Rebecca Kiss/Photography Editor Eliana Epstein, a first-year graduate student studying sustainable communities, advocates for ethically sourced fashion through her online store, KnitSprout.

A graduate student’s passion for yarn has inspired a business dedicated to saving the earth with style.

Eliana Epstein, a first-year graduate student studying sustainable communities, has recently started an Etsy business promoting sustainable lifestyles. Her business, KnitSprout, sells knitted and crocheted home goods that utilize eco-friendly materials while encouraging reuse and waste reduction.

Epstein taught herself to knit as a child, learned to crochet from her grandmother a few years ago and expanded her knowledge with online tutorials. She started making gifts for friends, eventually taking to Instagram to showcase and sell her products. In search of a more professional platform, she opened an Etsy account a few months ago.

As her hobby expanded into a business, Epstein started to see her craft in a new light. She said that her identity as an environmentalist led her to consider the environmental costs of using synthetic fibers.

“It was such an inconsistency that I was going to Michael’s and A.C. Moore and buying what was essentially plastic,” she said. “Even cotton is often slave-produced, and these are things I don’t want to be part of.”

This concern took her work in a new direction, and the use of earth-friendly materials is now a core priority of her growing business. She has committed to only purchasing materials that have at least one of three merits: fair trade, upcycled or biodegradable.

Environmental consciousness is also a factor in deciding the types of products Epstein makes. KnitSprout sells water bottle cozies, bar soap holders and produce bags, all designed to make earth-friendly living more appealing and convenient. A few crocheted bralettes are currently available on her Etsy, but she said she’s trying to phase these out in favor of projects that allow her to solely use hemp and other natural fibers.

“I like the idea of adorning women’s bodies from a women’s point of view, but the kinds of materials that are usually best for making bras are not the kind of materials I want to work with,” she said.

Since her childhood days spent hanging out in a local yarn store, Epstein maintains an interest in the materials she works with and hopes to research the topic of ethical fibers. While her current creative focus is on household goods, she started out making clothing, and said her research this semester on garment waste reflects her concerns about modern clothing manufacture.

“I’m definitely interested in the concept of ‘slow fashion,’ which is about artisanal clothing and transparent business practices,” she said.

A vegetarian since the age of 4, Epstein has always been environmentally conscious, but she said that her undergraduate experience in the environmental studies department broadened her horizons.

“As I got to college, I was able to make my own decisions and learn more about environmental studies in this wonderful program,” she said. “I was able to cultivate my own lifestyle.”

Epstein is currently experimenting with some new products, including fruit hammocks, herbal tinctures and plant holders woven from recycled jeans, for which she is seeking jean donations from people who might otherwise throw them away. She said she is less concerned with profit than she is with using her revenue to keep her business afloat and continue to make ethical, thoughtful choices as it expands.

“I think it’s really important that my money goes back into high-quality, locally sourced material,” she said. “I’m not really making much money from it, but I get to put that money back into good pockets.”

KnitSprout’s Etsy website lists “making the world a softer place” as a business goal, and Epstein said she hopes to inspire an enthusiasm for eco-friendly products through loving craftsmanship.

“When I decorate my goods with [the] love that I [have creating] them, it makes me enjoy having them around a lot more,” she said.