Sustainability is a huge issue right now, and with the planet suffering because of our habits, we’re all trying to make greener, more sustainable choices. But is shopping fundamentally incompatible with sustainability? Especially when it comes to fashion? Some would say yes, but there are definitely ways to make your shopping habits more sustainable. If you put in some effort and make it a point to form better habits, it’s possible to minimize your carbon footprint even when it comes to buying clothes.
- Shop less
The first rule of thumb, when it comes to sustainability, is to reduce consumption, in general. That means less frequent shopping sprees. Shopping has become a super popular hobby that we indulge in too often, and with too much ease. Acquiring material possessions at this rate is doing a lot of harm to the planet, and to our wallets!
No matter what other sustainability-related choices you make, curbing your consumption is the most important one and the one that will make the most impact. Once you create a habit of shopping all the time, it can be difficult to put a stop to it, so here are some tips:
- Only shop when you actually need something new or you like something very much
- Don’t impulse-shop; instead, wait a few days, weeks, or even months to figure out if you genuinely want it
- Try to only purchase items that are high-quality and will stand the test of time
- Don’t shop when you’re upset or emotional
- Don’t shop with people who enable you
- Shop more intentionally
Because of this consumerist and harmful lifestyle we’ve created, we put little to no thought into our shopping and what we buy. That means that we tend to acquire a lot of things we don’t actually want, that won’t last, or that we can’t use.
The solution to that is to try to shop more intentionally. In addition to shopping less and trying to make sure that we shop for high-quality items that we’ll have for years to come, you’ll also want to try to plan your purchases, as much as possible.
For example, make it a point to only shop twice a year, with the change of season. You can review what you have in your wardrobe and where your gaps are and shop to fill them. Alternatively, you can just keep a look out for specific, key pieces, which will go with everything else you already have. A closet full of statement pieces will not get worn, and neither will clashing colors, or cuts that just don’t go together.
- Shop second-hand & vintage
Another thing that will help tremendously is making an effort to shop second-hand. Buying used means that you aren’t contributing to the demand for new clothes. In addition, the second-hand market is so wide now, that you can find pretty much anything. You can even buy new or very gently used items that are still modern and current, but at much lower prices. That way, you save money and reduce demand.
Vintage shopping is always popular, because the clothing tends to be higher quality, and with less common designs. There’s no way someone is going to have the same outfit as you, because yours was made in 1973.
- Make your own clothes
If you have any kind of sewing skills, design talent, and time on your hands, then making your own clothes can be very worth it. Not only will you not be contributing to the demand for new clothing, but you can make sure the clothes you create are high-quality and properly stitched.
In addition, everything you make will be unique and one-of-a-kind, made to measure based on your own body, and requirements. You no longer have to squeeze yourself in universal sizes and try to make them work for your body.
For extra sustainability points, try to source fabrics from deadstock. These are old fabrics leftover from factories that no one is using and that is taking up space in warehouses, when it could be used for your next creation.
- Mend what you have
One of our unfortunate habits that lead to this mindset that clothing is disposable is our inability to mend our clothing. In the past, people would make it work with whatever they had. If something was too big, they’d alter it, if it had a rip, they’d patch it, and if a button fell off, they’d sew it back.
We’ve lost that habit, but you can bring it back. Most mends and alterations are super easy to do at home and they cut down on waste significantly. Why throw away a perfectly good garment, when you can just fix it? Your bank account will thank you, as well.
- Look into sustainable fabrics & brands
Now that we’re all more aware of the impact our shopping and fashion habits are making on the planet, brands have been more focused on creating sustainable products. That includes garments made from sustainable fabrics, greener processing methods, and slower collections and fashion cycles.
Weeding the truly sustainable companies and practices from the greenwashing and the buzzwords can be a challenge, but there are all kinds of resources online that can help you out. Websites, blogs, forums, social media pages and organizations are all available and will be happy to inform you on how you can seek more sustainable fashion.
How to mitigate boredom
If you’re reading this thinking “God, but that sounds so boring”, you’d be right. The instant gratification factor is gone, and there’s less variety with sustainable fashion, so what can we do about that?
- Look at blogs for inspiration
In the past, fashion and apparel blogs have been criticized for encouraging consumerism and a culture of buying new clothes all the time. However, reading blogs and following Instagram pages doesn’t necessarily need to lead to more shopping; they serve as excellent sources of inspiration.
So, next time you’re itching for something new or feel like your wardrobe is getting stale, have a look online and see what everyone else is wearing and how they’re pairing their pieces.
Another thing to keep in mind is the rise of sustainable blogs and bloggers – there are a lot of people doing very interesting things right now in the fashion space and popularizing sustainable brands that you may not have heard of, or just promoting an overall greener lifestyle.
- Transform your clothes
Sometimes, a certain garment just feels…tired. Or it’s not your style anymore. It’s still in perfectly good condition and still fits you, but it just doesn’t fit your life. Do you get rid of a good item? Not before trying to turn it into something else!
If you’re a little bit crafty, you may be able to save a piece of clothing from inevitable doom by transforming it. It doesn’t have to be difficult – add a pin or patch somewhere, take off a ruffle, cut the sleeves off a dress or shirt, shorten a hem, or cut a pair of pants into shorts – and voila! – you’ve refreshed the item and now it feels brand new.
- Swap with friends
If you’ve never attended or organized a clothes swap, you’re missing out. The concept is simple – you and a few other friends get together and bring all the clothes that are still in great condition, but that you no longer want. You know what they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. What you deem unsuitable can be someone diamond in the rough, especially with some fresh styling. You’ll be surprised at how much great stuff you can find in a pile of clothes that are essentially unwanted.
Switching to a green lifestyle is by no means easy, but we’re taking steps in the right direction, including when it comes to shopping and apparel. While shopping itself is not a sustainable activity, the choices you make can certainly reduce your carbon footprint and the inherent waste that is associated with fashion and clothes shopping, in general.