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4 Tried and True Methods to Help You Build a Sustainable Wardrobe

Long gone are the days where sustainable fashion was stereotyped as being boring and uninspiring. Thanks to many eco-friendly fashion influencers, sustainable fashion brands, and a shift in the world’s perspective regarding global warming and pollution, sustainable fashion has become the talk of the town within the global fashion industry. 

However, as trendy as it may sound, making a conscious decision to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle takes effort, planning, and commitment. Yes, I know that the words zero-waste, sustainable, and eco-friendly may sound a bit daunting for those of who have never dabbled in conscious consumerism, but the key takeaway here is for you to make gradual, day-by-day decisions that are directed towards a greener wardrobe. To help guide you revamp your way to a sustainable wardrobe, here’s a list of four simple strategies you can start practicing today that will hopefully aid you. 

Visit your local thrift store

Shopping second-hand is a great alternative to shopping in the mall. It’s also a much more eco-friendly choice, considering that the production and packaging of your typical fast fashion garments (think Forever 21, H&M, or Zara, to name a few) takes up a lot of energy and water to make, plus buying second-hand reduces the wasteful impact of clothing disposal. In fact, it’s estimated that in the United States alone each person has, throughout their lifetime, disposed of 80 pounds of used clothing. You definitely want to keep this in mind next time you’re thinking of going shopping at the mall or throwing some clothes away. 

A huge plus of getting thrifty or buying vintage is that you are bound to find a variety of original, quirky and unique garments to rev up your style game. For those of you who live in Puerto Rico, I highly suggest you start by visiting one of my personal favorites, called Electroshockーa store that’s known for its fast-changing product rotation and relatively budget-friendly prices.

Learn to sew and create your own staple garment

Remember the good old days when we used to DIY everything (I’m talking about you, arts and crafts!) by just typing in a simple phrase on YouTube? If you wanna take this practice to the next level in a way that actually does wonders for the environment, I recommend you invest in a worthwhile sewing machine and teach yourself the basics of sewing. Learning how to hem pants, add appliques, sew zippers and buttons, mend torn garments, and embroider t-shirts or jackets can actually prove to be a lifesaver when it comes to building your very own sustainable closet. Instead of going to the mall every week and purchasing a new outfit for every new date or social outing, consider revamping the clothing items you already own and transforming them into something new altogether! If you already know how to sew, or feel confident enough to take the plunge and try something new, you can always purchase or download a sewing pattern.This way, you can start adding handmade, customized clothing items to your closet. Trust me, there’s no better feeling than wearing something you made from scratch!

Choose “slow and ethical” over “fast and mass-produced”

Did you know that three out of five fast fashion items end up in a landfill? Or that 63% of textile fibers are derived from petrochemicals? That’s right, fast fashion is one of the most harmful industries in the world, accounting for 10% of all global carbon emissions. Not only that, but fast fashion factories all over the world (the majority being located in extremely impoverished countries) are known for underpaying their workers, not providing them with health insurance and other fundamental benefits, having them work under dangerous conditions, and enforcing gender-based discrimination practices. If this isn’t enough to convince you that fast fashion is incredibly harmful for the environment, as well as for the workers involved in the making of your garments, I highly suggest you watch a documentary or do some additional research by visiting pages like fashionrevolution.org for more statistics. 

Instead of making fast fashion shopping decisions based on the current trends, opt for purchasing less and higher quality items. Consider spending more on fashion staples that will last you for longer than that $7 t-shirt or those $15 dresses from your fave fast fashion chain. Buying ethical and slow-produced generally implies higher prices. However, think of it as an investment you are making for the environment and the garment workers’ wellbeing. Another pro-tip is for you to check the labels on what you buy, so that you’re aware of what you’re actually wearing. Look out for sustainable threads, textiles and fabrics, such as these. Once you know about the best fabrics and the impact certain fabrics have on the environment as well as on your skin, you won’t want to keep using nylon or polyester on a daily basis.

Donate clothing items that no longer serve you

Saying goodbye to our favorite clothing items is never easy. However, it’s unrealistic of us to keep buying and buying and pretend that we will expand our closet’s contents infinitely. This idea is not only false, but it’s also very harmful to the environment. If you want to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, you need to accept and come to terms with the fact that clothes will come less than they go. So, next time you’re making a closet cleanup or find some items that no longer fit or serve you, consider donating them to your favorite thrift shop, Salvation Army center, or charity of your choice. Chances are, there’s someone out there who may need them more than you do. By doing this, you are perpetuating a circularity cycle. In simple terms, this essentially means that you are returning the garment to the supply chain instead of disposing of it in a landfill, where it will inevitably contribute to global waste.

Like any process, becoming a sustainable consumer does not happen overnight. But progress will happen once you start to make consistent, conscious-driven decisions to make the world a cleaner and healthier place to live in. Livia Firth, founder and creative director of the international creative consulting agency Eco-Age, sums up the main idea of this whole sustainability game perfectly: the goal here, after all, is to “become an active citizen through your wardrobe.”

Hello! My name is Andrea Capllonch and I am a Marketing Undergraduate and Fashion Design student at the University of Puerto Rico. When I'm not sewing/designing clothes, I enjoy spending time outdoors doing yoga, reading good books, writing about fashion, and spending time with my friends and family. I'm also a self-love advocate, introverted Ravenclaw, and a fan of all things lavender!
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