The fashion industry is renowned for having a significant impact on the environment. This is for many reasons, including millions of tonnes of waste each year, excessive amounts of chemical pollution and damage from global shipping which results in high levels of carbon dioxide emissions.
Additionally, the fashion industry is extremely exploitative. Poor economies are utilised for cheap labour in order to maximise profits, whilst denying workers of the most basic human rights. Many companies are beginning to “green wash”, which involves using campaigns that claim they are environmentally and socially responsible, yet often this is a cover up for what really happens.
As consumers, our choices can have a direct impact on the lives of people and environments all over the world. It is easy to think that as a single consumer, we won’t have much of an effect on the industry, however nothing will change until we begin to take action. These simple things will not only help to protect the environment and encourage change in the exploitative industry, but it will also save you money!
When you are next shopping, try your best to be conscious of the potential implications of your purchases. The smallest changes can help to inspire change on a much larger scale, so take inspiration from these tips and have fun!
Shop Second Hand
One of the best things you can do to shop more sustainably is to buy second hand. Charity shops, thrift shops and car boot sales are all full of treasures. Something that someone else didn’t get much use out of could be exactly what you are looking for, so it is always best to start with second-hand! Online marketplaces like Ebay, Facebook and Amazon offer a more convenient service for people who prefer to shop online.
You will be able to find rare and unique pieces of clothing and accessories at a fraction of the price you would usually pay. Plus, there is something pretty special about knowing the piece of clothing you have bought has a story behind it! Once a month, head out to a new thrift store and see what they have. Eventually you will find the shops that suit your style best, but in the meantime enjoy experiencing lots of different shops. You will save money, find amazing pieces and help the environment all in one.
Complete The 30 Wears Test
Before buying a piece of clothing, ask yourself if you will wear the item 30 times. This is a good indication of whether a piece of clothing is worth buying! You are basically making a commitment to wearing your clothes enough that it was worth the environmental impact. The aim is to cut out fast fashion and change the current culture of wearing an outfit once before throwing it away.
For example, if you are considering buying a plain tracksuit, imagine if you could see yourself wearing it 30 times, or twice a month for a couple of years. You could wear it as a full tracksuit, or mix things up by wearing the joggers with t-shirts or other jackets, and the hoodie with jeans. There are plenty of different options so you are likely to wear it 30 times.
Again, not only will you be reducing your environmental impact, but you will save money in the long run. You will gradually build a wardrobe that you can wear year after year and season after season. Plus, with the money you save, you can invest in better quality pieces that could last you a decade.
Upcycle Old Clothing
When you are considering heading out to buy a new piece of clothing, try upcycling old pieces of clothing. You’d be surprised at how different a piece of clothing can make with a few alterations. If something doesn’t fit quite right, is too big or too small, you could have a go at altering it yourself or you could take it to have professional alterations.
Going in a different direction, don’t be afraid to try something daring! Experiment with tye-dye, embroidery or completely revamping an item by cutting off sleeves or removing some of the length of trousers to make shorts. You have so many different options, so this is a great opportunity to be creative.
Support Local Businesses
Rather than shopping in large shops that are part of a chain, try to support your local businesses first. Not only will you be helping to contribute to the local economy, but the carbon footprint will be much smaller than larger companies in most cases. Small local businesses will need your money much more than international companies, so always aim to shop local before looking elsewhere.
Plus, seeing empty highstreet shops is always extremely sad, so you can help to keep your local town or village alive and thriving! Another great thing you can do is share your local shops on social media channels as a bit of free advertising, to subtly instill positive choices in your friends and family.
Environmentally Friendly Fabrics
Make sure that you always check labels when purchasing something new for green certifications of products being responsibly sourced, manufactured in an energy efficient environment and generally sustainable. To start with you may find yourself checking most labels and doing research about companies’ commitment to their environmental and social impact, yet you will eventually learn which companies are sustainable, which will make shopping much easier.
There are plenty of resources online to help you decipher between eco-friendly and non eco-friendly businesses, yet if you are in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is likely that if a company doesn’t want to answer your questions, they are not doing everything they should be!
To summarise, there are plenty of simple things you can do to reduce your environmental impact, to be more conscious of the consequences of your purchase for people around the world and to shop more sustainably in general.
If you are unsure where to start, shop in your local thrift stores. This is the best possible way to reduce waste and to ensure that your choices aren’t fuelling exploitative industries. Over time, these things will become second nature, yet taking the time to do some research and learn about sustainable companies will make a significant difference.