Here at CF, we're big fans of being smart about our purchases and thinking about fashion as part of the larger global picture. After all, we should all be trying to shop in a more sustainable manner. As we talked about in our article on shopping ethically, the fashion industry is one of the worst environmental offenders around.
For example, the EPA published an article stating that 84 percent of unwanted clothing went to a landfill or incinerator in 2012. Think about all that waste!
Another problem is that when synthetic fibers degrade, they emit potent greenhouse gases such as methane. These clothes will also take hundreds to thousands of years to completely degrade which, coupled with the rate that we're sending clothes to landfills, is a massive issue.
These are just a few examples. Suffice to say that if you care about the environment, it's important that you incorporate sustainable practices into your fashion habits.
Want to start approaching fashion more sustainably? Here are a few ways to chip away at the fashion vs. environment problem with your own actions. Below are my top 5 simple tips on how to be a more sustainable fashionista.
1. Buy clothes from local American retailers.
This is a win-win situation because you are helping a company in your country thrive but it also reduces emissions for shipping as well as saves a lot of energy!
Another very sustainable benefit to shopping locally is that the United States has environmental codes and restrictions that regulate factories as well as environmental standards. (Labor exploitation is a big problem in many factories outside of the US as well, so you're helping avoid that too.)
2. Shop at thrift stores or consignment shops.
This is another great option for any fashionista who wants to help the environment. Not only can you find some unique, vintage pieces that will elevate your style, you can also recycle old clothing!
Another great thing about supporting places such as Goodwill is that many have recycling programs where they don't just send clothes to landfills.
Not sure where to start? See our article on how to be a pro thrift store shopper.
3. Donate your old clothes to a local homeless shelter.
This is an AWESOME way to make sure you're doing your part to be a sustainable fashionista while also giving back to your local community. Most cities have at least one homeless shelter or charity that accepts clothing donations.
This is where you can take your unwanted/unused items! Not only will you declutter your own space, but you'll also help people in the community who may not be able to afford those same items. A bonus? You saved those clothes from the landfill!
4. Buy clothing items made from recycled fibers.
Buying clothes from retailers that specifically use recycled fibers is another awesome way to protect the environment. Patagonia (the company featured in the photo above) is one awesome brand that really tries to focus on creating sustainable clothing.
For example, their Re-Tool Snap-T Fleece Pullover is made from 51% of recycled fibers and they also have initiatives underway to continually improve with sustainability efforts. Patagonia also coined WornWear which allows customers to buy used Patagonia items from previous customers.
Shopping with brands like this will greatly improve the impact on the environment and also let you get new, cute styles.
5. Get involved with Fashion Revolution and speak out!
Fashion Revolution is an organization that was created after the April 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh. Over 1,000 women were killed and over another 2,500 were injured. This disaster is particularly relevant to us because these women, mostly young women, were killed working in factories for American brands.
Getting involved with this program is a great option for your spare time. They have on-campus programs where you can recruit friends to ask companies where their clothes are manufactured. They will also get you inspired to be more sustainable with your clothing choices!
What are your tips for shopping and disposing of clothes more sustainably?
I hope you found these methods to be fairly simple. The point isn't to be 100% perfect overnight, the point is to reduce the impact you have on the environment through simple swaps. Every little bit helps!
Now I want to hear from you. How are you being more sustainable with your fashion choices this year? (Are you buying more high-quality clothes, thrifting more, or something else?) Tell me in the comments.