How to create a sustainable wardrobe
Sustainable style, fashion and clothing is a hot topic but causes a lot of confusion. Sometimes it seems daunting and you don’t know where to start. The good news is this… creating a more sustainable wardrobe is simple, it doesn’t cost more money, and it will likely save you money! A sustainable wardrobe does not mean a lifetime of wearing burlap sacks with rope sandals. It means honoring the three pillars of sustainability – people, planet and profit. It’s easier than you think.
12 ways to create a sustainable wardrobe
- Keep your clothes as long as possible until they literally fall apart – this is the single most important thing you can do for the environment. The negative environmental impact of fashion is HUGE (how huge is still being calculated) but when you keep your clothes longer, you reduce demand for new clothes thus reducing the impacts from new items.
- Buy secondhand – thrift or consignment – this is the second best thing you can do to minimize the negative impact of your wardrobe. Why? Because when you shop secondhand, you are not creating any more impacts or demand for a new item. The resources have been extracted, water used, cotton picked and workers have sewn the garment. In other words, purchasing secondhand is nearly a non-impact purchase. The impact is your drive to the store.
- Recycle your jeans into insulation – have old jeans that can’t be consigned. Rather than donate, consider sending them here and turn them into insulation.
- Donate to a charity thrift store – now there is discussion that it doesn’t matter which thrift store you donate to because the clothes all end up in the same place. However, in my experience (with volunteering and talking to these stores) there are some nuances. I like to advise clients to donate to causes they care about- animals, women, children, etc. These charity thrift stores use the sales from the stores to fund their mission. Some of the stores are focused on not throwing away any of the donations that come in and have a process for making sure the donations end up recycled or repurposed. If you don’t know- ask, most are happy to tell you their story.
- Do not throw away your clothes. Don’t-do-this-ever. There is always a need/place/cause for your unwanted clothes. See #4.
- But half as much, pay twice as much. If you are following #1 and #2 but perhaps want some new clothes, this is how you lessen the impact. When you do this you tend to be more thoughtful about your purchase and usually are buying a higher quality item which will then last longer and keep you from buying more.
- Buy the highest quality you can afford – this ties into #6 but it’s often seen as an elitist choice. This is not the case –shop secondhand – thrift or consignment and all of a sudden those wool pants that seemed out of your budget become very affordable, look better and last longer.
- Reduce the number of washes. According to the U.S. EPA the average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home. Roughly 70 percent of this use occurs indoors. When you reduce the number of washes, you conserve water and it helps your items to last longer. Also, using the washing machine less means less energy use which also translates into saving water. Read more about alternative ways to wash your clothes.
- Don’t dry your clothes in dryer. Where I live in Phoenix, this is a no-brainer. The lint in your dryer is your clothes – falling apart! Get a drying rack and start drying your clothes inside. The dryer is the most energy intensive appliance in your home –save your clothes and some money. If you live where it’s cold and occasionally rainy, consider using a drying rack inside or using a clothing line in a basement. Read more on how I make my clothes last.
- Shop local. I like to say when you stop shopping from a big-box store, they may not miss or notice your absence but the local store you start shopping from will absolutely appreciate your business!! Where I live in AZ, we have Local First AZ, and they estimate for every $100 spent with a locally owned business, $43 stays in the economy, When spent at a national chain store, $13 stays.
- #30 wears – this hashtag was started by Ecoage. It invites you to ask the question, before you buy something, to ask yourself “will I wear this at least 30 times?” If you don’t think you will or don’t even know what you will wear the new clothing with, then don’t buy it.
- Shift away from synthetics – this is probably one of the hardest things to do on this list but I find it’s easier when shopping consignment. Most synthetics are petrochemicals (non-renewable resources) and unfortunately, emerging news tells us that our synthetic clothes are releasing micro-fibers to our waterways. Another reason to shift from synthetics is that they do need to be washed to be cleaned and smell good. Natural fibers – cotton, silk, linen and wool – are self cleaning. This means they can hang out (outside preferably) and be refreshed and ready to wear.
What ways can you create a sustainable wardrobe this year?
I encourage you to take some time to figure out which of these you can start implementing and make 2018 the year of the sustainable wardrobe!!