When you begin researching into sustainable fashion, it can be a little (ok very) daunting. One afternoon I found myself researching deeper and deeper into a black hole of ways to shop sustainably, and I had more questions at then end than when I started.
There are many aspects to consider when shopping sustainably: is this made out of natural & organic materials? what this sustainably made? what this ethically made? will I wear this for years to come? is this hi-quality? this in my budget?
When shopping new, you will often find it difficult to buy items that answer ‘yes’ to all the above questions. As consumers, it can be confusing and difficult to know if we are making the the “right” choice when making sustainable trade-offs (i.e, buying an item sustainably made vs. ethically made).
If you’ve been down this path, you probably found the process to be very frustrating, as I also did/do. I’ve come to realize though, when trying to make sustainable lifestyle changes, it’s a process.
The important thing is that we take small steps so it’s not overwhelming. There is a lot to cover when it comes to sustainable living, so just making one small change at a time all makes a difference in the long run!
Here are 6 simple ways to shop sustainably & lessen your impact on the planet [I could write a whole post on each of these tips–in fact you can find entire reports dedicated to these topics–but to keep things simple, I’ve summarized some main points below]:
Buying Second-Hand is the Most Sustainable Way to Shop
Buying second-hand is the best way to shop sustainably. It prevents the production of new clothing, waste and toxic chemicals from entering our planet as well as keep clothing out of the landfills. And of course you have the added benefit of getting items at a hugely discounted price!
I shop at my local second-hand store [Crossroads] and I recently scored a brand new [with tags!] trench coat featured in the photo above, like-new Paige denim and some Theory pieces–all for a fraction of the cost.
Curate A Capsule Wardrobe for Sustainable Style
While I consider all these tips important when shopping, I’ve personally decided that creating a capsule wardrobe is one of the most important and simplified ways to shop more sustainably.
A capsule wardrobe, according to the woman who coined the term, is “a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces.”
Shopping with capsule pieces in mind helps me buy more purposefully and prevents me from making impulse purchases. The essential items I do collect are ones that are versatile and classic and will be used for years to come.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be curating different capsule wardrobes for you [winter, athletic, casual, etc.] so stay tuned!
Shop Sustainable & Ethical Brands
It is important to note that these two terms are not mutually exclusive. You can have a sustainably made item but it might not have been ethically made. Or vice versa. Many sustainable-focused brands, however, also focus on the transparency of how/where their clothes were ethically made.
Some of my favorite sustainable brands are: Reformation [on-trend pieces, seen in this post], Everlane [classic wardrobe pieces], Athleta [athletic wear and a Certified B corp], Rothy’s [shoes made from recycled plastic water bottles], Veja [sneakers], Levi’s and the H&M conscious line [for affordable & on-trend pieces].
One thing I’ve been struggling with is finding items I truly love that fit me well and are within my budget when shopping sustainable brands. If I’m unable to find an item I’m looking for from a sustainable brand, I try and ensure I’m shopping a classic or highly-versatile piece for my capsule wardrobe.
Avoid Synthetic Fabrics and Shop Natural & Organic
The most harmful fabrics in the fashion industry are made from synthetic materials [polyestor, nylon, acrylic, etc] and use/release thousands of toxic chemicals during production. Synthetic fibers also release microfibers into the oceans when they are washed. “Microfibers are tiny strands of plastic less than 5 millimeters long that are shed from clothing made of synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and acrylic — including fabrics made from recycled water bottles and fishing nets — in washing machines. Though nearly invisible, half a million tons of these small fibers make their way into our oceans and waterways a year and have been found in fish we eat, drinking water and sea salt.” [Remake].
Conventional cotton is also a culprit in harming the planet. It consumes 16% of the world’s insecticides and requires $2 Billion in pesticides each year. A staggerings 2,100 gallons of water is used in the production of just ONE t-shirt and 9,900 gallons of water for just ONE pair of jeans. In comparison, organic cotton does not require toxic chemicals and uses 186 gallons of water to produce one t-shirt and 932 gallons of water to product a pair of jeans. [The TextileExchange.org]
Natural materials like organic cotton, linen, silk, wool and hemp also naturally biodegrade and can be composted, while synthetics don’t break down and can live in landfills for hundreds of years.
Quality over Quantity
Buying less, but buying quality will help your items last longer and send less to the landfills. Choose items wisely and invest in quality.
Sell, Donate and Recycle Your Old Clothes
It is estimated that only 15% of unwanted clothes are recycled and 12 million tons of clothing ends up in the landfill every.single.year. Don’t just throw your clothes in the trash bin! Instead you can take it to a local recycling bin [like ones that Planet Aid set up] or Goodwill who accepts ALL textile donations so they can be re-used or recycled into new products. You can also make some extra cash by selling your gently used clothing at your local thrift store or trade them for store credit so you can do some sustainable second-hand shopping!
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today and taking steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle!