Maria Cornejo bristles at the idea that sustainability is an all-or-nothing proposition. “I think to be totally ‘eco’ is practically impossible,” says the NYC-by-way-of-Chile designer (and CFDA/Lexus Hybrid Living Eco-Fashion Challenge winner) in a video interview with NBC’s The Feast. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try, of course. “We’re trying to make the right decision whenever we’re choosing fabric or working on something, whether it’s leathers that are vegetable-dyed or fabrics that are recycled or the way things are cut.” Her one tip for dressing ecologically is as disarmingly simple as it is singular.

Zero + Maria Cornejo, Maria Cornejo, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, Fall/Winter 2011

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“Think about investment pieces; something that you love and you want to keep for a while,” she says. “Disposable fashion isn’t very ‘eco.'” Cornejo fondles a fabric swatch, which shimmers as it catches the light. Her excitement is nearly palpable. “We’re getting this amazing fabric which is made out of tape…audio tapes,” she gushes. “It’s called ‘Sonic.’” She then rattles off a laundry list of Ma Earth–approved textiles, from organic cottons to hand-knits from Bolivia, that she’ll be incorporating in her line. (First Lady Michelle Obama is said to be a fan.)

“We’re getting this amazing fabric which is made out of tape…audio tapes,” Cornejo gushes.

“Little things matter, like the fact that something doesn’t have to travel halfway across the world,” she adds. “Whatever baby steps we can all take makes a difference.”

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