Most people might not think of what’s in their closets when we talk about pollution and waste. But the fact is that the fashion industry does actually create huge amounts of waste, and that waste is very rarely recycled. Moreover, the problem is getting worse as fast fashion increasingly dominates the market.
Wondering how to be more eco-friendly in your wardrobe selection? You’re not alone. Many shoppers are now in search of more sustainable looks that will slide seamlessly into their style. These six tips will help you choose greener options no matter what color you’re wearing.
1. Look for classic designs and high quality materials.
Your wardrobe is an investment in yourself, and that means it’s important to buy clothes that will stand the test of time. Rather than cheap pieces that might look dated or come apart in a few years, invest in some durable classics that are made with quality materials. These are the clothes that form the foundation of a functional wardrobe.
What should you be looking for? Experts recommend seeking out clothes in neutral colors with classic designs. Some examples include khaki chinos, dark jeans or a little black dress. Remember that you’re looking for the good stuff, so read some reviews of the brand and look for signs of quality like patterns that match at the seams, neat hems and a money-back guarantee from the manufacturer.
2. Go for sustainable fabrics whenever possible.
Some fabrics and fibers are more eco-friendly than others. In general, natural fibers like cotton are more sustainable than synthetics like polyester, thanks to their natural biodegradability, but production methods matter a lot. Common fibers like cotton are often produced with heavy pesticide use and monoculture farming, so choose organic cotton when it’s available.
What about synthetics? The good news is that they don’t require water use or pesticides like natural fabrics, but the bad news is that they don’t biodegrade in a landfill. Even worse, they degrade over time and shed tiny bits of themselves, called microplastics, into waterways. Since it can be tough to avoid synthetic fabrics completely, try to choose recycled synthetics whenever possible and wash synthetics carefully to reduce microplastic shedding.
3. Shop for clothes second hand.
Secondhand shopping is a great way to keep clothes out of waste streams, and there are more ways to do it than ever. Thrift and vintage stores are the classic options for secondhand enthusiasts. Stores like Goodwill are perfect for those who don’t mind doing a little digging in search of something unusual and cool, while vintage stores are good for those who want a more curated selection.
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Apps like Depop, Poshmark, eBay and Facebook Marketplace are the other major ways to shop secondhand today. These platforms all offer huge selections, plus filtering tools and search functions that can help you find exactly what you’re looking for. The potential downside is that they can be more competitive than a thrift store, since you’re shopping alongside hundreds or thousands of other people from around the country.
4. Don’t forget about your accessories.
Accessories can make an outfit, but have you ever considered their impact on the environment? What happened to that cute but cheaply-made purse that broke after a few months, or your old plastic phone case that you threw out? Unfortunately, the answer is usually that they end up in a landfill or in the ocean, where they have all kinds of negative effects on the environment.
Today’s accessories can help us do better, though. Many eco-friendly accessory companies now offer cute hats and purses made from recycled and sustainable fabrics, and that’s just the beginning. New developments in sustainable materials have given us cool accessory options like compostable phone cases to replace plastic ones — and tech lovers can even get eco-friendly Apple Watch bands that are as comfy as they are green.
5. If you don’t love it, skip it.
When you’re out shopping, it’s not just easy to buy things you don’t need, but it’s even possible to talk yourself into something you don’t really want. If something is made from an uncomfortable fabric, you don’t think you can pull it off or it’s a little bit too small or too big, there’s a good chance you won’t wear it very often. A few years later, you’ll probably be throwing it out.
Practice saying no to yourself when you’re not totally sold on something. Save the cash and put it toward buying high quality clothing that really fits your style. In general, smarter and more conscious shopping practices will help you conserve your budget while buying more clothes that you’re actually proud to have in your wardrobe.
6. Learn to repair and sew clothes.
Much as gardening is a great next step for eco-conscious cooking enthusiasts, sewing and general clothes repair are awesome skills to learn for anyone who wants to make their fashion choices more sustainable. Knowing how to sew is one of the best ways to free your fashion from the cycle of consumption and disposal because it allows you not just to repair old clothes, but to create completely new ones from old materials.
If you’re interested in learning how to sew, start with some small projects like sewing a button back onto a shirt. As with almost any other skill you might want to learn, YouTube tutorials are your best friend. Once you’ve mastered some home sewing basics, you can set your sights on more advanced projects, at which point you’ll also probably want to invest in a sewing machine. If you find that you enjoy sewing, you might even start designing and making your own clothes!
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If there’s one thing we know about fashion, it’s that it changes all the time. When fashion consumers make more sustainable choices, it helps steer that change in a more positive direction that can fight the influence of fast fashion and make everyone’s wardrobe a little bit greener.