How to Buy Clothes that are Less Harmful to the Environment

When we talk about saving the planet, we often talk about fast fashion and the negative impacts that it has on the environment. While we can all agree on the severe impact fast fashion does have, we can also agree that sustainable options may not always be suitable for everyone. Whether those reasons may be costs, sizing or accessibility, it leaves many consumers still going back to old habits. Here are some steps you can take to be a more cautious shopper.

  1. 1. Buy Natural

    People don’t always have the money to buy from a sustainable store, which usually then leaves only fast fashion options. It is important to note that many items in these retailers include synthetic materials, such as polyester and nylon, that never end up disintegrating into the environment. Not only are such fabrics bad for the environment, they’re also not the greatest for our skin (as it doesn’t allow our skin to breathe and often contains toxins). Check for materials like 100% cotton, wool or lyocell. Even if those end up in the landfill, they will decompose because of their natural fibers. While we cannot always ignore fibers such as polyester and nylon in clothing pieces such as tights and leggings, we can start with things we can change, such as shirts and sweaters.

    sustainable clothing rack
  2. 2. Don’t Follow Every “Aesthetic/Trend”

    All aesthetics don’t work for everyone, trust me I know (and it sucks when you like particular fashion). They aren’t always catered for all body types and budgets. So pick trends or aesthetics that do make you happy and narrow down your choices. Or, find things that you wouldn’t mind wearing them long term and invest in more classic pieces. This helps you buy less, which in turn helps the environment in the long run (and saves a little money too, and who doesn't love that?).

  3. 3. Question Green Fashion 

    Many fashion brands – including fast fashion brands – advertise their clothing as recycled and include recycling programs to get you to come back to the store. However, most of their “recycled” clothing doesn’t even end up getting used as many clothes cannot be shredded and reused to create new clothes. Be careful of where you donate and what green fashion means to each retailer. Instead, consider donating your used clothes to thrift stores!

  4. 4. Avoid “Vegan Leather”

    Another item to look for is vegan leather. Most vegan leathers are advertised as being eco forward and animal friendly. However, the reality is most of these items are created out of plastic. While it may be good for animal cruelty, it doesn’t help animals in the long run. The fumes and disposal of plastic is just as, if not more, harmful for these animals. While I’m not saying to go out and buy leather, there are now options to buy vegan leather made out of plants, or you can buy leather or vegan leather items second hand.

  5. 5. Thrift, Thrift, Thrift! 

    This is an obvious one but buying second-hand is one of the greatest things you can do and give a piece of clothing a second chance. While we all cannot access thrift stores right now due to the pandemic, we can use online platforms dedicated to selling second hand clothes. Some of my favorites are Depop and eBay. Other options include Marketplace, Poshmark and Kijiji as well. Also make sure to recycle and reuse the boxes the items come in if you get an item shipped!

    a glimpse inside a thrift store

This article was not written with the intention to try to guilt trip anyone. These are just tips I have picked up over years of shopping. I hope these suggestions make you aware that there are other ways to be environmentally friendly if sustainable options don’t work for you.