Avoid Fast Fashion and Make Your Closet Sustainable

Leaves on top of white hanger on top of folded blue jeans
Not sure what fast fashion is exactly? We’ve got the answer, along with tips for what you can do to make your closet more eco-friendly.

You might have heard a little bit about fast fashion, but you’re not sure what it is exactly or what’s so bad about it. Fast fashion is the term used to describe companies that produce high volumes of clothing items each year. These clothes are made cheaply, and they’re not made to last. 

So, how bad is fast fashion really for the environment? According to the Princeton Student Climate Initiative, “The fashion industry is currently responsible for more annual carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. If the industry maintains its course, an increase of 50% in greenhouse gas emissions is expected within a decade.”

Recognize the Problem

Considering the carbon emissions alone, it’s pretty clear that it’s time to stop supporting fast fashion companies. That means it’s time to stop buying their clothes and to demand change. 

Demanding change from these companies who treat not only the environment poorly, but also treat their workers terribly, is a good step. But the most effective way to stop supporting fast fashion is to stop giving these companies your money.

Avoiding fast fashion might sound difficult. These stores are everywhere, and they’re so convenient. But with just a few steps, you can make your closet (and your life) more sustainable.

Be the Solution

Every small step you take to help the environment counts. And every person who refuses to buy fast fashion is making a difference. Right away, you need to know that this journey isn’t necessarily going to be easy – but it will be rewarding.

Making your closet more sustainable involves a lot of planning and time. Be patient with the process and be patient with yourself. There’s a lot to learn! You aren’t going to make your closet sustainable overnight – and that’s okay.

Create a Vision Board

Laptop screen showing Pinterest page

Before you start on this journey of making your closet more sustainable, it’s important to think about what your goals are for your wardrobe and your personal style. Do you need more work clothes? Or are you looking for more outfits for going out? Do you already have too many clothes, and you need to find a way to cut down on what you own?

As you answer these questions, think about your personal style. If you don’t already have Pinterest, now is a great time to use this tool to help you find inspiration. If Pinterest is overwhelming (there are so many options!), then consider using a tool like Canva to make a digital vision board using screenshots of outfits that you like.

Or, make a vision board using cutouts from magazines. Look through newspaper ads, magazines, or if you’re feeling artsy, even draw your ideas of what your ideal wardrobe would look like. Once you have a vision for your personal style, you can start taking action to make your closet more sustainable.

Take Inventory of Your Clothes

You have a vision of what you want your wardrobe to look like. Now it’s time to dig through your closet and your dresser drawers. What pieces do you already own? What pieces are you missing? Set aside an afternoon or a day to take inventory of your clothing. Wheel out your under-bed storage boxes with your out-of-season clothes. Dig in the very back of your closet. Look through every item in your dresser drawers.

If there are clothes in your closet that you just aren’t wearing anymore, now is the time to give them to a family member or friend. Donate the clothes that you don’t want or need anymore to people first. You can even offer them up to people who might need them in your local Buy Nothing group on Facebook. After exhausting those options, donate to a trustworthy local organization. 

Be Creative With What You Have

Woman looking through closet

When you’re taking inventory of what’s in your closet, you’ll probably rediscover items that you forgot you owned. It’s like buying new clothes without spending any money!

Shopping your own closet gives you the opportunity to get creative. Compare what you already have to what’s on your vision board. Can you copy the looks on your board using what you already have, or can you put together similar outfits?

You might be surprised by how much you can do with what’s already in your closet. Remember, it’s so much better for the environment (and your bank account) to wear what you already own than to keep buying more clothes!

Read More: Three Cozy and Eco-Friendly Sweaters for Fall

Identify What’s Missing

You’ve taken inventory of all of your clothes. You know exactly what you own. Now it’s time to make a list of what you’re missing. Look at your vision board for your ideal wardrobe. Which items do you truly need that you don’t already have? 

Make a list, and keep it in your phone, your planner, or somewhere else where you won’t forget it! Instead of giving into the temptation to buy the next cute item you see in a store, don’t let yourself purchase a clothing item unless it’s on your list. It takes willpower, but remember, what you’re doing is good for both your wallet and the environment.

Repair and Take Care

Woman using sewing machine

Part of having a more sustainable closet is taking care of what you already own. If you’re missing a button, sew on a new one. Patch holes, bleach whites, and otherwise fix clothing items to make them last longer. If you’re not confident in your ability to repair your clothes, find a local tailor or seamstress to repair them for you.

At the same time, take care of what you own. Wash your clothes on cold unless they’re heavily soiled. Hang them to dry instead of putting them in the dryer. Only wash your clothes when they need it – for example, wait to wash denim until after you’ve worn your jeans several times. 

Shop Secondhand

Woman shopping in a thrift store

However, sometimes you’ll need to replace an item that can’t be repaired anymore. Or you’ll need to fill those holes in your closet and check items off your list. When it’s time to get new clothes, shop secondhand first. Check the racks at your local thrift stores – you might be surprised by what you find!

Thrifting clothes, especially vintage items, is more sustainable for several reasons. You’re not giving your money to the fast fashion industry. If you by a vintage item, you’re also more likely to be purchasing something you can keep and wear for years because vintage clothes are (usually!) much more well-constructed than what’s made today. 

Soon it’ll be time for #SecondhandSeptember, so remember to use the hashtag, share about all of your thrift finds, and see what others have found!

Or Shop Sustainable Brands

However, you might not be comfortable buying your underwear, bras, and socks secondhand – and that’s totally understandable. Or you might need clothes with a more modern fit for an upcoming interview or important work event. 

When you need to buy new, shop sustainable brands. As more and more people have learned about the harm that fast fashion does to the environment, there’s been an increase in the demand for sustainable brands. Take a look at what these sustainable brands offer:

  • Pact
  • Harper Wilde
  • Tentree
  • Teddy Locks
  • Girlfriend Collective
  • Reformation
  • Wolven
  • Wholesome Culture
  • Christy Dawn
  • The Classic T-Shirt Company

The chances are good that you’ll find what you need from one of these companies.

Avoid Fast Fashion Brands

No entry sign against a cloudy blue sky

Sometimes you have to buy new and you can’t wait for a sustainable brand to ship you an item. When you need to buy new, there are certain stores you should definitely avoid. Watch out for companies that produce high volumes of clothing each year. According to the Sustainably Chic blog, “These companies are often very vague and not entirely transparent about their suppliers and how products are made

“They don’t give any specific information about what exactly they’re doing to mitigate their environmental impact. They also do not provide evidence that they offer their workers decent and safe working conditions, as well as living wages.”

The top stores to avoid are:

  • H&M
  • Forever 21
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Zara
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Nasty Gal
  • Fashion Nova
  • American Eagle
  • Abercrombie & Fitch
  • Old Navy
  • Gap
  • Shein
  • Mango

Watch Out for Greenwashing

At the same time, it’s important to keep an eye out for greenwashing. Greenwashing is when a company says that their products are made sustainably, but they’re not actually as sustainable as they would want you to think.

According to EcoWatch, “In this way, companies use greenwashing to appeal to customers who care about the environment without having to make meaningful changes in their business practices

“It’s typical for greenwashing companies to spend far more time and money marketing the ‘eco-friendliness’ of their products than on working to ensure they are sustainable”

You probably don’t have the time to research every brand that’s out there. But if your gut instinct is telling you that a company is making false claims, trust it. Don’t buy from that company until you’ve investigated their claims.

Extra Credit: Talk to Your Friends

Two young woman talking over coffee

Taking these steps to make your closet more sustainable is an important life change. But it doesn’t have to end here. You can also talk to your friends about the harmful effects of fast fashion, too! 

Share what you’ve learned. Be specific about how fast fashion pollutes the oceans with microplastics and pumps harmful chemicals into the environment. The industry also uses exorbitant amounts of water to fabricate these clothes that are barely ever worn and end up rotting in landfills. 

Your actions matter and avoiding fast fashion makes a difference!

Read More: The Top Resale Apps to Snag and Sell Pre-Loved Clothes

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