12 WAYS TO BE SUSTAINABLE IN FASHION
Fast fashion has changed the way people buy and dispose of clothing. Fast fashion has caused clothing consumption to skyrocket by selling large quantities of clothing at cheap prices. Globally, 80 billion pieces of new clothing are purchased each year!* Although fast fashion gives us an opportunity to buy more clothes for less, it causes environmental hazards to those who work or live near manufacturing facilities. The environmental and social costs involved in clothing production seem to be never-ending, and include low worker wages and poor working conditions, the water-intensive growing process of cotton, and the release of untreated dyes into local water sources. Approximately 85% of the clothing Americans consume end up in landfills. This amounts to nearly 3.8 billion pounds of clothing annually added to landfills*, which is the weight of nearly 15 CN Towers!
It is important now more than ever, to find ways to be sustainable in fashion. We have to move away from fast fashion and change the life cycle of our clothing. Here are some tips and suggestions on how we can encourage the movement towards slow fashion, reduce our environmental footprint, and keep our clothes out of landfills!
1. CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE
The most important piece of advice I can give you in becoming more sustainable in fashion, is to change your attitude. The fast fashion industry bombards us through constant marketing and makes us feel like we need to be consistently buying the latest trendy pieces. It is this very mindset towards our clothing that needs to change in order to successfully find ways to be sustainable in fashion.
2. ORGANIZE YOUR CLOSET
The most sustainable clothing is the clothing you already have! Organize your closet so you can actually realize the potential of your current wardrobe. This allows you to see everything you already own, making it easier to access and style your pieces. I’m sure you have some gems in the back of that closet waiting to be rediscovered! Although it may sound intimidating, I recommend setting a day aside to try on everything in your closet. This will give you a good idea of what still fits you, what you are missing, and which pieces to let go. Tip: Don’t keep anything that doesn't make you feel good! If it's in the maybe pile, it’s most likely time to let it go.
3. REPAIR AND ALTER YOUR CLOTHES
Favourite sweater has a little hole in it? Fix it! No one will notice and we know you still want to wear that favourite sweater years to come. Instead of throwing loved items out, find ways to repair them or better yet, alter them to give them a new life! We all have those favourite jeans that fit like a glove but have started to fray at the bottom from years of everyday wear, cut them up and alter them to be your new best fitting pair of shorts! There are tons of simple ways to revamp your clothing, from making simple cuts and stitches or even painting a cool image over them. If you have money to spare, support your local artist by letting them turn your old clothes into a one of a kind piece of wearable art!
4. SWAP, DONATE, RESELL, RECYCLE
Never throw out any old clothing!!! This not only wastes money and resources but most clothing that ends up in landfills takes hundreds of years to decompose and in the process generates methane gas and leaches toxic chemicals and dyes into groundwater and our soil.
Instead, host a clothing swap with your friends! Nothing better than a clothing swap to refresh your closet and pass along the pieces that you once loved. We can always use an excuse to get together with friends!
Declutter responsibly and donate any clothing that you’ve outgrown or fallen out of love with that is still in good condition. There are many organizations and charities that distribute it to people in need, and you can find clothing donation bins all over your city. You can also donate to secondhand stores like Value Village who will in exchange give you 20% off your next purchase with them.
Boutique consignment stores like Common Sort in Toronto will hand select pieces from you and in exchange give you store credit to shop with them. Other consignment stores may even give you cash or a portion of their profits! A quick tip, always check with the consignment store what type of clothing they are looking for at that moment so you don’t end up lugging all your dresses in December when they are in need of sweaters and coats.
If you’re looking to make some extra cash or have some higher ticket items that you just can’t bring yourself to donate, try reselling them on places like Depop, Facebook Marketplace or Poshmark. It's always nice to see those once loved items find a new home, and even better when it gives you some extra pocket money!
Lastly, we all have those t-shirts and jeans that are overworn and beyond repair. Do NOT throw them in the garbage, and regular recycling facilities unfortunately don’t accept textiles and clothing. Instead, find your local textile recycling programs and drop off your deteriorated clothing there. Accessible textile recycling programs are offered at American Eagle and H&M who have both partnered with I Collect (I:CO). They accept all clothing regardless of brand and condition. At VUK, we are accepting ALL textile donations which we will collect and drop off to the Markham Textile Recycling Program. This includes scraps, stuffed toys and anything made of fabric. There is no textile you can’t donate!
Photo Credit: The Star
5. TAKE CARE OF YOUR CLOTHING
Properly caring for our clothing not only keeps our clothing looking new, but also increases its longevity. Always read the care label and wash your clothing according to instructions. As general clothing care, wash like colours together, wash with cold water when you can as this uses less energy and prevents shrinking, and avoid using tumble dryers. Air drying is the best way to dry your clothes, as tumble dryers can cause shrinking and pilling, on top of wasting energy.
Wash your clothes less often! I know most of us are guilty of grabbing everything we see on laundry day and just throwing it in the wash, but not everything needs to be washed so regularly. Of course, our intimates and work out clothes should be washed after each wear, but denim and sweaters can be washed less frequently. This will keep them from wearing faster, use less energy, and shorten your laundry days!
Avoid hanging sweaters and knitwear as gravity will cause them to stretch and distort the shape of the garment, and no one likes saggy shoulders! Fold sweaters, knitwear, and garments made with stretchy or slinky material. This will help them keep their shape and last you much longer.
6. DO YOU REALLY NEED IT?
When acquiring new clothes we have to try and move away from the fast fashion mentality of constantly seeking the latest trendy pieces. We are used to flipping through racks of clothing and grabbing whatever catches our eye, or browsing through online stores and adding things to our carts with one easy click. A piece of advice is to ask yourself “Do I really need it?”. Most of the time you’ll find yourself putting it back on the rack or removing it from your online cart. Try to avoid clothing shopping for the sake of clothing shopping, but rather save it for when you need something or really want it. This will not only save you money, but it keeps your closet from getting cluttered and unworn items getting lost in the back. It will also make you appreciate new pieces more when you finally do bring them in!
7. QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Quality over quantity, always! If this isn’t incorporated as one of your regular practices, make it one ASAP. A classic example I’m sure most of us have been guilty of, is rushing before a vacation to buy 5+ swimsuits for $20 a set from fast fashion giants like Zaful or SHEIN. Not only are these types of places the least sustainable and unethical, but out of the 5+ swimsuits you ordered you’re lucky if one actually fits you well. You’re even luckier if that one swimsuit lasts you more than one season, which leaves you again next season looking for new swimsuits. Instead, I recommend buying one or two swimsuits from sustainable brands like us at VUK Swim, which are made from high quality and durable ECONYL® fabric that will last you many seasons and are made to stand the test against chlorine, salt, and sun. We have a range of sizes from XS-2XL, as well as custom sizes available to ensure your swimsuit fits perfectly and you look your best for all your vacation photos!
8.CHOOSE SUSTAINABLE FABRICS (AVOID MICROFIBERS)
Choose natural fibers like organic cotton, silk, linen, and wool whenever possible. Fibers like polyester and nylon contain microfibers which often end up polluting our oceans as they are extremely difficult to clean up and take hundreds of years to decompose.
Regenerated fabrics are a sustainable option for products that cannot be made from natural fibres like swimwear and camping gear. Sustainable brands like us at VUK Swim and Patagonia use fabrics like regenerated nylon and recycled polyester which are made from recycled fishnets, industrial waste from landfills, and plastic soda bottles.
9. INVEST IN GOOD BASICS
Invest in timeless pieces that won’t go out of fashion and that you can wear year-round. Good basics like jeans, tees, denim jackets, and cardigans can easily be styled with almost anything, and can be worn in the summer and winter months. I recommend sticking to more neutral colours, or colours that you regularly wear. This makes it easy to style and match with your existing pieces and allows you to create your perfect everyday wardrobe.
10. SHOP SECONDHAND
Shopping secondhand and vintage goods has become widespread and accessible. These days it's easy to come across great pre-loved finds that are not only a sustainable choice, but also a fraction of the cost!
There are many accessible ways to shop secondhand clothing, from physical secondhand stores like Value Village and Goodwill Boutique to online stores like Community Thrift and Vintage and Black Market Clothing. Facebook Marketplace and Depop are also great ways to find local pre-loved pieces and connect you directly with the seller.
There are many luxury and designer resellers like Poshmark which allow individual sellers to list their items. Organizations like Turnabout and My Luxury Closet curate vintage designer pieces and guarantee authenticity or your money back.
Additionally, I recommend checking out local consignment stores which hand select vintage pieces and carry in-season clothing, like Common Sort in Toronto.
11. RENT/BORROW FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS
Have a special event like a wedding or a birthday party? Instead of buying a new dress which will likely get worn just the once, look into renting a dress for the occasion. This is a more affordable choice, and ensures you’re never seen wearing the same dress twice while still being sustainable. The Fitzroy in Toronto is a great example, and has a wide selection of outfits and dresses for every occasion. Alternatively, borrow a dress from a friend or a family member for the event!
12. BUY FROM TRANSPARENT BRANDS
Ok, you’ve decluttered, swapped and donated your closet and clothes, but there are some items you just need to get brand new. Buy from brands that are transparent about their manufacturing process and supply chain. Support brands that treat their workers fairly and are trying to make a difference. Beware of greenwashing, many brands have realized how popular the sustainability demand is and are creating pieces appealing to the eco-minded shopper while still underpaying their workers and using unsustainable fabrics in their other lines. Most sustainable brands will openly share their processes and ethics on their website. If a brand isn’t sharing or being transparent there is likely a reason for not doing so. If you have a question or want further information, don’t be afraid to ask them directly! Send them an email or a DM, and any transparent brand will provide you with an honest answer.
Check out VUK's sustainable initiatives here.
I hope this guide helps you find ways to be sustainable in fashion! Subscribe to our email list to receive more blog updates like this!Sources:
* The global environmental injustice of fast fashion | Environmental Health | Full Text