TOOLKIT: HOW TO SUSTAINABLY SHOP FOR YOUR CLOTHES
How we shop and care for our clothing are easy ways to reduce our carbon footprint and protect our planet’s soil, fresh waters, and oceans.
Here are some simple tips to fill an environmentally-friendly closet with a wardrobe that looks great and lasts a long time:
- Shop secondhand first. Buy pre-owned clothing from thrift shops, consignment shops, vintage sources, and online resale shops.
Earth-friendly benefit: You’ll be reducing impacts on the environment and waste from the overproduction of new merchandise.
- Buy fewer clothes. Value what you buy. Buy clothes you know you will wear many times because they look good and fit well. With carefully chosen clothes, you can mix and match items to create many different looks. Fewer, better-made clothes with the right accessories can give you a more sophisticated and stylish look than volumes of cheaper clothing.
Bonus: You’ll look better and find creativity in styling on your own.
- Invest only in clothes you really like and need. Consider not what is being pushed at you by fashion designers but instead look at your own style and what you want to communicate. Before you buy a new piece of clothing, consider if you have a similar piece in your wardrobe already.
- Shop locally. Buy from local shops for clothes, buy from local craftspeople to accessorize your outfits and use your neighborhood tailor for adjustments.
Earth-friendly benefit: Buying clothes locally reduces carbon emissions from shipping while supporting your local economy.
- Go natural. Buy clothing made with natural fabric fibers instead of synthetic fabrics. Natural alternatives to synthetic fabrics include cotton, linen, bamboo, flax, jute, silk, wool, and alpaca. Also look into low impact materials such as Modal and Lyocell. Avoid polyester, nylon, spandex and acrylic. These materials are made from petroleum, a high-emission fossil fuel.
Earth-friendly benefit: You’ll reduce the amount of microplastics in rivers and oceans that come from synthetic fibers that shed during washing.
- Buy organic. Buy clothing made with organic fabrics when you can.
Earth-friendly benefit: You’ll play a part in reducing the use of pesticides and herbicides as well as keeping the Earth’s water sources clean.
- Shop sustainable brands. Choose ethical brands that care about the environment, pay their workers fairly, and are transparent across their entire supply chain – not just one part. Many companies promote certain clothing lines as having been made with renewable materials, but still use unethical labor practices to make the clothing. Make sure to do your research on a brand before you buy from them.
Earth-friendly benefit: You’ll be taking business away from companies that pollute our planet in favor of ones that care about people and the Earth.
- Shop for quality over quantity. Higher quality pieces often last longer. Check the workmanship of your clothing. Check seams and zippers. Shop with durability in mind even if it is somewhat more costly. Investing in well-made clothes will save you money in the long run by not having to keep replacing items.
Bonus: With many more wears, your investment will pay off over time.
- Buy from designers who will repair their garments for free or for a small fee. High-quality items usually have lifetime guarantees or are made to be repairable. On the other hand, trendy, low-quality items are sometimes made to last one season and be thrown away.
- Buy from designers or organizations that are willing to take back their used garments and recycle them or find responsible organizations that will recycle. They may even give credit or cash back for your used clothes.
- Look for certifications. It is important to keep an eye out for certifications which prove that clothes are made sustainably and ethically. Here is a detailed list of certifications to look for when purchasing from a company.
- Swap with friends and neighbors. Host a clothing swap with friends.
Earth-friendly benefit: You’ll divert waste from landfills while having fun adding pieces to your wardrobe!
- Donate, don’t throw out. One person’s trash is another’s treasure. Donate unwanted clothing to thrift stores or local shelters instead of throwing them out.
Earth-friendly benefit: You’ll divert waste from landfills while supporting your local community.
- Sell unwanted clothing. Sell your clothing on online or brick and mortar resale shops. There are so many websites and apps which allow you to buy and sell used clothing. Here is a short list of sites you can use to simplify your closet.
Earth-friendly benefit: You’ll divert waste from landfills while earning money!
- Upcycle clothing. You can work wonders with a pair of scissors and a needle and thread and give new life to an old garment.
Earth-friendly benefit: You’ll divert waste from landfills and save money! When you repair your clothes, you make each piece unique and special!
- Know that you cannot make systemic changes. Not as individuals, but collectively we as customers can force the industry to change its current business model based on price and volume to one of value. Through our purchasing power, we can affect the dynamic and the trajectory of fast fashion.