Continuously evolving trends and cheaply made clothing creates mind-blowing sustainability issues in the fashion industry. We all need to be more aware of the impact of clothing waste and how turning to sustainable fashion choices is more important than ever. Focus on green fashion and decrease the environmental impact with your clothing choices.
Ten Tips for Sustainable Fashion:
- Evaluate your laundry habits
- Take inventory of your clothing
- Choose sustainable materials like GOTS certified or organic cotton
- Learn how to make repairs
- Estimate the longevity of what you purchase
- Shop vintage
- Quality, not quantity
- Place value on brand transparency
- Never throw away clothing
- Stay informed on sustainable fashion
How Often Should I Wash My Clothes?
According to the Energy Saving Trust, washing and drying our clothes accounts for 15 percent of the energy we use in our homes. Doing laundry also accounts for between 60 and 80 percent of our clothing's total environmental impact overall. One of the easiest and most impactful ways you can practice sustainable fashion choices is to decrease how frequently you wash your clothes.
Although it may seem weird at first, there's no need to wash most of your clothing after every wear. Aside from your undergarments, you can wear clothing like blouses, dresses, jeans, leggings, and skirts multiple times before you wash them. As long as the clothing isn't excessively dirty, spraying your clothes with a biodegradable fabric spray will help keep your clothes smelling fresh while extending the amount of time you can go between washes.
Another sustainable fashion tip for laundering your clothing is to select a colder cycle on your washing machine. The hotter the water that you use for your laundry, the more energy it takes to run through the cycle because the machine has to heat the water several times. For whites and excessively dirty or soiled clothes, experts recommend hot water. Although most people use warm water for most of their laundry needs, washing in cold water saves energy and, when paired with pre-soaking, can clean your clothes just as well as a wash in warm water. Make sure your cold water is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit, however, or your detergent will not work effectively. It's also important to note that the colder your water is, the more detergent you will need.
To embrace green fashion and sustainability further, naturally dry as many of your clothes as possible. Drying your clothes on a clothesline or using hangers to line dry your outfits further reduces the amount of energy you use. Saving energy reduces the amount of oil and natural gas needed to fuel our daily lives, which ultimately contributes to the rise in temperatures and the impact of climate change.
Take Inventory of Your Clothing
Be aware of the clothing items you have to help encourage you to make more sustainable fashion choices. Organize your closet, so you know the fashion pieces you have to work with. Be inventive when coming up with new outfit choices and pair bold pieces with more classic options to create new and exciting looks.
When you're aware of your clothing options and commit yourself to wear what you have, you are less likely to purchase additional pieces you don't need or that you'll only wear a handful of times.
Choose Sustainable Fashion Materials
When you purchase new clothing, choose green fashion options that place a premium on sustainability. Companies that utilize organic or Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) practices prioritize sustainability and environmental impact. Companies monitor cotton that is GOTS certified from the moment it is planted until it becomes the final product. There are regulations on the amount of water consumed, pesticide use, and the employment practices of the farmers and suppliers the company purchases from.
If a clothing piece features a GOTS certification label, you can rest assured that the company has made the piece ethically and sustainably and that there are multiple checks and balances to ensure quality throughout the supply chain.
Learn How to Fix Your Clothes
Sewing skills seem to be a thing of the past, but understanding the basics of working with a needle and thread can save you money and have a positive impact on the environment. Learning how to sew is a way to embrace green fashion because it allows you to make minor repairs to your outfits without having to pay an expert or replace the item altogether.
If you have never used a sewing needle and thread before, it's easy to learn a few basics by watching videos on the internet.
What to look for in a sewing kit:
- An assortment of different color threads
- Sewing needles in assorted sizes
- A small pair of sewing scissors
- Needle threader
- Seam ripper
You'll undoubtedly find hundreds of other accessories within more extensive sewing kits, but something with the essentials is an excellent place to start. Most pieces of clothing with buttons come with a spare as well as a few feet of matching thread, so it's essential to keep those around just in case you lose one. Learning to sew can seem intimidating, but the process is something that everyone can learn.
Here are a few tutorials to help you understand the basics.
In addition to sewing, you can also purchase hem repair tape or iron-on patches to fix holes in your clothing. However, there's also nothing wrong with seeking the advice or services of a professional. If you're not comfortable adjusting the size of your clothing yourself or if you have a repair that's larger than you expected, seek out the services of a local tailor in your area who can mend the garment for you. Although it will cost a bit of money, it's cheaper and a commitment to sustainable fashion than purchasing something brand new.
Think About How Long You'll Wear a Piece of Clothing
When you shop for clothing, shoes, or accessories, the first thing to ask yourself is, "How many times will I wear this?" Eco Age, a London-based agency that certifies brands based on sustainability, encourages people to only purchase clothing only if they wear it a minimum of 30 times. Founder Livia Firth says you would be surprised how many times the answer is no.
Firth started the #30Wears campaign to encourage people to avoid trendy statement pieces that you may only wear once or twice and instead invest in something with the versatility to dress up or down and style several different ways.
How to Shop Vintage and Thrift Stores
Embracing vintage clothing and accessories has become a huge trend that's not only good for your wallet but also for supporting green fashion practices. Sourcing vintage fashion is easier than you may think. However, it's essential to understand the difference between vintage and thrift. Vintage refers to the year the item was manufactured or something special about the piece, while thrift refers to the financial aspect. Both are a great way to find unique, sustainable clothing on a budget.
If you're looking for specific items from current brands, websites such as ThredUp and Poshmark allow users to sell new and gently used clothing and accessories for a discounted price. These websites also offer more vintage pieces, but you'll need to have a better idea of what you're looking for to find them because the seller is responsible for creating each item listing.
To find vintage clothing, search vintage stores in your area. If you're a beginner, look for something classic like a little black dress or a jacket you can wear over and over again. When looking for vintage sustainable clothing, here are a few important things to keep in mind:
- Understand your undergarments. Although different pieces may carry through decades and still be stylish, the items we wear under our clothing have changed drastically over the last 60 years.
- Know the quality versus the price. If you're buying a Louis Vuitton purse from 50 years ago, you'll likely pay as much as you would if you bought a brand-new bag. Although that may seem confusing at first, it's for a good reason. Vintage pieces feature a higher level of detail, durability, and hard work than pieces manufactured today.
- Do your research. If you're debating purchasing something higher-end, make sure to research whether or not the item is in the best condition for the price and if it's as valuable as the seller says it is.
- Be willing to have something tailored but know when to say no as well. Although many things can be taken in or let out to fit you like a glove, some pieces cannot be altered without ruining the fabric or drape of the item.
Shop for Quality, Not Quantity
Many people see the price of an item and decide whether it is worth their money instantly. However, it's important to consider the longevity and durability of a more expensive item versus the amount you will pay financially and environmentally to keep replacing a cheaper item over time.
Quality is where the idea of sustainable clothing comes into play. You may pay a higher price initially; however, you will see a much longer return on your investment in green fashion than you would purchasing something that will only last a fraction of the amount of time. Creating sustainable clothing means investing in pieces that can become future vintage items.
What Is a Trustworthy Brand?
When creating a green fashion closet, do your research before investing in a brand you're unfamiliar with. If a company says that they focus on sustainability, check the certifications it has and any details about its process for reducing its environmental impact. If there isn't information available on the company's website, reach out and ask! The more information you have about a company's dedication to green fashion, the more educated you are to make the best choice in embracing sustainable fashion.
Know How to Recycle Clothing
One of the most crucial rules in embracing sustainable fashion is understanding how to recycle your clothing. Never throw clothing away. Instead, ask yourself whether it can be repaired or donated. If a pair of shoes feel worn down, contact a local cobbler to see about replacing the soles. Research leather repair shops to mend a torn or scuffed handbag or belt. Learn how to sew or contact a tailor to see about repairs to a pair of pants, blouse, or dress.
If clothing no longer fits, consider creating a swap date with a few friends to trade clothing that no longer fits or is no longer your style. You can also find a local agency or organization that accepts clothing donations for things you no longer wear but still have life left in them.
But what about old socks or underwear? Believe it or not, you can recycle every piece of clothing instead of throwing them away. Trash is For Tossers keeps a record of great resources for how to recycle just about any piece of clothing you can think of.
Stay Informed on Sustainable Fashion
Last but not least, remember that your journey to embracing green fashion is never complete. As companies evolve and learn to embrace manufacturing practices that support environmental sustainability, you'll find that you have more options for purchasing from reputable companies.
It's also important to keep up with any certification changes from your favorite brands. Although companies tend to remain committed to sustainable fashion, it's always worth double-checking before completing a purchase. Also, be sure to check certifications for different countries. While the United Kingdom may have one set of regulations for certifying sustainable fashion, Singapore may have a different set of guidelines.
Embracing green fashion choices and creating a sustainable wardrobe is easier than you may think. Although it takes a bit of dedication, the positive environmental impact that you will make is worth every penny.