In celebration of Earth Day today, I wanted to share a blog post centered on sustainability in fashion. I imagined this post featuring photos taken in the beautiful Rocky Mountains to celebrate the wonder and awe of Mother Nature, but of course, the rainy and snowy weather of the past few weeks had different plans for me. I do have to admit, though, that I am a little apprehensive to publish this blog post… Why? Because talking about sustainability in fashion seems like an oxymoron. After all, we all know that the fashion industry is a major polluter to the environment and a huge emitter of greenhouse gases. Fashion blogging itself, something that I am so passionate about, is often inherently contradictory to the goals of sustainability and ‘green living’. So as fashion lovers, how can we reconcile this?
I’m not going to pretend like I am the most eco-conscious consumer out there. Not even close. I’m also not going to pretend like individual action will have that large of an impact on the state of the climate, as I have taken enough sustainability and climate change classes by now to know that corporations shoulder most of the blame. But hey, taking some individual action is still better than nothing, right?
Also, this post is not designed to throw shade or make anyone feel guilty about their fashion habits, rather, I just wanted to share a few tips that I have easily implemented to make my own wardrobe just a little greener. I hope you enjoy and find a little inspiration, too!
While I grew up wearing lots of hand-me-downs, the first time I went thrifting was to purchase my sophomore year homecoming dress from a local consignment shop. Ever since, I have loved finding unique items in secondhand stores, especially dresses for fancy occasions! Today’s post is comprised of photos of some of my favorite thrifted items from over the years (click the link below each pic to see the original post). While I admittedly still do not turn to thrift stores for basic items like jeans, I really want to start shopping at them more predominantly. Not only are they super affordable with unique pieces, but buying clothes secondhand is so much better for the environment than buying something new off the rack. Plus, it’s just so much fun! I’ve mentioned before that thrift shopping is like going on a treasure hunt, and that is my very definition of a good time.
Y’all already know that I’m not very trendy when it comes to fashion (or really anything, for that matter), and you can read all my reasons for that in this blog post. But one very good reason to rethink being trendy is the impact that trends have on the environment. When new styles are released once or even twice every season, the fast fashion industry convinces us that our old clothes ‘aren’t good enough anymore’ and that we should replace them with something in style. I’m definitely guilty of falling for this! But unless you’re willing to look noticeably dated by wearing trends long after they’re no longer ‘in’ (also me), trendy clothes are designed to be worn once or twice before either falling apart or being discarded. That is the true definition of unsustainable.
Repair Your Clothes.
In the sustainability class I took last fall, one of the assignments was to interview a grandparent about what it was like when they grew up (in relation to resource use, sustainable practices, etc.). Something that my grandpa mentioned that really stuck with me is how resourceful people used to be—if something broke, you fixed it yourself! But nowadays, on the other hand, people are so quick to throw out pieces the second they’re no longer perfect and to replace them with new ones. So next time one of your garments rips or gets a stain in it, try repairing it yourself. Hand-stitching a hole is not difficult (especially now that YouTube exists), and stained pieces can become the perfect item for your next tie-dye or DIY project. I have a box of ripped clothing items to repurpose in other projects, and I even made a facemask out of old pajama pants that had stretched out! Plus, if you search “upcycling” on Pinterest, the cute ideas for repurposing clothing are endless.
Wear Items More Than Once Between Washes.
I am a big advocate for wearing jeans two or three times between washes. Same with sweatshirts, pajamas, and sometimes even sweaters. Do some people think this is gross? Probably. But as long as you didn’t sweat a bunch or eat really smelly food, there’s no reason not to rewear pieces between washes. (That’s what perfume is for, right?) Running the washing machine uses a lot of water and energy, and I have read that laundering your clothes is a huge contributor to an individual item’s carbon footprint, even more so than the production of that item. Plus, less laundry = less work for you, and not washing after every wear helps your clothes last longer.
Choosing quality pieces over fast fashion is easier said than done, especially if you’re like me and know nothing about fabric types. However, lots of items are cheaply made if they are super thin, if they have a lot of static cling, if the patterns don’t match up at the seams, if sheer items are not lined, etc. This graphic has some helpful tips on spotting quality clothing as well. Buying pieces that will last, instead of cheaply made trendy items season after season, is a much more sustainable approach to fashion.
Take Care of Your Clothes.
Going off the previous point, you have to be taking care of your clothing properly and reading the tags when doing laundry. This is kind of a pet peeve of mine. Oh, your favorite sweater shrunk? I have no sympathy because you didn’t. follow. directions! The best way to make your clothing last is to wash and store it properly, and if that means handwashing it in the sink per instructions, then that’s what ya gotta do. I always hear girls talk about items they purchased at stores like Forever 21 and how they “just fell apart” after a few washes. While I have never shopped at Forever 21, I have bought plenty of cheap clothes in my lifetime, and even the most cheaply made pieces will not fall apart so easily if you are washing them correctly. Aside from workout wear and casual clothing (and pieces that need to be handwashed, like bras), I would argue that everything you throw in the washer should be put on the delicate cycle. All of my collared shirts, blouses, dresses, skirts, etc. are washed this way to keep them in tip-top shape. And you should also…
Hang Dry Everything.
In addition to washing my clothes on the delicate cycle, I also hang everything up to dry. For one, the dryer machine uses a lot of unnecessary energy that leaves a much bigger carbon footprint for each clothing item. But two—and this is admittedly the reason I started air drying everything years ago—is because it’s so much better for your clothing! You would be surprised by how many items are supposed to be line-dried per the instructions on the tag. Plus, then you don’t have to worry about accidentally shrinking your favorite piece. And if you live in a dorm and share a dryer with an entire building, the dryer smells funky and is kinda gross to begin with. Skip the hassle and money. I just use one of these drying racks, and if I run out of space on that, I hang items on the shower curtain rod in my bathroom!
Wash All of Your Clothes on Cold.
Okay, my last laundry tip for the day, but you should also be washing everything on cold. Doing loads of laundry with hot water is such a huge waste of energy, especially considering that most tags on clothing items call for cold water anyway. And in my experience, even if something says you should wash it on warm/cold or another setting, cold/cold will work just fine (whereas, washing something with hot water when it explicitly says to wash it with cold water can decrease the longevity of the item and lead to shrinking). This is such an easy change to implement to make your wardrobe a little greener!
Learn From the Clothing You Donate.
When you get rid of clothing, for any reason, pay attention to why you are donating those pieces. If you no longer wear an item, is it because it’s no longer trendy? Did you only wear it once? Did the item not launder well or did the seams start coming undone? Was it too static-y? These are all important questions to ask yourself when cleaning out your closet because they can help you make more sustainable and informed decisions when shopping in the future. If you find yourself constantly giving away items from a certain store, you should probably stop shopping there. And if you have noticed that you can’t stand clothing that gets static-y (which I have found is common with cheaper fabrics), then pay attention to that particular fabric blend and avoid it in the future. The more you love the pieces already in your closet, the less you will have to get rid of in the long run and the less you will have to buy.
As I disclaimed at the start of this post, I still have a long way to go in making my love of fashion more sustainable. But hopefully these tips are a little more manageable than simply saying ‘stop buying from fast fashion’. While there are certain stores that are undoubtedly concerning with their extremely low prices and poor treatment of workers, such as SheIn, Forever 21, and Boohoo, there are other stores with normal prices that also contribute to the problem. Buying from more expensive brands does not necessarily mean they are sustainable or treating their workers any better, and unfortunately, truly ethical brands are still not very accessible to most of us. My point? Refusing fast fashion is a lot easier said than done. That’s why I wanted today’s post to focus on much more realistic tactics that we can all start easily implementing right now.
At the end of the day, we need to rethink our relationship to fashion. Rather than always wanting the newest and trendiest items, we should be falling back in love with the pieces already in our closet, season after season. For me, finding new ways to style old pieces has always been the fun and challenge of fashion anyways. And, as the founder of the Fashion Revolution movement Orsola de Castro stated, “The most sustainable garment is the one already in your wardrobe.”
In other news, thank you so much to everyone who participated in last week’s linkup! I was so excited to see such a high turn-out. Be sure to link up your most recent posts this week, too:
Thank you so much for stopping by today, and have a happy Earth Day!
Miles of smiles,