How You Can Be Ecofabulous: Q & A with Zem Joaquin

Eco-expert Zem Joaquin founded ecofabulous as a result of her personal journey into sustainability. She realized that the products she was using in her home were toxic and thus intensifying the asthma both of her children battled. The more she learned during the process of transforming her own home into a healthy environment, the less she was able to trust traditional products the way she once had, and the more she turned toward an eco-friendly lifestyle.

Joaquin has been a contributing eco-editor at House & Garden, Domino, Architectural Digest, and 7x7. She received the 2009 Global Green Millennium Founder's Award for her contributions as a Global Green board member, co-chair of Global Green's San Francisco Committee, and founder of Global Green's successful annual fund-raiser and eco-fashion event. Mentored by William McDonough, Joaquin is a certified BuildItGreen design and strategy consultant and Cradle to Cradle enthusiast who helps companies and individuals create beautiful, smart, sustainable spaces and practices. She is the eco-luxury specialist for Planet Green's Alter Eco and regularly contributes to various media.

Her love for the earth can be traced back to her early upbringing on a Palo Alto, California commune. As a mother of two, she is committed to improving all families' health, education, and access to well-vetted information. To that end, Joaquin is an active board member of Global Green, Healthy Child Healthy World, Teens Turning Green, and Architecture for Humanity.

MindBodyGreen: How do you start your morning? What do you have to eat? Do you have a routine?

Zem Joaquin: I brew a cup of Mighty Leaf organic green tea. Pack the kids no-waste lunches and feed them breakfast. Walk them to school, walk home more quickly. Shower and get on the computer immediately.

MBG: Do you have any favorite green designers?

ZJ: There are so many outstanding eco-designers, but I am especially enamored of Bllack, Noir, Mr. Larkin, Linda Loudermilk, and Loomstate.

MBG: Your favorite eco-denim brands?

ZJ: J Brand makes super-sexy jeans in gorgeous washes?make sure you get the organic version! Del Forte is always a go-to denim line (everything is organic). Levi's Capital E line has recycled denim that is super-comfy. There's some more on my denim picks here.

MBG: Favorite must-have piece for the winter?

ZJ: Natural rubber wellies (pictured).

MBG: What are 3 easy, actionable, and free things we can all do to be greener?

ZJ: I'll give you four!

  1. Eat less meat and dairy. (This will actually save you money and dramatically lower your carbon footprint.)
  2. Take alternative forms of transportation.
  3. Practice "eco to go." Don't take disposables.
  4. Unplug!

MBG: What advice would you give someone who wants to start dressing greener but doesn't know where to start?


  1. See what you already have that you can refresh by adding a belt (one you already have or a vintage find).
  2. Buy vintage (flea markets, resale shops, high-end consignment boutiques).
  3. When you do buy new, go for organic cotton, hemp, or fiber made from milk or seaweed. Recycled fabrics can be made out of numerous things, including old soda bottles. I love repurposing something that would otherwise end up in the landfill, but those things should not be combined with biodegradable fibers, or you create what Bill McDonough refers to as a "monstrous hybrid."
  4. Bonus: Try to support local stores and sustainably focused businesses.

MBG: How has having a child influenced your beliefs about the importance of being green?

ZJ: My original epiphany happened after recognizing that it was the toxins my children were exposed to that were causing their asthma. At that moment, I set out on a mission to create the healthiest possible environment for my children, but that quickly evolved into sharing that information with others, so that they were armed with the best information available. To that end I sit on the board of Healthy Child, Healthy World and I am a spokesperson for the Eco Toy Alliance, which educates families about toxic toys and the alternatives.

Our house is virtually VOC (volatile organic compound) free. We shop at farmer's markets, and the vast majority of our food is organic. My kids don't have toys with phthalates or PVC (which is easier than it sounds). We walk to school. I think about where everything comes from, how it is made, and what it will become. I want to protect the fragile ecosphere so they will inherit a thriving world. I also cannot help but think about how other mothers feel when they don't have access to food and clean water for their children.

MBG: What are your favorite vintage clothing stores?

ZJ: In San Francisco: Helpers, Cris, and Torso Vintages. In Los Angeles: Decades.

MBG: What's in your fridge?

ZJ: Kale, fresh coconuts, broccoli, lots of fresh veggies, sheep cheese, eggs from our chickens (small but gorgeous), Vegenaise, Spelt bread from the farmer's market, tofutti cuties, Three Twins organic mint chip ice cream.

MBG: Who inspires you?

ZJ: William McDonough, my kids, my techie husband, Arianna Huffington, Lyn and Norman Lear, great designers, Gina Pell.

MBG: Guilty indulgence?

ZJ: Sparkling water, but we do make our own at home.

MBG: Any predictions for green fashion in 2010?

ZJ: You will see many new fabrics, but good green fashion won't look like "green" fashion.

For more on Zem Joaquin and ecofabulous:

ecofabulous on Twitter

Zem's eBay Green Team Campaign

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