How to Shop Sustainably
How to Shop Sustainably
How to Shop Sustainably

Talks

Sean Kernan in Mind Cafe

How to Shop Sustainably

read 4 min

Do you know how to shop sustainably?

The nature of capitalism and the fashion industry is to make more money by encouraging customers to buy more and more. This leads to people buying clothes they don’t need, that are bad quality, and they end up throwing away. The negative contribution the fashion industry makes to the environment is detrimental.

In New York City alone, residents waste 100,000 tons of textiles or the weight of the Brooklyn Bridge times 14. Just think of how much more waste the commercial fashion industry produces around the world not to mention the humanitarian concerns of employing people at low wages to produce quickly. This really highlights the importance to shop sustainably. 

The industry throughout the supply chain has a lot of work that needs to be done but it is ultimately driven by the consumer. If more people choose to be better fashion consumers and shop sustainably, big companies will adjust accordingly, as we have started to see. We’ve talked about how to be a better fashion consumer and how to consume sustainably on this blog before but today we will focus on practical ways on how to shop more sustainably.

How to shop sustainably

Shop Sustainably – Mindset

The first step to shop sustainably is making a mindset shift. When you are brought up in an environment that encourages needless spending it is hard to stop and ask yourself why you might need to buy something. Sometimes it’s out of need but for a lot of it is out of want, boredom, comparison, loneliness. You soon will see that you probably shop discretionarily too much. 

There’s nothing wrong with shopping for fun sometimes but if you find yourself constantly buying more than you need, it’s a good idea to stop and examine your shopping habits. Also to examine where the clothes/products you buy come from and educate yourself on the harmful nature of capitalism. Doing all these things will help you be more mindful when shopping in the future.

Shop Sustainably – Shop Used

Shopping thrift is the easiest way to shop sustainably and be a more sustainable consumer. Thrifting at resell shops and charities has become a popular pastime in recent years because of the economical and environmentally conscious nature of thrifting. You can find thrift stores by going to goodwill.com or salvationarmy.com and searching for locations in your area or using your maps app on your phone and searching for thrift stores that are local to your area if you prefer not to shop chains. 

Shopping used enables clothes that have been discarded to remain in use and not be burned in a landfill adding toxic fumes to our environment. It extends the life of the clothes encouraging circularity. If there are not any locations near you or you prefer to shop online there are a plethora of options to shop sustainably. 

You can buy and sell gently used clothes on apps like Poshmark, Depop, Thredup, and Ebay. This is a good way to find clothes exactly in the style and size you prefer. They often cost a little bit more but the convenience can be worth the extra cost.

Shop Sustainable Brands

Shopping sustainable brands is also a good option because these brands make sure they are reducing their environmental footprint in their clothing production process. You can find clothes that have been certified sustainable to ensure that the brand is indeed what they say they are. 

Sustainable brands are often more expensive because they pay fair wages and use recycled materials that are costly because of the process of reprocessing fabrics. They may have less inventory because having an abundance of merchandise also contributes to product waste. 

The designs are usually more classic and less trendy so the styles last longer. Therefore sustainable brands are a good place to buy staple wardrobe pieces. Read this article here for more information on how to find sustainable brands. 

Shop Sustainably – Shop Less

When you buy higher quality clothes that cost more per item you may find you are not able to buy more quantity. However, quality over quantity is better in the long run. Buying large amounts of clothes for little money is how most fast fashion brands make their money. 

Social media has contributed to this trend with people making large haul videos influencing people to want large closets of trendy clothes. However, these clothes don’t last long or go out of style quickly so people find themselves throwing away and buying at frequent and large amounts. 

That is why shopping less is a sustainable option. You are contributing less to the toxic cycle of frequently discarding clothes to fill thrift stores, charity shops, and ultimately landfills. When you buy clothes when you need it and that is enough for you, you do better for the environment.

Shop your Closet

The most sustainable way to shop is to not shop at all. Not buying new clothes ever is quite impossible, however it is possible to shop less frequently by really utilizing what you already own. This goes along with the mindset idea earlier in questioning why you feel the need to shop so much when you already have enough at home. Many of us are privileged enough to have closets full of clothes but nothing to wear. 

The reason we have nothing to wear is because we buy frivolously without thinking about how we will really use the item. When the time comes when we have an event or something to go to, we really didn’t think how that article of clothing would fit into our lifestyle so we end up with closets of trendy clothes but they may not necessarily suit our body types, personal styles, or lifestyles. 

Taking the time to see what you have, put outfits together for different scenarios will cause you to realize you have a pretty good stock of items already. Reorganize your closet in a way that is pleasing and functional as that will help you appreciate your clothes more as well. There’s no better way to shop sustainably than shopping your own closet! Nothing gets produced or disposed. 

If you enjoyed this article about how to shop sustainably, you can read more about Ways to be a better Fashion Consumer, or you might want to find out How to Consume more Sustainably in general.

By Zoe Phinazee

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