Summer Non-Essentials

April 16, 2019
Different articles of clothing with a sun
Art by Kirsten Hemrich

I keep a list of things I want in the notes app on my phone (right below my grocery list and right above late-night ruminations on the failures of my life). Some time ago, I would use this “want” note as a safety blanket or a calming mechanism, relishing in capitalistic promises of a shopping high in the face of immediate stressors like exams and papers. Such a dependency left me feeling pretty empty inside, so I’ve left this note in neglect, and try instead to focus on the piece of journal paper taped up beside my mirror that says, “stop feeling the need to consume material things!”

At the end of last semester, I wrote a piece about my break-up with fast fashion in favor of slow, sustainable clothing. But now we’re approaching summer, the time when I rustle through the depths of my dresser drawers to find the single bathing suit I own in preparation for a trip to the beach or the pool. Summer isn’t my favorite season, and I always feel inadequate in the face of daunting pressures surrounding body image. Precisely because of this discomfort, I don’t always put a lot of thought into my summer “essentials” and therefore end up relying on the easy options.



Bathing suits really pose a problem for me, because I would prefer to not buy them second-hand. I recently discovered Youswim and I am fully obsessed. Their sustainably-made suits are designed to last for a long time and are magically one-size-fits-all. Also, the company doesn't retouch marketing photos, which feature bodies of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Yes. Another brand is Saltwater Collective, who use fabric made of old fish nets and plastic and locally produce their bathing suits.


Tote Bags

Opting for a reusable beach bag is an obvious choice, but choosing one that is built to last means you can buy one and keep it for years. An amazing and popular option is Baggu, and I also really love the string bags from EcoBags because you can use them beyond the summer for things like produce (plus they’re simply trendy and make you feel like you have your life somewhat together).


Reusable Baggies

I realized last summer that I use plastic baggies for my phone and my wet bathing suit all the time. So instead, this summer, I’m going to use the reusable silicone bags from Stasher that I already use for food storage, so I can avoid the one-use plastics.  


Water Bottles

I’m a true ride-or-die for my Camelbak (courtesy of the UVA Bookstore), but there are so many options for reusable water bottle, like Hydroflask, Swell, or Nalgene. Another thing to think about is ditching single-use plastic cups in favor of a tumbler or a regular washable kitchen cup from home.


Hair Ties

I always underestimate the amount of waste my scrunchies and hair ties create, and I almost always use them while I’m on the beach or at the pool. A great option is to repurpose old fabric into a hair tie, or spend a little more on a sustainable option like one from HARA the Label.


Clothes and Coverups

Sometimes I struggle spending money on summer clothing because I feel like my body is ever changing, and while that’s okay, I don’t want to purchase an expensive item only for it to fit differently than it did the previous year. So, I thrift a lot of my summer clothing. The best shorts are pants that fit really well in the waist and receive a nice cropping with a pair of scissors. Also, I almost always wear an oversized shirt as a cover up because they’re easy to find and easy to throw on.  


Of course, these are really non-essentials, because for me the best and most sustainable option is the item I already own. And I already own sunglasses, a hat, and sandals from last summer that I will be carrying into this year and using until they wear out. There are going to be material items that are difficult to find sustainable alternatives to, so my approach in those situations is to accept the imperfection and extend the life cycle of what I already have in my closet. For me, it’s rewarding to purchase according to my values when possible. Any resistance to the hyper-paced industry designed to capitalize on women’s insecurities seems important, even if it does take place on a personal scale.

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