Once you have learned about the damage the fashion industry is having on the planet, you may be inspired to change your shopping habits. It is important to care for the earth by caring who made our clothes and how they were made. But, it can be overwhelming to know where to start shifting your wardrobe towards sustainability! So, here is a list of 10 important things to do if you want to have an environmentalist wardrobe.
1. Wear the clothes you have
When you learn about how damaging the fast fashion industry is on the planet, you may be tempted to cleanse your closet of all the less-than-ethical apparel you already possess. But, please don’t! If you already own it, the damage has been done. Focus on using what you have. Replace things as they wear out, with ethical options.
2. Care for what you wear
By caring for what you have, you can extend the life of any piece of clothing so it doesn’t wear out as fast. Don’t over (or under) wash clothes, and mend them if you can. Change out of your work or dress clothes when you start lounging or yard work, so you don’t trash your nice stuff.
3. Invest in ethically made products
Clothes, jewelry, bags, shoes, and any other accessory will last longer if you invest in a single well constructed piece, rather than many cheaply made things. It is easier to maintain fewer pieces too, since you will have less things to keep track of and clean. The old adage “less is more” is so true! When you have less items, you will become more in tune with how many wears and washes garments actually last. Outlet stores are not a way to use and appreciate things that would "otherwise go to waste." Lower quality stuff is made to fill these stores. See point 1.
4. Think about water when you wash your clothes
Minimize the environmental impact when you wash and dry clothing. Use biodegradable detergent, with the lowest volume and coldest temperature water that will get the job done. To dry, line dry or tumble dry low with a towel. And please, don’t wash plastic! Polyester and acrylic clothing release chemicals and plastic microfibers into the water when you wash them. How do you avoid washing polyester? Don’t wear it in the first place!
5. Re-home your clothes
Try and find someone to wear your clothes when you are done with them. Don’t just drop stuff off at nearest thrift shop. Unfortunately, there is a larger supply of used clothes than there is demand. So be honest with yourself, if you are giving a ripped t-shirt to a thrift store because you are too sentimental to toss it, do your own processing and find a fiber recycling spot instead. Try clothing swaps (like our Yana Dee clothing swap!) or consignment to re-home clothes in good condition, and look out for specific drives of certain clothing type. Maybe your old boots aren’t good enough for the thrift boutique, but might be loved at a homeless shelter.
Our annual clothing swap!
6. Don’t buy new unless you need to
Try not to buy clothes out of social pressure, or habit, or boredom. If you do need clothes, see if you can get them gently used first. Sometimes you do need new clothes; undergarments and base layers are top contenders for buying new. Always look at what fibers, dyes, and other materials and processing was used to make your new clothes.
7. Don’t fall for dirty marketing tricks
All too often, a token donation or brand image, gives consumers the impression that a company is all-around ethical. While it is undeniably positive to donate corporate profits to environmental causes, wouldn’t it be better to produce clothing that didn’t destroy the planet in the first place?
8. Don’t fall for a good deal
Clearance racks and outlet stores are part of the fast fashion equation. It’s easy to convince yourself that the 70% off dress would end up in landfill if you don’t buy it, and you save money! But, you are contributing to the demand of cheaply made, overproduced clothes when you buy that sale dress. You are saying, “it is okay for companies to pollute rivers and exploit workers, as long as I don’t have to pay too much USD for the product.” Save your money and buy a dress that is handmade by a designer, certified fair trade, or consigned instead.
9. Tell your old favorite brands and stores why they don't meet your new standards
Don’t underestimate your voice as a consumer!
10. Educate yourself and share your knowledge with others
This is really hard to do. The true cost of fashion is pretty ugly, so much so that it can be depressing to learn about. It is hard to find socially tactful ways of disengaging in mindless consumerism. How can we share our concerns with our friends and family, without being offensive? Please leave your talking tips in comments below!