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Tips to Shop Ethically & Sustainably


By Abigail Hess

It is no myth that the fashion industry creates a high amount of pollution. Fast fashion in particular has a very unsustainable life cycle, as fast fashion companies focus on creating as much product as they can in a short amount of time to deliver to their customers. This means that environmental corners are often cut to produce such high quantities of textiles in a short amount of time.

In considering all of these issues in the textiles industry, it’s hard to understand how we can continue finding clothing that makes us feel confident and stylish without playing a part in serious environmental harm. Luckily, there are so many options that let us find clothes that make us happy without promoting unethical companies! Below, I have listed 7 incredibly easy ways we can all do our part to make our closets eco-friendly.

 

1.  Fair Trade

We are obviously a fair trade company, but what does it mean to be fair trade.  There are a number of components such as paying fair wages, positively impacting the community, transparency, and safe working conditions.  Finding companies with these principles is as simple as a google search!  Here are a few other fair trade companies that we love:  Fair Indigo, Fair Anita, Abby Alley

2.  Thrifting

Thrifting is a great way to recycle lightly used clothing, while simultaneously finding unique and vintage pieces. Thrifting is like a treasure hunt, and the prize is finding cute clothes while spending a fraction of its original selling price! Popular thrifting stores, also located in the Madison area, include Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul’s, the Salvation Army, and Plato’s Closet. Shopping at these stores is also a charitable act, as many donate to charities that support homeless, disabled, and unemployed populations. Rethreads is also a thrift shop that is located on our very own State St., with a wide selection of cool eclectic pieces.

If you prefer shopping online, have no fear! There is a wide array of thrift stores you can access through your computer, like ThredUp, Resku for Nike sneakers, and ASOS Marketplace. Many apps are available to use as well that sell gently used clothing and accessories, including Poshmark Depop, and TheRealReal which sells designer handbags for a fraction of the original price.

3.  Rent Clothing

Websites like RentTheRunway have created a whole new way to reinvent your wardrobe for a low cost. You can rent an article of clothing for a designated amount of time, usually for a lower cost than the items original selling price, then return the piece to the company for someone else to love it down the road. This is a great way to never get bored of your closet, and to fix that tricky dilemma of buying an outfit for a single event only to never wear it again. Many popular clothing brands have subscription packages as well that offer the same benefits, such as Nuuly created by URBN, and American Eagle Style Drop.

 

4.  Buy Less Clothing

One somewhat obvious way to reduce your shopping carbon footprint is simply to shop less often. Invest your money into quality items that are sustainably made instead of multiple trendy sweaters you may only wear once. This may help you spend less money in the long run, if you invest in very well-made pieces that will last you for a longer time. Buying items that are really built to last, such as Campo https://campoalpaca.com/ can help you construct a smaller closet that will last longer than 6 months. 

Capsule wardrobes are becoming a popular way of creating a smaller, more minimalist wardrobe full of timeless pieces that all work together well. If you’re into watching YouTube videos on fashion, there is a plethora that describe exactly how to create an incredibly stylish closet based off of a few basics.

 

5.  Alter, Hem, and Revamp Old Clothing

It happens to all of us: a sweater you loved to pieces a year ago just isn’t that cute anymore. Luckily, there are many ways you can change up the pieces you already own to make them into something totally different. Maybe the pieces need to be cropped or hemmed a little at the bottom, or maybe adding a new patch or graphic design is what that old tee shirt needs to make it into something much more special. 

A shameless YouTube plug; there are many unique and fun ways to create entirely new articles of clothing from what you already own. Some channels that really inspire with their creativity in making new pieces include TheSorryGirls, JenDIY, and Lauren Elizabeth to name a few. And if the article of clothing is truly helpless in your eye, make sure to donate it instead of throwing it away if it is still in good, wearable condition. Something you’re totally sick of wearing could be someone’s perfect find at Goodwill.

A company we LOVE is called the Endery - they use the spare bits of fabric that are left over to create beautiful products.  They even sell alpaca sweaters!

6.  Avoid Certain Fabrics

This tip is harder to do, as common fabrics are harmful to the environment. Polyester, specifically, is partly made of plastic, and when it is washed tiny microfibers of plastic fall off and are flushed into the oceans, which may circulate back into our waterways. Many active-wear brands are made using polyester, so finding brands that create active-wear from alternative materials is a great hack for still being able to wear stylish leggings while working out. The Girlfriend Collective is an amazing brand that creates all of their leggings from recycled water bottles, and Threads 4 Thought also carries many athletic-wear options created from recycled materials. Rothy’s is an incredibly popular online site that sells shoes made completely from water-bottles- our founder LOVES these shoes!

 

7.  Free Apps to Help You Research and Discover Sustainable Brands

It can be difficult to know where to start when researching which brands cause harm to the environment, which don’t and which are on their way to becoming more sustainable. There are so many different aspects to look into, such as where they source their materials, the conditions of their textile production facilities, and the chemicals used to dye their fabrics… the list goes on. Luckily, there’s an app for that! The app Good On You has taken the time to do the research of popular brands of every category and rank their sustainability on a five point scale. They also post articles every month all about sustainable fashion and the brands that are making a big impact in the industry! Another pro tip for the online shoppers out there- a free plug-in called DoneGood can show you if the site you are shopping on is sustainable, and will be able to provide sustainable alternatives for the type of clothing you are shopping for. How convenient!

Links to Clothing Sites Listed, and Then Some:

Rent the Runway: https://www.renttherunway.com/

Campo: https://campoalpaca.com/

Endery: https://www.theendery.com/

Rothys: https://rothys.com/

Girlfriend Collective: https://www.girlfriend.com/

Thread 4 Thought: https://www.threads4thought.com/

Everlane: https://www.everlane.com/

People Tree: https://www.peopletree.co.uk/

Naadam: https://naadam.co/

Veja: https://www.veja-store.com/en/


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