Loving fashion and improving your sustainability score don't have to be mutually exclusive. Note that I said 'improving' because there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to sustainability or anything else for that matter. However, every little bit counts towards helping make the world a better place for our and future generations. Here are 7 easy ways to help.
1. Be strategic about what you buy
Before handing over your cash for that article of clothing or jewelry, think about whether it fits your lifestyle (do you really have an event coming up where you can where that glamorous evening gown), works with items that you already own (the last thing you want is to buy even more stuff to go with what you're thinking of buying), fits your body type and fits your style. If it doesn't meet this criteria then just say no, despite how cute or on trend it is. I'm a big advocate of only buying things that I know I can wear years from now. Nothing beats timeless, nothing.
Along the same lines, if something has made the cut and you've handed over your hard earned cash, then for goodness sake take care of it. Handle your clothes and jewelry with respect by investing in the appropriate storage accessories (no, a floor-robe does not count as a wardrobe) and dressing appropriately for each activity. You wouldn't wear an expensive silk blouse to fry the Thanksgiving turkey or your embellished pumps to play soccer would you?
2. Buy vintage
Buying vintage is not only great for the environment but it will ensure that you don't look like everyone else out there who is wearing the latest jeans from Citizens of Humanity or another popular brand. Another plus is that you're probably supporting a charity in the process since most used clothing is donated to charities like Goodwill etc. who then resell it to support their outreach programs.
However, the best part of buying vintage is wearing something that has a history. What could be cooler than wearing a vintage dress that was once worn at the Oscar's by a Hollywood starlet or a pair of vintage jeans that have travelled all over the country on the trucker that previously owned them? Brands like Dalasini, Re/Done etc. all sell vintage items that have been upcycled.
3. Buy from sustainable brands
It's getting easier to find fashion brands that think about the impact of their decisions on the environment and community than it was in the past. We try to make it easier for you to find these brands by featuring one on our blog every Friday. Check out our previous posts on Truss, Re/Done and Reformation and sign up for our newsletter to get notified of our blog updates.
4. Don't wash after every wear
I know, I know this is going to be hard for the OCD folks but believe me when I tell you that you don't need to wash your clothes every time you wear them (except panties of course because that would just be gross). Spot clean as soon as possible after a spill to avoid stubborn stains and only wash as needed. Not only will you save water (especially for anyone in a drought stricken area like California), you'll save on detergent and your clothes will last for much longer.
If you do have to use the washing machine, wait until you have a full load so that you don't waste water and energy (try to purchase energy star appliances as well), turn the items inside out and use the lowest temperature possible. Switching from hot to cold water can prevent at least 500 pounds of carbon monoxide per year from entering the atmosphere. That's the same amount of energy as using a blow dryer for 30 minutes twice a week. How's that for size?
To minimize the number of washes required, I hang up my clothes at the end of the day to air out after spritzing them with a fabric refresher like Eco Breeze to get rid of any wrinkles or odors. Another trick that I'm sure you've all heard about is to keep your denim fresh by sealing it in a ziploc bag and putting it in the freezer to kill bacteria and get rid of odors. Hey, if it keeps your favorite jeans from wearing out, why not?
5. Skip the dryer
I didn't even know what a dryer was until I moved to the US and I still managed to look put together (at least I thought I was LOL). In fact, most people all over the world line dry their clothes and you can too. Line drying for just three months out of the year can eliminate up to 350 pounds of greenhouse gases annually. That's the same amount of energy as driving a Toyota Prius 1,800 miles (the distance from Cairo to Barcelona). Road trip anyone?
6. Keep dry-cleaning to a minimum
While the industry has made great strides in the last couple of decades, chances are that your neighborhood cleaner uses tetrachloroethylene (a known carcinogen and pollutant) as the primary solvent for cleaning. Try to find a green cleaner that uses water (also known as wet cleaning) as the primary solvent instead. This goes a long way in reducing the toxicity and carbon dioxide emissions associated with garment care.
You'll be glad to know that most fabrics that are typically recommended for dry cleaning e.g. silk, wool, suede, leather etc. can be 'wet cleaned'. Another option is to hand wash these items instead especially silk, linen and wool, then dry them flat.
7. Recycle your old and unwanted clothing
That skirt that's no longer in style or those jeans with a hole in them don't have to go in the trash. Americans throw away an average of 68 pounds of clothing every year which is a lot when you consider that many synthetic materials can take at least 20 years to decompose .
You'll be surprised what a talented tailor can do to resuscitate your old duds. I've had a pair of much beloved jeans patched at least three times because I wore them to death or you could take that maxi skirt and turn it into a cute and on trend midi style.
If this is too much hassle or expensive for you, you can always donate to charities like Dress for Success, Goodwill, Salvation Army etc.or use Freecyle to keep your old stuff out of landfills. Remember, one (wo)man's trash is another (wo)man's treasure.