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Your Guide to Sustainable Fashion: Part 2

Continuing our conversation on the need to change our consumption pattern through sustainable fashion, let’s now talk about some easy ways that we can be more sustainable: 

Shop less.

Not what everyone wants to hear, but this is sort of a no-brainer, right? If we are aiming to cut down our clothing waste, start with the root of the problem — buy less clothes. Keep in mind that most of the items we buy are designed to be thrown out after a new trend hits the runway (assuming that they don’t fall apart before a new trend arrives because of their quality), so by reducing our consumption we are also reducing the amount of landfill waste.

Avoid dumping clothing in the trash. 

Don’t be too quick to throw your old pair of jeans, and instead think about different ways to make use of them. Pass them onto a friend, mend them to your own style, or donate them! There are plenty of ways that you can make use of a clothing item that does not involve you contributing to the mountain of clothing waste that our fashion industry is already generating (around 85 percent of our clothing waste goes directly to landfill but nearly all of those can be recycled, making us the real culprits for the waste). 

Be mindful about your purchases.

Before purchasing an item, ask yourself these questions: will I wear this item more than 30 times (we love and support the #30wears campaign)? Does it make me feel confident? Will I still wear it five years from now? Would I want to run into an ex wearing this? Is it really my style? What other two items from my wardrobe can I style this with? Try to go for versatile and timeless pieces, rather than bold statement pieces for an occasion or two. These questions will benefit the planet (and your bank account) by reducing those impulsive purchases and one-time outfits.

Quality over quantity.

Change the way you spend on clothes. Think of each item as an investment, rather than a regular purchase. Invest in high-quality pieces that will last you a lifetime, rather than buying three pieces of poorly-made items that probably won’t survive the washer and dryer more than five times. Before you turn away from a price tag that’s higher than you want, compare the price with the quality of the item — sometimes you get what you pay for…

Do your research before shopping.

The Fashion Transparency Index reviews and ranks fashion brands and apparels on how “transparent” they are to their consumers, meaning how much information they disclose on the process of manufacturing clothes, from the sourcing of the materials to the consumer. Check out The Good Trade’s list of sustainable and ethical clothing brands here

Thrift instead of shop!

One good thing about going to school in New York City is the multitude of thrift shops from around the city. From downtown Manhattan all the way to Brooklyn, there are plenty of options and different price ranges for you thrift-lovers. Thrifting is also a great way to get your hands on unique, vintage pieces (which, in case you didn’t know, has been the fashion hype in recent years!). Check out TimeOut’s list of the best places to thrift in the city here!

Don’t despair, repair!

Before giving up on that cute pair of pants whose inseam came off, grab yourself a sewing kit and sew it back on (and I admit, I am kind of calling myself out with this one)! It really isn’t that hard, but if you don’t know where to start, there’s always YouTube to save the day. 

Look for organic or 100% cotton. 

Reading the label can be a hassle when shopping (but remember that these small steps really do count towards saving our planet!), but it’s necessary to avoid microfibers. Microfibers are these tiny particles of plastic that are used to synthesize fabrics like polyester and nylon; each time you wash your microfiber clothes, thousands of these little guys are released into the water system, consequently ending up in the ocean and possibly even inside many of our sea friends. Read more about the dangers of microfibers in clothes here

These are just some of the different ways you can be more ethical and sustainable about your fashion choices. The core idea is about changing your perspective on shopping so that you can integrate more sustainable fashion choices into your shopping. Be sure to check out my last piece on what sustainable fashion is and why you should care about it.

Grace Nguyen

Columbia Barnard '23

Grace is a Vietnamese freshman at Barnard College. She loves online-shopping, reading YA Fiction/Contemporary and fangirling, binging on murder mysteries + cooking shows and walking around aimlessly with music on.
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