You buy organic foods, compost (even from your tiny one-bedroom apartment), and have made low-impact swaps throughout your home. But are you doing everything you can to be as sustainable as possible? Here’s a zero-waste topic you may not have considered: clothing.
So, what can you do to make more sustainable choices when it comes to clothing shopping? Keep reading for tips for shopping sustainably!
The fashion industry as it traditionally stands is not sustainable. In fact, the fashion industry’s “fast” methods make it a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, solidifying it as one of the top ten most polluting industries. In the United States alone, 11.3 million tons of clothing is thrown away yearly. That’s a lot of trash but then consider this on top of it all — most clothing is made of synthetic materials, synthetic chemicals, microplastics, and non-sustainable dyes. In other words, these materials cannot break down. Clothing waste that cannot break down accounts for 20 percent of water pollution.
When possible, buying second-hand is a great way to extend the shelf-life of pieces already made. Did you know that as shopping traditions are currently, secondhand shops can only move anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of donated fashion? That means the rest of it has to be downcycled into things like insulation, carpeting, or rags. If so much of the clothing that is already made is still hanging around, what need is there for the fashion industry to make more? Statistically, there is none; but unfortunately, fast fashion is far from sustainable. Stores like ThredUp and Tradesy offer online shoppers secondhand options, while the Vestiaire Collective and The RealReal offer designer items for resale.
Donate what you don’t want.
Contribute to reputable organizations.
There are a few ways you can contribute to reputable organizations. Some organizations, like Dress for Success, which aims to donate professional attire to women, accept clothing donations. Other organizations and shops make the most of your dollar, ensuring it contributes to sustainable causes: Greenpeace and Natural Resources Defense Council are always accepting monetary donations, Canopy strives to protect and save forests from fast fashion practices, and Global Giving sends a Bangladeshi garment worker to college.
Fair trade constitutes brands that pay fair prices to workers in developing countries. Definitely consider doing your own fair trade brand research but in the meantime, here are a few great fair trade brands to start you off: Reformation, People Tree, Voz, and Know the Origin.
Know your fabrics.
Understand certain certifications.
Along with researching your clothing store’s impact via the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, there are several certifications you can look for too. The Global Organic Textile Standard is awarded to textiles with a minimum 70 percent of organic fibers. The Forest Stewardship Council Certification is given to clothing made from trees that were sustainably harvested. And as mentioned above, the Fair Trade certification ensures factory workers are paid fairly and work in safe conditions.