You’ve heard that fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world and that garment workers are suffering dangerous, exploitative conditions sewing clothes for less than a living wage. You recognize that something needs to change, but where to start?
Making the switch to sustainable fashion doesn’t have to be a daunting task. You don’t have to have all the answers or throw out your entire wardrobe of "fast fashion" clothing. Nobody is 100% perfect 100% of the time—it's a process and a learning experience. Get started by asking questions, learning more about how and where your clothes are made, and making small changes to your shopping habits. Here are 5 tips to help you build a more sustainable wardrobe.
1. Establish your values
Consider what is important to you when buying clothes, whether they’re ethically-made, locally-made, environmentally-friendly, vegan, organic, one-for-one, fair trade, and so on. Few brands will check every box and it’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself to find items that fulfill every criteria, so think about what matters most to you, what is attainable, and go from there.
2. Invest in quality pieces
While it’s hard to resist a $5 t-shirt from a fast fashion retailer, it’s likely to fade, pill, stretch, shrink, or fall apart after a handful of wears. Spending a little more money upfront on higher qualities items will save money, time, and waste in the long run.
3. Rent or borrow for special events
It’s fun to have something new to wear to a wedding or a party, but if you know you’ll only wear it once, save your money (and your closet space) by using a dress rental service or borrowing from a friend. If you must buy something, check out consignment and secondhand shops for unique and new-to-you pieces, or opt for timeless classics that you can wear to many future events.
4. Treat your clothes with kindness
Washing less often, in cold water, and hanging to dry is better for the planet AND is gentler on your clothes. Extending the lifespan of your garments reduces waste and saves you money. A few more ideas: mend items that are damaged, use a fabric shaver to remove pills, and store items appropriately—fold sweaters and heavy knits that might stretch out on a hanger and thoroughly launder and store seasonal clothing in air-tight containers to protect against pests.
5. Stop using shopping as a distraction
If you’re not wandering the mall for entertainment or scrolling online retailers when you’re bored, it’s easier to resist the temptation to buy things you don’t need. Out of sight, out of mind! Take an inventory of your wardrobe and identify key pieces that are missing or need replacing, so that when you do go shopping you have a clear intention.