It’s official — sustainability is more than a passing fad. According to a survey by Genomatica, 95% of consumers in the United States think it’s important for brands to be eco-friendly. Unfortunately, the majority of shoppers say they still don’t know how to support sustainability, with Genomatica’s CEO, Chrisotphe Schilling, adding that most consumers are unaware of how goods are made or where the materials come from.
If you’re one of the millions trying to make the sustainable shift, here are some quick tips to get you started:
1. Get familiar with sustainable materials
Retailers use a lot of jargon to greenwash their products. To avoid accidentally supporting a brand that doesn’t support green initiatives, familiarize yourself with the types of eco-friendly materials being used.
For instance, in lieu of animal hide, many brands are turning to Mylo, which is a synthetic mycelium-based leather substitute. Recently, Adidas announced they would be using Mylo Unleather in future products, starting with the iconic Stan Smiths. The Mylo can be tanned and embossed similar to normal leather making it an excellent substitute. For clothing, some designers are turning to sustainable plant-based textiles. Italian brand Miomojo has even released a collection called Prima Linea which uses a material called AppleSkin—made with waste from apple juice factories. The more you know about the raw materials being utilized, the better you can gauge its sustainability.
2. Develop a versatile capsule wardrobe
Also called a “lean wardrobe”, this practice encourages people to adopt a personal, modest, and intention-driven approach to clothing. All you have to do is identify existing pieces that are absolute musts, and then use them as style anchors for your wardrobe. Any items that don’t fit or are damaged can be recycled or donated.
When you do shop, invest in versatile pieces. Some transitional staples include nude heels, trench coats, and bodysuits. Other examples include denim jeans and leather jackets — both of which have sustainable options like Levi’s, Nanushka, and Stella McCartney. Another big benefit of a pared down, versatile wardrobe is that it’s less stressful to navigate. Choosing outfits can be overwhelming, so having a capsule wardrobe is better for the planet and for your mind, too.
3. Consider quality, not quantity
To satisfy demand, the industry produces over $500 billion worth of waste annually. Business Insider explains that the fashion industry produces 10% of all carbon emissions globally. And because fast fashion items aren’t made from the best quality materials, they have a shorter lifespan, making shoppers buy more items, more often.
So, instead of making decisions based on price, consider how an item was made. Something that costs more but is made from premium materials with ethical standards is likely to last longer. To illustrate, a pair of vegan Doc Martens 1460s cost around $200, but they can last up to a decade. Meanwhile, a pair of imitation leather H&M boots (likely made in an offshore sweatshop) cost roughly $50, but aren’t particularly great when it comes to standing up to your daily wear and tear.
Fashion is all about self-expression, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of irreparable environmental damage. By mindfully adopting eco-conscious consumer habits, we can help usher in a new age of Earth-friendly fashion.
4. Shop at second-hand stores instead
One of the best and most exciting ways to support a circular retail ecosystem is to shop at second-hand stores. They have a diverse and reasonably priced selection of clothes and accessories. Because most second-hand stores acquire their goods from estate sales or donations, you’ll have to put in extra effort to find the item you want.
Today, many stores specialize in second-hand goods. Some are even curated to offer rare and designer finds. Before setting out, do your research to find reputable establishments and buy only what you need. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose and will likely congest your closet. A campaign to fight fast fashion by the retailer Nordstrom found that the average adult throws away 10 items of clothing a year due to unnecessary buying and poor maintenance. So, be mindful of what you purchase to help reduce textile waste in the first place.