Sustainable living can stretch to so many different areas of life and once you start thinking about it it’s difficult to stop! We made hundreds of small changes to our weekly shops, our eating habits and the products we used before we even considered our wardrobes!
Luckily we already bought a lot of our clothing second hand. But we hadn’t considered all the other ways we could still wear comfortable, fashionable and well-made clothes while being sustainable. So here are some tips we’ve collected for creating a more sustainable wardrobe!
Choose clothing made of natural fibres
What your clothes are made of has a huge environmental impact. From the way the material is produced, what happens when you wash it and how they break down at the end of their life.
Choosing clothing made from fabrics made from natural fibres such as cotton, linen and hemp are best for the environment as they won’t give off microplastics when washed and will break down in landfill once they can no longer be worn.
Synthetic materials such as nylon, acrylic and polyester are essentially plastics and produce waste when they are made, as opposed to being grown, as well as giving of microplastics and taking hundreds of years to break down in landfill.
Shop Second Hand to create a more Sustainable Wardrobe
Luckily, second-hand shopping has become really trendy and depending on where you live second-hand shops offer a huge range of clothing including designer brands, footwear and cheap staples.
In New Zealand, op-shops are a great way to shop for used clothing and goods as all the money is donated back to a variety of charities. But buying something that has been pre-loved rather than made new is always beneficial for the environment so if you don’t have access to good charity shops consider looking online or arrange a clothes swap with some friends.
Shop ethically made
Checking that any materials that went into making your clothing were ethically sourced is really important. Most companies who do this are transparent about it and many will be open about their processes if you ask. If a company won’t tell you information about their fabrics or workplace conditions then it’s probably a bad sign.
Sustainability isn’t just about the environment but also the people. Are the people who made your clothing paid a living wage? Are they working in safe conditions? All this information can usually be found out online and there are great directories such as Good On You where you can look up most brands and get a ranking on their ethical and sustainable practices.
If you know you’re only going to wear an item once or twice consider borrowing it from a friend or family member. Borrowing is a great way to get a ‘new’ clothing item for a special event which doesn’t have to be bought new or sit in the back of your wardrobe after the event. Got a dress-up party or wedding to attend? Ask around people who are your size and you might find the perfect item that’s free and completely sustainable!
There are also a growing number of online shops which allow you to rent items and return them when you are finished. Maybe you’ve got a job interview or just really want to have a new piece of clothing to wear without affecting the environment. Jump online and see what there is that’s already out there because something that already exists is the most sustainable option!
Spot Wash and Wash Less
We’re not talking about wearing smelly workout clothes for days on end but if you spill something on a clean shirt or just have a small spot that needs washing just wash that area rather than putting the clothing into a load of washing. You can also reduce how often you wash clothes if they don’t need it. Jeans and jumpers don’t need washing after every wear and I often wear my t-shirts for two days in winter.
Washing clothing less helps it to last longer which means you need to buy less new clothing. It also saves energy and water and stops micro plastics from being released into the oceans.
Create a Capsule Wardrobe
Owning less clothing and resisting the urge to continuously buy more is a great way to make your wardrobe more sustainable. Try creating a capsule or minimalist wardrobe consisting of items that are neutral and go with anything and a few special items that you really love.
Most people already have all the clothing they need and it’s more an issue of culling clothing. Try taking some things you no longer wear to the local charity shop or giving them to a friend who might wear them.
Buying good quality clothing can be an investment at the start but really pays off in the long-term. By choosing long-lasting clothing you can minimise the need to keep buying new things and know that your favourite clothes will last more than one season.
Good quality clothing usually combines well with ethically made and natural materials so it can be a win all round. To check the quality of a brand before you buy check for reviews online or research the materials they use.
Mend Your Clothes
Ever thrown away a piece of clothing because it had a small hole or rip? Try learning how to sew and mend clothing so next time this happens it’s an easy fix.
You can extend the life of your clothing by learning to fix it or finding someone that can. Many small holes and rips can be repaired without being visible but if it’s really bad try bringing patches back into fashion or using the fabric to repair another item.
If all else fails simply buy less. You don’t have to have a capsule wardrobe or one full of second-hand items. But if you reduce your buying of new clothing you’ll be reducing some impact on the environment. And that’s what we’re all about, living with a little bit less!