- Tip #1: Get Used
It was cool in the '90s and it's cool again. Buying used is the ultimate way to keep your closet's carbon footprint small. But stepping out of a Goodwill or a used-jeans store doesn’t mean that you'll have to dress in some grungy plaid or frumpy floral. If you’re intent on maintaining your fashionista rep or hipster clout, scour flea markets and vintage boutiques for designer labels and edgy pieces that fit in with your personal style. For those who’d rather not drive to the store, there are plenty of online shops where you find your dream green outfit.
- Tip #2: Buy Clothes Made of Sustainable Materials
Buying used is greener, but if you do buy new clothes, at least make sure they're made of sustainable material. Bamboo and hemp (much more comfy than they sound) are planet-friendly because both plants quickly regenerate and are easily grown without pesticides (hemp's downside is that it must be imported since it’s illegal to grow in the U.S.). Organic cotton is another decent option; though cotton is a water-intensive crop, the organic variety at least forgoes the polluting chemicals. There have been developments in fabrics made of recycled stuff, including plastic bottles (Revenge Is is super soft) and other fibers (try Gramicci). Buying clothes from companies that donate to environmental charities and manufacturers that offset are other ways to vote green with your wallet. What to avoid? Synthetic fibers (polyester, vinyl, nylon), animal products (leather, suede), and cellulose materials (rayon).
- Tip #3: Care for What You’ve Got
A great way to conserve resources is to preserve the clothing you already own. Wash like colors together in cold water to prevent bleeding and fading. Sew up holes and tears. If you’ve gotten too big or small for an item, have it taken out or in. Worried that someone will notice that you’ve worn the same thing multiple times? Remind yourself that their new duds not only cost them money but also cost the earth: One cotton polo shirt travels more than 14,000 miles, causes 27 pounds of carbon emissions, expends 33 kilowatt hours of energy, and produces its weight in waste. That’s pretty shabby, no matter how spiffy it may look. If you have to buy new apparel, evaluate for durability and consider paying more for pieces that’ll take longer to land in the landfill. Buy classic styles, not trendy ones, to ensure timelessness.
- Tip #4: Make Over Your Wardrobe
Almost everyone loves a makeover. That's why we go shopping, right? To get a sense of renewal. While it might feel good in the moment to come home with a brand-new outfit, we forget the long-term effects of that purchase: the emissions caused by mass production, the energy it took to transport, and the waste it'll create when it's ultimately dumped. So how can we get that new feeling without buying anything new? One idea is to reimagine the clothes you don't wear anymore: Cut tees into tanks, make jeans into shorts (or capris or a skirt), sew patterned clothes into purses, unravel an old sweater and knit it into a new style, cover stains creatively, or turn any item a different color (with planet-friendly dye, of course). Another great solution is to host or attend a clothes swap with friends. Have everyone bring fashions and accessories that are still in decent shape and pick out pieces that are new to you.