8 Ideas to Shop for Clothing Sustainably

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When you think about industry wreaking havoc on the planet, oil and gas companies, the trucking industry and nuclear power plants are probably a few of the first things that come to mind.

And while you may have switched to an electric car or installed some solar panels, you’re likely still supporting one of the most detrimental industries on the planet — the fast fashion industry. 

Fast fashion retailers like Forever 21, H&M, Zara and Shein offer cheap, stylish clothing, but it comes at a price. According to the UN, this industry is responsible for eight to 10 percent of global carbon emissions and is the second-largest consumer of water.

The impacts of this thriving industry have a more significant environmental impact than maritime shipping and international flights combined. 

If you’d like to do your part to save the planet, you might be thinking about ways to become a more ethical clothing consumer. Fortunately, there are several ways to do that.

Whether you use eco-friendly laundry products to make your clothes last longer or shop from ethical brands, there are several things you can do to reduce your impact. Keep reading to discover a few ideas to shop for clothing sustainably. 


1. Change Out Your Laundry Products

Using the wrong stain removal products, laundry detergent or fabric softener can cut your apparel’s lifespan short.

The harsh chemicals found in some products can break down fabric and leave you shopping for new clothes. Dissolvable laundry sheets contain fewer harsh chemicals so they deep clean your clothes without damage. And since laundry detergent sheets come in a cardboard box rather than a bulky plastic jug, they have less environmental impact and take up less space in your cupboard. 

Whether you use traditional laundry products or ones that are more Eco-friendly, washing your clothes less frequently makes them last longer, too. Avoid using your tumble dryer. In addition to making your clothes last longer, not using the dryer reduces your carbon footprint.


2. Get Organized

shop for clothes sustainably

If your closet and dressers are bursting at the seams, sort through everything before shopping for something new.

Divide everything into two piles: keep and donate. Get rid of the garments you no longer wear so you can actually see everything you do want to wear. You might even come across a long-lost old favorite while sorting.

Organizing your wardrobe also makes it easier to put together stylish outfits since you can actually see everything you own. Downsizing and organizing can provide mental health benefits, too. Clearing out the clutter provides a clearer, calmer headspace and eases stress.


3. Buy Clothing Made from Sustainable Materials

Fast fashion brands typically use microfibers and other inexpensive materials to save money. Unfortunately, these fabrics pollute oceans and are extremely difficult to clean up when they break down into small particles. 

Instead of polyester, nylon and microfiber, look for apparel made from 100 percent cotton or other sustainable materials, like wool. Producing sustainable fabric uses less resources, like water, pesticides, etc. And when natural fibers end up in landfills, they break down without polluting the planet.


4. Never Throw Your Clothes in the Trash

Speaking of landfills… Do everything you can to make sure your old apparel doesn’t end up in one. Take care of your garments so they last longer. And when they are stained or damaged, try to repair them before getting rid of them. Even if you don’t have sewing skills, just about anyone can fix small tears and replace missing buttons.

If you’re creative, you could even learn to embroider over spots and stains to extend your clothing’s life. 

When you’re tired of something, donate it if it’s still in good condition. Your old clothing could make someone else’s day.

Use clothing that is beyond repair as cleaning rags, or find a place to recycle it. If you put clothing out with your regular trash, it will either end up in a landfill or be incinerated. Either way, it will have a negative impact on the environment. 


5. Shop at Thrift Shops and Secondhand Stores

thrift store clothes shopping

Rather than buying all of your clothes new, spend some time browsing the shelves at local thrift stores and consignment shops. Even if you find garments from fast fashion brands, you’ll be giving them a second life and keeping them from making their way into landfills.

Plus, you can find some great deals in secondhand stores. It takes some patience since you never know what you might find, but you could end up getting some really stylish pieces at a fraction of their regular retail price. 


6. Shop with Longevity in Mind

Before you buy any new apparel, think about how long it will last. Consider how much you will likely wear it, too.

Rather than impulse buying tons of cheap clothes that will only last through a few wears, look for long-lasting products made with durable materials. And choose things that you will genuinely love forever — not ones that you’ll only wear once or are likely to go out of style quickly.


7. Read the Labels

When it comes to shopping sustainably, labels are your best friend. Elements related to sustainability and Eco-friendliness are usually clearly communicated on the labels.

Look for things like recycled cotton, steps the manufacturer takes to reduce water consumption and more. You can also visit brand websites to learn more about their efforts to reduce their impact on the planet.


8. Do Your Best

While you may dream of building a 100 percent sustainable wardrobe, you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you buy some fast fashion pieces here and there.

No one is perfect, and most folks can’t afford to always buy from sustainable brands. Do your best and don’t stress when you need something convenient and less costly. 


Closing Thoughts

From using Eco-friendly laundry products to shopping at secondhand stores, there are several ways to make your wardrobe more sustainable. Try the suggestions above and you’ll be well on your way to reducing your carbon footprint. 

  • Maggie Diaz

    Maggie is passionate about the environment and a strong advocate of sustainability, advocating for businesses, individuals and even governments to take action on climate change. She's out enjoying nature and the great outdoors in her spare time.

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