Hi friends — I’ve been on a journey lately about reducing my overall impact. Trying to be more conscious of all my purchases, including what I wear. And here’s some of the things I’ve found to be most helpful as I’ve been in this process.
1. Buy less
This is the easiest thing to do: simply buy less. That also means you have to be more intentional with what you buy—longer lasting pieces you love and rewear, versus something that is trendy only for one season or that falls apart after the first wear. I tend to gravitate towards basics and neutral colors—items I can rewear a lot and that can be mismatched across my wardrobe. The same white top can go with jean shorts, a cute skirt, or slacks, depending on the occasion.
And stats show us that we have a consumption problem: Globally we produce over 100 billion garments EVERY YEAR for 7 billion people. Clothing production has doubled in the last 15 years, but the global population has not. If we started buying less and reduced that number, it would have drastic environmental implications.
2. Shop consignment
This is a fun one because it lets you get creative with your existing wardrobe and it forces you to be a much more mindful shopper. And let’s be honest, you can discover some amazing finds at your local consignment shop. It also is a great solution for people looking to build an ethical wardrobe on a budget.
I’ve had my favorite jean jacket for 8+ years and I bought it at a consignment shop for $25. I wear it almost every day. Consignment is a great way to buy quality items that last, but on a price tag that can fit your budget. My jacket retailed for $150 and 8 years later it’s still in great condition because it was well-made.
3. Recycling your old clothes
According to Remake, “Globally, 80% of discarded textiles are doomed for the landfill or incineration. Only 20% are actually reused or recycled.” And not all garments are made from natural materials, which means when then sit in a landfill, they are there for a while.
The obvious answer? Donate your old clothes.
Donating your old clothes is an amazing thing, but we still need to be more intentional about it. Organizations like Goodwill or Salvation Army can get overloaded and still send a good amount to landfills. So look for local thrift stores or try selling items yourself on Ebay or Poshmark (or other similar sites). And research options for recycling old clothing that makes sure they actually are recycled instead of disposed of.
One of my favorite things to do is find someone to gift items to or do a clothing swap with my friends.
4. Don’t give in to impulse-buying
I know I’m not alone in succumbing to an impulse purchase. We have all done it — you walk into your favorite store, you might have had a bad day and are looking for a pick-me-up, or maybe you were just bored and needed some entertainment. And suddenly you find yourself leaving with a lighter wallet and a full shopping bag. Been there, done that…
But impulse buying is dangerous, and we often buy things we don’t really even like or want THAT much. My suggestion is to wait 30 days before you go for a purchase. If you’ve been eyeing something, keep thinking about it and don’t purchase it right away. It sounds like a long time, but you’d be surprised at how often items actually aren’t as important to you as you originally thought.
I eyed Reformation’s Gavin dress for months before finally purchasing it, and I knew it’d be worth it because 3 months later I still found myself wanting it. And I was right—I love it and wear it all the time.
5. Make your clothes last longer
Take care of your clothes. Plain and simple. Following proper wash instructions to make sure your garments last longer (BTW a big part of our environmental impact comes from washing—think about how much water it takes and how many fibers it dumps into waterways—but more on that another time). For example, you really don’t need to wash your jeans as often as you do, I promise.
Also consider going waste-free by repurposing old items, like an old vintage tee, to make them feel fresh. Cut a new neckline or shorten a hem to bring new life to an old style. There’s so many ways to give old items a longer shelf-life.
According to Greenpeace, “doubling the useful life of clothing from one year to two years reduces emissions over the year by 24%.” Talk about motivation!
6. Try a rental service
I must admit, I haven’t tried clothing rentals yet, but all of my friends who have swear by it.
It’s a fast-growing industry: Rent the Runway was valued at a billion dollars in 2019 and the online clothing rental market is projected to almost double from $1B in 2017 to $1.85B by 2023. The next time you have an event to attend or a meeting to go to, think about renting instead of buying an item you probably won’t wear again.
Try it out and let us know what you find!