When I think of sustainability and being environmentally-friendly, I admittedly exclude my wardrobe from the areas I try to reduce my carbon footprint. With companies committing to ridding their stores of plastic straws, and others installing solar to create their own clean energy, it’s easy to forget that this section of our lives can also be changed to have a more positive impact on the environment. We wear clothes literally every day, and this kind of frequency has a lot of untapped potential to make our world more sustainable.
Clothing, the way we manufacture it and shop for it now, is a big drain on the environment, and the fashion industry is one of the most wasteful in the world. A recent report shows that only 1% of clothing is recycled, and each year, half a million tons of microfibers contaminate waterways, harming marine life. Not to mention the harmful carbon dioxide emissions that come with mass-producing and transporting clothing.
Creating a sustainable closet doesn’t have to mean throwing out all of your clothes and spending tons of money on ones that are made with strict, environmentally-friendly practices. You can start small with a few shifts in the way you might normally buy clothes, which overtime will leave you with a sustainable closet. Below are a few easy things that all of us can do to shop more sustainably to ensure our clothing choices have the smallest impact on the environment.
1. Realistically evaluate how much you’ll wear it: I’m guilty of not doing this one enough. Sometimes I’ll see something and buy it without a second thought, only for it to end up in a donate pile after just three uses. Instead of impulse buying, try to realistically evaluate how much you’ll wear something. If it’s more of a one-time piece of clothing that might be out of style in a season, try to skip it and go for something that has more longevity and that you can, and want to, wear repeatedly.
2. Look for high-quality clothes made to last: This one involves more of a mind shift in the way you might typically shop. With this, you’ll spend more upfront, but buy less overtime, actually helping you save money in the long run. By investing in pieces of clothing that are high-quality and made to last, they’ll rid you of the frequent need to replace clothes that wear out after only a couple of uses.
3. Donate your unwanted clothes: This one probably sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s important to keep in mind. Instead of leaving items you don’t wear hanging in your closet, donating them helps other people be more sustainable by buying your old pieces instead of new ones. Having a general rule of every time you buy something, you’ll also donate something in your wardrobe is an easy way to keep up with this.
4. Prioritize natural fibers: Being more conscious of what material your clothes are made of can go a long way in creating a sustainable closet. Clothes made out of synthetic materials, like polyester, nylon, and acrylic, can take anywhere between 40 to 200 years to decompose and account for a large percentage of clothing sitting in landfills. They also require chemicals to make and can end up polluting the water supply in some countries. Choosing more natural fibers, like cotton, wool or silk, is a great way to work towards a sustainable wardrobe.
5. Change your perspective: Having a closet that is environmentally friendly shouldn’t evoke images of brown-colored clothing that lack any appeal. With more brands and companies shifting their focus to sustainability, it’s been easier than ever to start creating a sustainable closet that you’ll actually want to wear.
If you’re looking for more ways to make your life more sustainable, we invite you to download our complimentary whitepaper: Is Solar Right for You? to explore if solar is the right choice for you and your home.