In the past decade, fair trade, cruelty-free, and organic have become normalized in the food industry. It’s easy to find fair-trade coffee and the organic label is more commonplace. It hasn’t been until recently that the fashion industry has caught up with the food industry regarding environmentally and ethically conscious options. Sustainable fashion has now become more mainstream.
Previous decades have seen the birth of “fast fashion”. Clothing is cheaply made and sold at relatively low prices. These clothes are not made to last long-term and are often made of particular clothing fibers, such as oil-based polyester, which is harmful to the environment. Millions of tons of discarded clothing go into our landfills each year, furthering the environmental impact of our fashion choices.
Clothing purchases used to be an investment, with pieces last decades and being sold or passed down to others to enjoy once the wearer no longer wanted them. If they weren’t given to someone else to wear, clothes were repurposed instead of being thrown away. With the recent 2019 trend of downsizing and minimalism, even more clothing has ended up being tossed in the garbage.
There are easy changes you can begin to make to start being more environmentally conscious about your fashion choices. These changes will help you start choosing pieces that are not only more sustainable and ethical but higher quality as well.
1. Consider Your Clothing Purchases As A Long-Term Investment
Your clothing should last longer than a few seasons. Higher quality clothing, jewelry, and bags can and should last you decades, not a couple years. Consider the fact that you could be buying 5-6 pairs of jeans at $50 per pair that last only two years versus purchasing two pairs for $150 that will last you ten years. Pieces that are sustainable are made of higher quality fabrics like organic cotton, sewn better, and are structured to last longer. Please note that selecting a high-quality fabric is just a single part of the puzzle. You must also make sure that the underlying material was produced using sustainable methods.
2. Create Your Personal Style
Jean jackets, leather, white blouses, and t-shirts, or classic jewelry trends are a great place to start your sustainable fashion collection. These timeless pieces will never go out of style and will last you years. How many women still have their jean jackets or a great pair of black heels from their twenties? Not only will a personal style simplify your capsule wardrobe, you’ll be saving money. Take the time to curate great pieces and only spend money on quality pieces that you truly love.
3. Educate Yourself
Supporting sustainable fashion means learning about what you’re purchasing and the sustainable fashion industry itself. Clothing fibers such as silk and bamboo are incredibly damaging to the ecosystem they are farmed from. Factory-produced clothing in many countries does not support livable wages to locals or could be made from child-labor. Research brands that continue to support sustainability as a practice. We highly recommend www.prAna.com.
4. Purchase Sustainable Jewelry
The mining of diamonds for jewelry is extremely damaging to the environment. Traditionally mined diamonds are also historically unethical in how they’re procured. Take the time to learn more about alternatives, such as lab created jewelry. Companies such as AdaDiamonds.com are changing the way the fashion industry sells diamond jewelry because they can create real diamonds in a lab. Ada Diamonds uses cutting edge technology to create real diamonds in a lab setting, no need to damage the environment. Take time to research the facts about lab diamonds. Not only are you saving the Earth, but you’re also saving your pocketbook as well!
5. Shop In Thrift Stores
If you’re working on building your capsule wardrobe on a budget, consider shopping at a vintage, thrift, or consignment store. These establishments keep clothing out of landfills and are a great place to find pieces on a budget. It’s becoming easier to find designer resale shops, and online shopping has opened up thousands of options for finding classic or unique pieces on any budget. Before purchasing new, take a look at your local second-hand store. Since it’s likely locally-owned and operated, you’re also supporting a small business owner while saving you’re saving the environment!
6. Donate Old Clothing
Did the KonMari method “spark joy” in you to begin downsizing your closet? Donating, consigning, or selling your clothes is a better option than throwing them away. If you don’t want to take the time and effort to sell your clothing, there are many programs designed to help women find outfits for everyday wear or special occasions, such as a job interview. Consider donating your gently used clothing to one of these organizations for another woman to use and enjoy.
Do you have pieces that just don’t fit well or are slightly damaged, such as a broken zipper? Instead of tossing these pieces for good, consider taking them to be altered to fit or fixed. Buttons, tears, zippers, and hemlines are all easily mended by a skilled seamstress or alterations person.
7. Shop Locally
Support your local businesses and independent artisans. Handmade pieces are typically priced well and created with great care. Visit local craft shows, farmers markets, or flea markets to find unique pieces that put money back into your local community. I frequently shop at M&C Clothing And Goods in Amherst, NH. Not only do I consign my clothing there, I buy my clothing there too. This helps me get rid of unwanted items in my closet while earning money to buy new items. M&C has clothing and gifts from local artisans too, so it feels great knowing that when I shop there, I am giving back to my community!