Updated: Jan 30, 2022
In today’s day and age, we’ve seen a large shift in consumer preferences towards shopping and living sustainably. Most of us are more than familiar with seeing buzzwords like “organic”, “fair trade”, and “cruelty free” plastered across product labels in every grocery store as companies adjust their marketing strategies to cater to consumers’ tendency to choose the more sustainable option. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Nielson reports that 81% of global consumers said it’s extremely or very important that companies implement environmental improvement programs. But while shoppers are actively choosing greener alternatives on their grocery trips, the same cannot be said for clothing shopping sprees.
Another buzz word you may have heard, “fast fashion”, pertains to one of the largest industries in the world, apparel. But what is fast fashion, and why is it bad? In simple terms, fast fashion is apparel that’s cheap, trendy, and disposable. It’s the easiest and most affordable way for consumers to keep up with constantly changing trends and the expectation to stay “in fashion” at all times. The problem with fast fashion is its enormous negative implications in both its production and disposal, the first being the reason why it’s so affordable in the first place: cheap labor, and cheap materials. An average garment worker not only makes an average of 2-6 cents per piece, taking home a grand total of about $300 for 60-70 hour weeks, but is also exposed to dirty, cramped, poorly ventilated, and overall unsafe working conditions. Furthermore, the garments they’re producing are made mostly with highly polluting chemicals and plastics that won’t decompose for hundreds of years. In other words, fast fashion items are sitting in landfills and polluting soil and water almost as quickly as the newest fashion trend surfaces.
Consumer demand for sustainable and ethical practices has begun to surface within the fashion industry, yet, a report by Nosto showed that while 52% of consumers are demanding more sustainable practices, only 29% are actually shopping for sustainable clothing. This disconnect is an easy one to pinpoint: sustainable fashion is exponentially more expensive. Of course consumers want living wages for garment workers and less pollutants in the environment, but it’s hard to practice what you preach when it comes with such a high cost. Luckily, sustainable fashion doesn’t necessarily have to equate to forking over your life savings, so we’ve compiled a list of affordable ways to stay fashionable while reducing your ecological footprint too!
Macklemore was onto something with his iconic 2012 hit “Thrift Shop”. A taboo of the past, secondhand shopping has seen a massive revival, going on to become one of the most popular trends among younger generations, and for good reason. It not only keeps millions of pounds of others’ unwanted clothing and other items out of landfills, but it’s accessible, affordable, and fun! As most items found in thrift stores are truly unique, shoppers are likely to make purchases that fit their personal tastes rather than simply bulk buying anything and everything “on trend”; offering the opportunity to really refine and experiment with your own most authentic style. As you build a wardrobe by taste, you're also less likely to grow tired of your purchases, keeping your clothes out of landfills. Overall, secondhand shopping is like a puzzle, each piece is one-of-a-kind, but they all come together to form an overall picture of your own sense of fashion.
Similar by definition to recycling, upcycling is using discarded textiles to make a product of higher quality. Recycling unwanted clothes requires water and energy to break down the materials before something new can be made, and some items aren’t even recyclable in the first place, while upcycling requires nothing but your own creativity! Upcycling is as simple as taking a tour through your closet and imagining the endless possibilities of what your unwanted clothes could be. For example, that old dress in your closet could be a stylish matching two-piece set, and that sweater you got for your birthday that you haven’t touched can be turned into warm gloves and a hat! Not only does upcycling create higher quality and unique pieces, but it keeps textiles out of landfills without wasting the additional resources required to recycle them, making it a more sustainable alternative. Whether or not DIY projects are your thing, you can still upcycle on a budget by finding easy, no-tool tutorials, or simply taking a trip to your local tailor.
Shop Your Friends’ Closets
It’s hard to deny that shopping sprees with friends are a fun way to socialize while updating your closet, but it’s also easy to get caught up in the excitement and overspend, especially on trendy fast fashion items. Our next alternative to fast fashion is not only eco-friendly (and free!), it’s also just as fun as a party because, well, it is one! Clothing swaps are gatherings where guests bring clothing items that they value but no longer use, and exchange them with one another. Clothing swaps are easy to plan and can be as big or small of an event as you choose, so whether you bust out the wine and charcuterie boards, or keep it more lowkey, you’re still mixing up your wardrobe and keeping clothes out of landfills all while bonding with friends and loved ones. When planning a clothing swap, we recommend designating stations for different categories of clothing items to avoid messes or chaos that may arise in the excitement, but, if you and your guests find the chaos more entertaining (we don’t judge), you can always format your event in a free-for-all style. Inevitably, once everyone has picked through the piles, there will be left over items, but don’t fret! While you can always simply donate the leftovers, you can also sort through any sellable items, post them on Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, DePop, etc., and fundraise for a good cause.
Reduce, Reuse, Repair
Of course we couldn’t leave out our favorite topic: shoe repair! Millions of shoes end up in landfills every year, and these items are certainly not eco-friendly. Most shoes are partially, if not fully, made up of materials that are not biodegradable, and are extremely difficult to recycle as they contain many different materials. For those items that are more difficult to upcycle, repair, or find secondhand like shoes and leather, try stopping into our shop for repairs that are easier on your wallet and the environment. By repairing instead of replacing, you’re not only keeping these items out of landfills, but also reducing the amount of materials required to produce new shoes, leather, and faux leather items.