5 ways to shop more sustainably
How to be a more sustainable shopper
Words— Jennifer Braun
The consensus is clear: The fashion industry is a significant contributor to global environmental issues. Whether the industry is polluting waters or clogging landfills, it’s hard to ignore its impact.
It’s also hard to ignore the increasing pressure on all of us to do our part to protect the planet. While you can argue that individual behaviours don’t add up to environmental change, I choose to believe that when we make responsible purchasing decisions, we, in turn, invest in the sustainability movement, set examples for other conscious consumers, and reduce impact. All small steps can eventually influence real change on government policies.
Forming sustainable shopping habits can be a first step to reducing your own environmental footprint. And considering the alarming rate that we’re all consuming and destroying clothes, we could all do some good by rethinking how and what we shop.
After all, sustainable shopping can also be beneficial economically. Who else is on a budget? In many cases, shopping green can save you a pretty penny (all in a day’s work while helping the environment). Here are a few simple ways to become a more sustainable shopper and maybe even a richer one!
Know your materials
Synthetic fibres are huge culprits of environmental pollution and hard to avoid, but a little bit of knowledge can take you a long way. To be brief, the production of fabrics like polyester, acrylic and viscose rayon are disastrous to the environment. Polyester is made from oil, while conventional cotton relies on pesticides and herbicides that are released in dangerous amounts in underdeveloped countries.
Fortunately, innovative and pioneering brands are developing new fabrics made with more sustainable methods. Polyester is being made of recycled water bottles and other post-consumer products, while Tencel® has been offered as an alternative to viscose rayon thanks to its closed-loop process that ensures no toxins are released into our waters. You can also find denim options that are made with less water and organic certifications that promise to be more environmentally friendly.
Buy less, buy better
The best thing you can do for the environment is to just buy less stuff. When we make the most of our clothes (i.e. expand its lifespan to the fullest), we lower the environmental impact. Whittling down your purchases is not only a guaranteed way to reduce the fashion industry’s impact, it will make you a more confident dresser.
Today, there are many popular notions to help you streamline your wardrobe and make better purchasing decisions. The capsule wardrobe has been offered as one solution where you opt for timeless pieces that are versatile and that can be easily mixed and matched, to make the most of fewer items. Subscription boxes have also gained traction in the conscious fashion world as an alternative to hitting the mall and consuming everything in sight, as they can help you stick to a budget and navigate trends responsibly.
Secondhand stores are the ultimate clothing recyclers and there are so many amazing vintage shops to choose from. There’s no doubt that there’s an overabundance of discarded clothing, so if you’re a shopping addict you can make guilt-free fashion purchases in thrift stores.
When you buy secondhand, you’ll give new life to garments, which will help keep them out of landfills or from being shipped abroad. It’s also a nice way to snag new clothes at fast-fashion prices and to keep your money away from multinational corporations. Thrift shopping isn’t your thing? Organize a clothing swap with some friends. You can easily swap clothes with some close friends and obtain new outfits at zero cost. Make an evening out of it and don’t hesitate to share everything from clothing to accessories. Some of my favourite vintage finds are purses.
Don’t forget to upcycle
When you’re over that sweater you bought earlier this winter, its lifespan isn’t. Even when our clothes become tired or our jeans no longer fit us, you can still find new uses for them. In fact, there are countless ways to give new life to old clothing.
Enter, upcycling. Upcycling, which is different from recycling, is when you use discarded materials like clothes to create something even better than what it was. For example, you could turn snagged tights into a headband or transform your jeans into a pair of jean shorts. The DIY movement offers tons of ideas and tutorials online for you to easily get started on your own upcycling journey. It doesn’t have to be complicated either. So the next time you’re over a certain top or those jeans no longer fit, don’t think they’re useless.
Watch your step
Here we thought online shopping was a bad habit, but it’s actually more green than going to the mall. It turns out that just getting to the shopping centre is what causes one of the biggest climate effects since many shopping trips are taken by car, which has a large environmental impact.
If you live in the city, consumers should opt to walk or take public transportation to get to the mall, or alternatively, they can shop online. While you can feel good about your online purchases, it still comes down to how long you’ll use your clothes. If you end up buying clothes online that you like less and will, therefore, wear less, remember that you’re not helping the planet. Also, mind your returns. Though e-commerce is easier on the environment, growing return rates could quickly kill the benefits of online shopping.