Two years ago, I was a fashion addict. I shopped several times a month, usually for garments I wore once or never. I loved a fast fashion knock off and gave little thought to why or how these pieces were so cheap. When I learned that the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter after big oil, I realized I had to make some changes. My excessive consumption was a waste of money and horrible for the environment but I was clueless about how to curb my bad shopping habits. Turns out, it's an easier transition that you think, just a few small changes is all it takes to become a more sustainable consumer.
Here are 5 habits of a sustainable shopper you can adopt today:
1. Buy better, buy Less.
Also known as the spend 'til it hurts theory. A major problem with fast fashion is that it is so cheap and poorly made that it feels disposable. To reduce the carbon footprint of the fashion industry we need to discard less clothing and wear the pieces that we own more often. A great way to do this is when you are shopping, spend a little more than you are comfortable with. The idea isn't to send you broke, but to make sure you are buying things that you love. Before you buy ask yourself "Do I really need this? Will I wear it enough to justify the cost?". If the answer to these questions is no, walk away. You just saved cash and the environment.
2. Get to know your tailor.
Before the industrial revolution and the introduction of mass production, clothing and textiles were hand-made, expensive and highly valued. Women usually invested in only a few garments and were in the habit of mending them when necessary or making alterations into new styles if they became dated. Get into the habit of buying garments of the best quality you can afford and repair or reshape them rather than replace them. A coat could last a lifetime with the right care and something like jeans can be re-imagined with just a hem change.
3. Embrace vintage.
Channel your inner Carrie Bradshaw and shop for unique second-hand clothing. There are so many resources available now for finding vintage or pre-owned clothing to suit your style and budget. You can try apps like Poshmark, online stores like Farfetch, set up E-bay alerts or kick it old school and head to your local vintage store. Whether it's cool tees from the salvation army or designer dresses from The Real Real, your decision to forgo something new for something that already exists is a huge step in the right direction for the planet. It also means you own something one of a kind and probably saved a few bucks along the way.
4. Borrow stuff.
Have you noticed that the tradition of calling your best friend in a panic and having her bring all of her wardrobe over for you to try for your date on Friday night has become obsolete? Why bother when you can pick up a dress from the Zara sale rack for $30 on your way home from work. Well one reason to bother is because those $30 dresses add up. Another is that it's much more fun to choose an outfit with one of your stylish friends than in the poorly lit dressing rooms of a cheap store, many poor style decisions have been made this way. For extra special occasions or job interviews where you really want the confidence boost of something new, you can rent a look from a site like Rent the Runway. You'll get a much better quality outfit for a fraction of the price. Renting outfits also allows you the opportunity to try new designers without having to spend a fortune.
5. Consider your cleaning methods.
So lets say you've made your first sustainable purchase, you're feeling pretty good about yourself and your fancy new coat/dress/blouse. But washing, drying and dry-cleaning uses a lot of energy and water. To reduce your energy consumption wash in cold water. Air dry clothes when ever possible, even if that means using a mini drying rack in your apartment for socks and underwear. Avoid dryer sheets and only dry clean garments if it is absolutely necessary.