How to be a Sustainable Shopper

Fashion week is a semiannual occasion that takes place in September and February. It is one of the most prestigious events for people in the fashion industry, and designers prepare year-round for the debut of their upcoming collection. It can be exhausting for attendees as they try and score the best seats in the house, spend an infinite amount of time planning outfits and going to various fittings. It's crazy to believe that fashion week just happened last month when all of the latest styles and trends from the runway are already in stores today. Fast fashion is to blame when trendy items are being mass-produced and distributed around the world at a cheap price to consumers. This epidemic is great for college students on a budget who still want to remain fashionable, but there are also consequences regarding the practices of fast fashion. It's extremely harmful to our earth's life cycle, for one. According to The New York Times, Burberry burned "28.6 million pounds, or about $37 million, of clothing and cosmetics" in just one year. This is just one company in a trillion dollar industry. Just think of the collateral dangers that have accumulated based on the unnecessary waste that other companies and consumers are adding to our environment. As a consumer myself, I fell into the fast fashion trap and became a culprit for not protecting our earth. However, I hope we can all overcome this practice by changing the way we shop, and where we shop, for new clothes. We can start by becoming more educated, and more aware of how our clothes are made, and where they are made. Here are some tips to help us reduce the amount of waste generated by the garment industry and to gradually lower our carbon footprint over time.  

1. Thrifting

Thrifting is so underrated and it's always an adventure on it's own because you never know what you might find until you get there. The best part is, if you get something from the thrift store, it is most likely to be one of a kind. By thrifting, you are saving the world one piece at a time. In addition, vintage is always "in" because fashion trends come and go in a cycle; a few years later, it's back again (just like our exes). Thrifting is also more affordable and sustainable than getting it firsthand. Here are some good thrift stores around Boston:

The Goodwill Store

965 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215 & 520 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

The Garment District

200 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

(PS. They also have a great variety of Halloween costumes, so you might want to check it out if you still don't have a outfit) 

Thrive Exchange

176 Newbury St, Boston, MA 02116

2. Resell your Clothes or do a Clothes Swap

Another way to be sustainable is to find another home for your unwanted clothes by reselling them. Sometimes we outgrow things, or forget to return something so it's just sitting in our closet. As the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure. By selling your clothes, you are reducing the amount of waste in our environment. And who doesn't like the extra income flowing in. With the age of the internet, we can sit in the comfort of our own home and sell our clothes to strangers while saving the earth. Related to this, you can always swap clothes with friends if you ever get bored of your own wardrobe. It's fun and you can try out different styles without the hefty price tag. Some good apps to try include Depop, Poshmark and thredUP. 

3. Donate your Clothes

Instead of throwing out your clothes once they no longer fit you, consider donating them! There are people out there who will be more than happy to receive them. Goodwill and the Salvation Army are just a few places where you can donate clothes. You can also think about starting a clothing driving at your school, workplace or neighborhood and donate to organizations that are looking for slightly used/new clothes for those in need. This can make a big difference for those in your community, and for the earth.  

4. Up-thrift

This may sound like a new concept to some, but it's been relevant for a while. When something doesn't fit right, you can always go to the tailor and get it hemmed. The same goes for clothes at the thrift store, or clothes that you may already have. If you have a shirt that you don't wear as much, you can revamp it and give it a new look. Sometimes the newest style trends are just a slightly altered version of the trend from last year. By DIY-ing clothes, you don't have to worry about having the same outfit as someone else because you can customize it the way you want and have it fit you properly. Brands like RE/DONE are thriving in this category by selling denim that was re-purposed from old garments. Urban Outfitters have a section called Urban Renewal where they sell vintage clothes that are refurbished. Instead of shelling out lots of money to corporations, you can do this yourself and help the earth at the same time.

5. Minimalist Look/Capsule Wardrobe

Let's face it, we own way more clothes than we actually end up wearing. However, it seems like every day is a struggle when trying to pick out a cute outfit, so we end up wearing the same thing over and over each week. To solve this problem, we can buy things that we already love in different colors and stock up on basics. It's nice to step out of our comfort zones once in a while and try out a new trend, but we always end up gravitating towards the same pieces. To avoid this dilemma, try downsizing your closet by going for a minimalist look or experiment with a capsule closet. Capsule closets are full wardrobes (usually consisting of 10-25 pieces) that contains all the essentials we need to mix and match and prepare outfits for our daily lives. It can help save time in the morning when getting ready, and it's great when having to pack for a trip.

6. Avoiding Fast Fashion

Here are my mixed feelings about fast fashion retail companies. I like shopping there sometimes, but at the same time I feel extremely guilty when I purchase something from these big corporations. I suggest that if you love the item, and believe that you would put it to good use, then by all means buy it! But if you are on the fence about the item, and are planning on  buying it because it is cheap or solely because it is on sale, then maybe reconsider your purchase. It's easy to get carried away when shopping, and there's no use in buying more than you need.

7. Transparency (Buying from Sustainable and Ethical brands)

Being sustainable and ethical is more than just what we do with our clothes after we discard them. As human beings, we have a social responsibility to care for the well being of one another and our environment. This means taking the initiative to learn about where and how our clothes are made, and making sure that the companies we support care about fair wages, good working conditions for employees and the ecosystem. Here are some examples of companies that are sustainable and ethical:

Reformation

A millennial fan favorite, Reformation is attentive towards how they source their material. They care a lot about sustainability and emit less waste into the environment by using less water in the production of their fabrics. Plus, while Reformation can get crazy expensive, they are partnering with threadUP to let customers exchange clothes (they don't have to be from Reformation) in exchange for Reformation credit.

Everlane

This is another great company that shares with its consumers every step of how the garments are made.

Patagonia

They are a world leader in this niche market because their overall mission is dedicated to serving us. They care about the world that we live in and are constantly fighting for our human rights.If you have ever bought from them, you know their quality is superb and that their garments will last you for a long time. If a zipper breaks, or if you got a whole in your fleece, they have lifetime guarantee and would fix it up for you at no additional cost. They also offer credit for new gear when you trade in your old gear, and create new items from your recycle items from their Worn Wear division.

We should always support companies who look after the consumer and the environment. Be sustainable and ethical in your shopping this fall!