But every day there are more stylish and subtle approaches. We've rounded up a sampling of apparel and accessory lines that not only aspire to give back to the Earth or community, but also actually look good while doing it.
-- Melissa Magsaysay The chain store
Banana Republic Heritage Collection: The 45 pieces in this eco line look as good or better than the "regular" offerings and are made from 90% sustainable fabrics and trims, and the pieces -- khaki button-down safari-style jackets, leopard-print tank tops and shimmery, champagne-colored cropped cargo pants -- work well mixed and matched. Look for the little green elephant on the tag. $19 to $150 at www.bananarepublic.com.
Leroy & Perry: Leroy & Perry uses green-certified dyes, recycled yarns and recycled packaging materials and hang tags, with 1% of the proceeds going to the Alliance for Climate Protection. The knitwear brand, the "green" little sister of Lutz & Patmos, includes similar shapes of casual cardigans, button-front dresses and drapey sweaters. $198 to $325 at www.barneys.com.
The bags and shoes
Ferragamo's "Eco bag" Collection: The 86-year-old Italian brand uses a metal- and pollutant-free tanning process to treat the skins used for the five-piece collection of totes and handbags. Dying is done using tannins from tree bark. But there's a drawback: Sometimes it costs to be eco-chic. $1,190 to $1,890 at Salvatore Ferragamo boutique, Beverly Hills.
Stella McCartney bags and shoes: The British designer and veteran vegetarian is known for eschewing fur and leather in her high-end collections -- and for creating some of the most coveted clothes and accessories in the designer realm. Her shoes and bags, in particular, are stylish standouts with quirky design details and neon colors. $395 to $1,495, www.stellamccartney.com.
Hey Lola Jewelry: Peoria, Ill.-based jewelry designer Jessica Benassi is a vintage collector who scours antique malls, rummage sales and Craigslist for odds and ends that she envisions as a new necklace, bracelet or brooch. Her handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces look sleek and fresh. $18 to $150 at www.shopheylola.com.
Alex Woo Sweni Collection: Inspired by the landscape of Africa, Alex Woo has created a small collection of pendants, earrings and bracelets that have a swirling, horn-like design. Ten percent of profits from the line go to the African Wildlife Foundation. $128 to $3,198 at www.alexwoo.com.
LNA hemp T-shirts: LNA has been the T-shirt line du jour with celebrities and socialites who love the sexy, body-skimming, tissue-thin tees and super comfortable cotton. Its new hemp T-shirts (hemp is a low- or no-pesticide alternative to cotton) come in two styles for women, V-neck and crew neck, each $80 at www.lnaclothing.com.
The casual wear
Trove: Design team Jesse Burnett and Carly Mandelbaum make simple, beachy pieces from 100% organic cotton. Their T-shirts, tank tops, slouchy drawstring pants and dresses come in stormy grays and clean neutrals, some adorned with surf-inspired sayings: "Kingdom, Love and Surf" and "Point Break." Burnett and Mandelbaum print hang tags, business cards and look books on recycled paper and reduce the transportation between their offices and factory. $65 to $160 at www.shopplanetblue.com.
Levi's Eco collection: These jeans are all made with 100% organic fabric and packaged with recycled hang tags that have been printed with soy-based ink. The best part: All four styles have a slim, sexy fit -- and an affordable price. $69.50 at www.levi.com.
Dragon Alliance "The Experience Sunglasses in E.C.O": Known for technical gear such as snow and motocross goggles, Dragon Alliance eyewear is a staple among the Orange County action sports set. The eco-friendly sunglasses are lightweight, oversized and come in a matte black finish; Dragon says the materials used to make them are quickly replenished by nature. $100 at www.dragonalliance.com.