6 Ways to Be a More Environmentally Conscious Fashion Consumer
Written by: Lauren Zurcher
We are all guilty of having consumed fast fashion items at some point in our lives, however, many of us are starting to realize the inhumane practices within the industry and understand how much of a negative impact fast fashion has on our planet and people. So, now what? This article presents six specific ways you can become a more environmentally conscious fashion consumer.
1. Be curious and educate yourself
First and foremost, it is important to recognize and understand where your clothing comes from. Rather than focusing on whether the item looks good, start asking yourself who made your clothes, what materials were used, and where they came from. Do some research and learn about the production of the items you usually look at. Try to stay away from items that are made of synthetic materials, such as polyester and nylon, which contain plastic. When these items are no longer wanted, the plastic in them prevents them from decomposing. Instead, they end up floating in our oceans and harming the ecosystem.
Furthermore, when you are excited about having spent little money on an item, ask yourself why it is so cheap. How much do you think the garment worker was paid to make that item? Is that a fair wage? Those clothes may have been cheap for you, but when you take into consideration their real cost, you see that someone else is paying for it in some way.
2. Change who and what you support
Once you have identified certain brands that do not embrace ethical practices, stop supporting them. Unfollow and unsubscribe from these brands, and try not to shop there anymore. Instead, start supporting slow fashion and local brands that are sustainable, ethical, and inclusive in their practices. Small independent brands tend to create items that can be worn all year and produce smaller collections per season. In addition, these brands often produce their clothing with close proximity to their main location, significantly minimizing their carbon footprint. Supporting these brands will help them become the industry leaders and change fashion for the better.
3. Rewear, reuse, repurpose
Be mindful of the textile waste you may be producing. Avoid buy-and-toss behavior. Try to rewear and reuse what you already own as much as possible. Wearing your clothes for just nine months longer can reduce your carbon footprint for that garment by 30 percent. Properly looking after your clothes reduces the amount of times you would have to replace them. Make sure you check the care tags and follow the instructions that are provided for each garment. Clothes that are well taken care of last longer.
Once you have decided that you do not want to wear an item, or when you think the item has no more value, consider using the garment for a different purpose.You do not necessarily have to throw an item away after its original use is no longer viable. You can make other items out of the material, such as a bag or a headband, or you can always use it as a rag.
4. Think about quality over quantity
If you are going to buy clothing, shop less and with more intention. Many of us have adopted a consumerist lifestyle where shopping has become an activity rather than an occasional necessity. Only buy clothes when you need to, not when it seems like a fun activity. When you do buy something, try to get high-quality items. This will ensure that they last longer. Low-quality items with ridiculously low prices are most likely mass-produced by companies that engage in unethical business practices. Although high-quality and more sustainable items tend to be more expensive upfront, they will last longer and you won’t have to buy another one of that same item for a while. Buying a few high-quality items, rather than a bunch of cheaper and less sustainable items will significantly reduce your carbon footprint. It is more environmentally friendly and cost-effective to save up and invest in a few top-notch pieces that you’ll have for a while. In addition, try not to buy statement pieces that you know you’ll only wear once. Instead, get more versatile items that you can wear over and over again and that can be styled in multiple ways throughout the seasons.
When in doubt, keep this Vivienne Westwood quote in mind: "Buy less, choose well, and make it last."
5. Thrift, buy second-hand, swap
If you are unable to buy quality clothing, consider thrifting or buying second-hand. By buying used clothes, you help extend the lifetime of those items and reduce the negative environmental impact of fashion. If each person bought one used clothing item rather than a new one, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions saved would be equivalent to removing half a million vehicles off the road for one year. You can also exchange or share items with friends and family.
6. Make your own clothes
Rather than buying new clothes, consider making your own. When you make your own clothes, you do not have to worry about the textile waste, exploitative labor practices, pollution, or public health hazards that are prevalent in large fashion houses. Plus, your clothes will fit you like a glove!
Now you know that being a more environmentally conscious fashion consumer is not difficult. There is no longer an excuse for shopping from fast fashion brands. Keep these tips in mind, and together we can make a positive change for a more sustainable world.