The traditional fashion industry is hardly ever out of the limelight, but there is another side to this sector that is rarely mentioned, despite winning over more consumers in recent years. Conventional fashion produces a heavy carbon footprint, given the pesticides and chemicals used to produce fabrics and dyes, the transport involved and the short-lived nature of products. Fashionistas' throw-away attitude is hardly something to boast about. You may despair when you see the ever-changing seasonal offerings in local shops, but there are actually quite a few things a consumer can do to force the fashion industry to mend its ways. Informed shopping decisions mean you only support brands and designers who take sustainability seriously and produce garments Earth-loving shoppers can be proud to wear.
1. Do Research to Understand What’s Actually Happening
Before you can call yourself an eco-conscious shopper, you'll need to do research, but with the Internet it's not that difficult. Start with researching how manufacturers and designers manage to get clothing into local shops, looking at the whole process from harvesting silk or cotton to dying fabrics and transporting the stuff to your local stores. Find out the difference between organic, recycled and chemical-free garments and what benefits can be derived from choosing Made-in-the-USA products versus pros and cons of important organic fabrics. This research will help you to make an informed buying decision about what to buy and where to purchase your clothes from.
2. Heed the Advice from Coco Chanel
The famous fashion designer advised people to buy only "quality classics" that will go with everything, buying and keeping only those clothes you really love and avoiding the rest. Accessorize like Coco Chanel to turn your old favorites into the Emperor's "new" clothes. Recycling your own clothes is simply the greenest way to go "shopping". Leaf through fashion magazines at your library to get inspired. Be brave, combine old favorites and accessories in a novel way.
3. Eco Shoppers Are Also Thrifty Shoppers
You'll get full marks, if the origin of most of your garments can be traced back to charity shops, consignment shops or the Salvation Army. For the typical shopaholics though, being thrifty and shopping for second-hand clothes is a startling new concept. Consignment, charity and vintage shops are veritable Aladdin caves full of designer gear you'd struggle to afford if you had to buy them new. Washed, mended and usually in mint condition, consignment buys allow you to update your closet without having to worry about price tags or the carbon footprint of your clothes.
4. Stick to Local Shopping for a Bigger Green Impact
Buying locally sourced and produced goods puts money back into your local economy and supports your own country, helping to reduce the carbon footprint of everything you purchase at the same time. Transportation is an enormous part of the eco-unfriendly fashion world. Less mileage per garment equals less pollution overall. Using local stores and locally designed products means you’re supporting people who have a better grip on their supply chains and look for sustainability along the way. Local eco-friendly designers and manufacturers will use alternative fabrics and materials or will sell clothing that meets your eco-friendly expectations. And there's another benefit: buying from local designers means you're unlikely to be wearing the same Peacock or Zara outfit as the other five people attending this Saturday's party!
5. Look for Eco-friendly Brands
It may sound obvious, but unless you replace the well-known brands and designers currently lurking in your closet with eco-conscious ones on your next shopping spree, you won't be lowering your clothes carbon footprint. Choose clothes that were manufactured and designed by brands pursuing a policy of sustainability. There is growing demand for low-impact goods and an expanding eco-friendly market means prices will eventually go down and more such goods will land in your local stores. Brands like Urban Outfitters, ASOS and H&M are already offering stylish and chic eco-conscious collections that are affordable and online boutiques such as Shop Ethica, Beklina and Helpsy are already offering goods that embrace the concept of finding a harmonious balance between the demands of fashion and Mother Earth, offering only designer brands that correspond to this ethical approach to fashion.
6. Less is More when It Comes to Eco-shopping
Buy quality clothes instead of cramming a multitude of cheaply made clothes into your closet. Becoming an eco-conscious shopper goes hand-in-hand with becoming a more discerning shopper. Buy quality pieces that will stand the test of time (i.e. frequent washing, wear and tear) and stay away from sweat-shop produced trainers and clothes that are soon destined for the nearest landfill site because they fall apart. Remember Coco Chanel and her classic lines - choose goods that will still look stylish and well-made in ten or even twenty years time. Buying quality will save you money in the long run, too.
7. Look after Your Clothes Rather than Dumping Them
Don't throw away your blouse or designer jeans because they need mending and you can't be bothered with sewing on a button or replacing a zip. If you can't do it yourself, enlist the help of somebody who does, like an elderly aunt, tailor or cobbler. Quality clothing has the potential to last years and years - so get it fixed. You'll be able to save money in the long run and can still wear your beloved favorites.
8. Avoid "Dry Clean Only" Stuff
Dry cleaning is not just harmful to your household budget, it's also very harmful to the environment. Avoid buying "dry clean only" goods at all times. The chemical processes required to restore your clothes are very toxic. Also, tags that say "permanent press" mean the clothes you wear have been impregnated with harmful substances that create that no-wrinkle effect. Use a cold wash and dry hanging to reduce the amount of energy and water needed to maintain your clothes. Now feel good about yourself, for your nimble washer-woman's fingers have just extended the life of your garments, too.
If you have gone “natural” with your skincare and beauty products, avoid harsh chemicals around the home , going eco-friendly with your closet is the next logical step. Are you ready to take it?