How to Curate a More Sustainable Closet

If your heartbeat quickens every time CNN reports some unbelievable statistics about how humans are abusing the environment, trust me, you’re not the only one. Trying to create daily sustainable habits can be really overwhelming, especially if you’re particularly concerned with saving the planet. Luckily, curating an environmentally-friendly closet can do a lot – and it’s less intimidating than you think. 

Partaking in sustainable fashion habits doesn’t necessarily mean you have to live a waste-free lifestyle or recycle your clothes for the rest of your life. If anything, it means that you’re willing to become more conscientious of the materials and brands you’re buying. Here are a couple of steps that the everyday college woman can take to ensure your closet is a little more sustainable.

Stop giving your money to fast fashion.

A huge no-no in the eyes of sustainability is supporting and shopping at fast fashion retailers. While these stores are relatively inexpensive, their garments are a direct result of their low-costs. By purchasing low-quality pieces that aren’t built to last, you’re more likely to throw them out after only a few months of wear.

In fact, The Independent reported that materials like polyester, a common synthetic fabric used by fast fashion retailers, often shed microfibers that add to increasing levels of plastic in the ocean. These retailers also are notorious for using toxic chemicals in order to achieve vibrant colors and patterns, but methods like textile dyeing are the "second largest polluter of clean water, globally." 

Instead of supporting brands with questionable ethics, get in the habit of investing in high-quality clothes that are created to withstand wear and tear. While it’s guaranteed to be a little more expensive, you’re paying for quality pieces and supporting better brandsReformation repurposes vintage clothing, People Tree has been around for almost three decades and Patagonia and Adidas even dabble in sustainable marketing. 

Hit the thrift store.

Since investing in high-quality garments can create a serious dent in your wallet, it’s important to know that there are other options out there – like secondhand clothing stores! They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but thrift stores are actually great for the environment. 

Shopping secondhand also gives you the opportunity to add unique and individual pieces to your closet. There is a multitude of vintage stores that exist in the world, some of which are more expensive than others. The point remains, though: Shopping at thrift stores extends the life of clothing pieces.  

As a consumer, you’re also spending money outside of the fashion cycle, meaning that you’re not supporting a particular brand or trend either. Apps like Depop also allow for a similar purpose, except you’re purchasing secondhand clothes from online retailers. 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Shop your favourite LFWM looks on Depop.

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Donate your clothes.

Since you’ll be replacing a portion of your closet with sustainable clothing, that means you’ll also need to go through your current wardrobe and get rid of some things.

When going through your clothes, ask yourself questions like: Would I wear this tomorrow? Could this piece go to a better cause? When was the last time I even wore it? (Or if you’re like the rest of us and are currently on a Marie Kondo kick, use her famous “spark joy” method.) 

With that in mind, create a pile of clothes that can be donated, rather than thrown out. We too often assume that used clothes should just be tossed in the garbage when they can actually go to a second home. Some ideas are donation bins, thrift stores, or even shelters for the homeless or battered women and children. Give your used clothes a chance by handing them off to people that would benefit from them instead of contributing to growing landfills. 

Related: The 6 Best Places to Shop Vintage in New York

Take a trip to the tailor.

There are often times where we impulsively buy clothes that we think will look great, but when we head home and try them on, we realize that they’re a bit ill-fitting. Sometimes these items are returned or exchanged, but other times they sit in the back of the closet, never to see the light of day again 

Instead of holding onto useless pieces that you’ll inevitably throw out, take a trip to your local tailor and get those items fixed and hemmed! This avoids the all-too-common habit of tossing clothes in the garbage, and you’re getting your money’s worth by getting clothes specifically fitted to your body. 

It doesn’t get much better than that. 

Educate yourself.

Above anything, it’s always useful to educate yourself on the different ways you can contribute to a more sustainable universe. Every little step counts, even if it’s as simple avoiding fast fashion retailers for a month. 

Learn about specific brands to avoid or shop smarter – AKA, investing in more essential pieces that can be worn and styled more often, like a basic sweater. When it comes to restocking your wardrobe, try questioning whether or not the clothes are made with natural materials or are cruelty-free.

Curating green fashion habits doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” lifestyle. Making an effort to educate yourself and consume consciously is always a win for the planet. 

Whether it be cleaning out your closet and donating unwanted items or engaging in some conscious shopping and avoiding fast fashion retailers, the planet will inevitably thank you for your efforts. The ultimate goal is to create a more sustainable world, and it can start somewhere as small as your closet.