatted with the owner of Eco Eclectic, a fresh zero-waste shop that recently opened its doors on the corner of Third Street and Eighth Avenue in Jacksonville Beach.

 

Sara Fagen’s frustration peaked during her beach strolls, witnessing heaps of trash tarnishing our dunes. Determined to make a difference, she launched a shop focused on zero-waste refills with eco-friendly products at the core. Initially, Fagen operated her shop out of local farmers markets across the beach area. Since 2020, she’s spent her weeks scouting eco-friendly alternatives for everyday essentials like laundry detergents, dish soaps, shampoos and conditioners. Additionally, she sources recycled plastics, tins, glassware and other containers for refills available at her booth — now her store.

 

“I live on the beach, and I was seeing all this trash, so I was like, oh, what is a way that I can change this by having different products?” Fagen explained. “There wasn’t anyone local that I supported, so I was kind of like, oh crap. I have to do this myself. And then from the farmers market, it grew into the store.”

 

When Fagen isn’t tending to her newly established brick-and-mortar store, which opened its doors in October of last year, she’s immersed in her role as a research scientist at Mayo Clinic, focusing on drug discovery — a subject close to her heart. While her primary focus lies within her store’s refill center, she also utilizes the space to champion other local vendors committed to sustainability and eco-friendliness. Within her store, Fagen hosts numerous vendors who align with her sustainability ethos, switching plastics for clay and opting for local vintage shops like Keeks Vintage over fast fashion outlets. Recycled or used books and old vinyl records find new homes instead of ending up in landfills, while spots for brands like Arcane Swim can add to the eclectic mix. Eco Eclectic hosts a monthly clothing swap as well, offering a sustainable alternative to discarding old clothes by facilitating exchanges among customers, ensuring a continuous cycle of secondhand garments being exchanged rather than languishing in landfills. Whatever does not find a home that day will either end up back on the rack or will be donated to Mission House or Salvation Army. 

 

“We kind of wanted to inspire people to start wherever they are, whether it’s coming in to buy a plant and then they’re like, ‘Oh, we could go refill things,’”Fagen explained. “If they’re not on board with that, but they like to get thrifted clothes, we have that option too. There are so many ways to be eco-friendly, and we kind of want to be the gateway, the entry point, to all of that.”

 

Everything inside of Eco Eclectic is sourced locally funneling money back into our city while also being conscious of the effects the products might have on the environment. 

 

“We try to get as local as possible,” Fagen said. “Handmade ideally. We also look for women-owned and minority-owned companies. And then for things like the refills, are we able to send those back and refill them? If not, can we recycle or reuse those containers? Are they even natural products? Are they biodegradable? We’re so close to the ocean, and these things are going down the drain. So we look for natural biodegradable ingredients while supporting local vendors.” 

 

Sustainable shopping has often been associated with higher costs, justified by the quality of products. While this holds true, Fagen at Eco Eclectic believes in making ethical and sustainable shopping accessible to her community. As a result, her prices are unbeatable, prioritizing affordability without compromising on sustainability.

 

“Plastic bottle and waste reduction has been through the roof,” Fagen shared. “People bring in the same containers to refill products, which is amazing. We track how many bottles we’re saving. We want to be a hub for that and support those people that are doing cool, sustainable efforts in the community.” 

 

The journey toward sustainable living and eco-conscious consumption is not only attainable but also essential for the well-being of our planet. We see that small changes can make a big difference. By supporting businesses that prioritize sustainability, we can contribute to a healthier environment and create a brighter future for generations to come. So whether it’s choosing eco-friendly swimwear or shopping at zero-waste stores, take proactive steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle — our planet will thank you. 

 

About Carmen Macri

Since a young age, Carmen Macri knew she wanted to be a writer. She started as our student intern and has advanced to Multi-media Journalist/Creative. She graduated from the University of North Florida and quickly found her home with Folio Weekly. She juggles writing, photography and running Folio’s social media accounts.