When you think of your dream wardrobe, you might think of words like “stylish,” “on-trend,” or “luxury.” The idea of a sustainable wardrobe doesn’t tend to be a high priority, even for those who make eco-friendly decisions in other aspects of their daily lives.
You don’t have to sacrifice style to have a wardrobe that keeps your carbon footprint to a minimum. Turn these eleven tips into habits to transform your closet into a source of pride: pride in the way it looks and in the way it cares for our planet.
11 Tips for Building a Sustainable Wardrobe
1. Consider Each Decision’s Impact
It’s easy to look at the environmental damage that large corporations do and feel hopeless. Still, the fact is that you have power every time you make a choice. Think of it this way: every time you buy a piece of clothing, you cast a vote. Are you voting for a future of plastic-filled oceans and polluted water or for a future with healthy resources for the entire planet?
The items themselves will have an impact, but they’ll have a domino effect, too. When you support sustainable practices, you’re sending a message to non-sustainable clothing brands and pushing them toward more responsible choices.
2. Learn How to Spot Greenwashing
Greenwashing is the unethical practice of a company marketing itself as being “green” without actually being as eco-friendly as they pretend to be. Instead of putting money into real, sustainable practices, the company invests in convincing you that it’s sustainable.
The key is to educate yourself about the ways businesses can actually make a difference and teach yourself to read between the lines. A company that uses recycled synthetic fibers may be better than a company that uses new synthetics. However, their products will still leak plastics into the ocean. A company that uses natural materials will be better, and a company using organic natural materials is better yet.
Remember, there are plenty of experts available to help. I offer a wealth of information in my blog about responsible fashion and the brands that are or are not genuine.
3. Take the Temp Option
If you find yourself craving new clothes often, try renting instead. Renting clothing lets you enjoy a piece for the same short period you’d probably wear it if you were to buy it outright. When you rent instead of buying, though, you keep the piece out of the landfill while also saving money.
4. Give Old Items New Life
We all have items in our closet we don’t love anymore, but you don’t have to toss them in the trash. Instead, try upcycling: modifying your clothing to give it a new look.
Have a top with a stain on it? Add an applique to hide the stain. Have a top that doesn’t fit anymore? Convert it into a scarf. If you’re not a sewing pro, any tailor will be able to help.
5. Practice Sustainable Clothing Care
A sustainable wardrobe isn’t just about how you shop. It’s about how you care for your clothes, as well.
Wash your clothes less often to prevent the inevitable microfibers from breaking off and getting into the water. Choose eco-friendly detergents. Use an eco-friendly dry cleaning service. Line dry when you can instead of using an energy-inefficient dryer.
6. Play the Long Game
When you shop, change your mindset from quantity to quality. Instead of snatching up every item you think you like, plan your wardrobe and choose versatile staples you can use in many different ways. Think of it as choosing slow fashion over fast fashion.
7. Go Shopping at Home
If you’re craving a shopping spree, why not rediscover some of the hidden gems in your closet instead? Comb through every item, thinking about new ways you can wear it or considering how you can modify it. Maybe you have a top you used to wear with jeans for dinner on the town, but it could turn into elegant cocktail attire if you pair it with a skirt and the right jewelry.
8. Practice Responsible Closet Cleaning
No matter how much upcycling and reimaging you do, there will always be items that simply don’t fit with your style anymore. When this happens, dispose of them the responsible way: either donate them or sell them. Some brands will even buy back clothing from their customers.
What about those ratty old pieces that no one will accept? There are plenty of ways to use them around the house. Cut them up into cleaning rags, turn them into t-shirt yarn, or use pieces of them as reusable disinfectant wipes. There’s no shortage of uses for old clothing.
9. Test Your Choices
Impulse buying is as much of a problem for the planet as it is for your wallet. Every time you buy an item, put it through a test to see if you really love it as much as you think you do.
Try the ex test, for example. Would you want to run into your ex wearing this piece? If the answer is no, why run the risk of wearing it?!
Another option is the 30-wear test. Can you envision yourself wearing this item 30 times with the pieces you already have in your wardrobe? If you’d get tired of it before hitting 30 wears, it doesn’t deserve a spot in your closet.
10. Choose Your Brands Wisely
When you shop, do so with intention. Instead of nabbing everything that looks good, do some digging, and find out how the company treats the earth.
The easiest way to do this is to make a list of your favorite sustainable clothing brands or stores and to limit yourself to shopping with them. If you don’t go to an unsustainable company’s website, you won’t be tempted to buy from them.
11. Go Vintage
Vintage clothing doesn’t just give you an epic, one-of-a-kind style. It gives the planet the compassion it deserves, too.
When you shop vintage, you keep used clothing out of the landfills. You also avoid buying a new item, which would increase the demand for unsustainable materials. Check out my 10 top tips for thrift shopping!
Building a Stylish and Sustainable Wardrobe
Most of the time, we assume that the most responsible choice is also the least exciting choice, but that isn’t the case when it comes to clothes shopping. Who would think exploring the treasures of a vintage shop would also help save the planet? Using the tips above, you can build your own sustainable wardrobe without sacrificing an ounce of style.