Last year, I watched The True Cost on Netflix and cried through it watching the horrific ways that fashion impacts the environment and exploits people and animals. For some reason, I had just never made the connection before between my shopping habits and their detrimental impacts. My closet was already pretty minimal through embracing a capsule wardrobe, but I still was choosing large corporate brands like GAP, J Crew, Target, H&M and Forever 21 (embarrassing but true). I was also buying a trendy pieces impulsively and disposing of them when I got bored, moving on to the next cool thing. I kid you not, one time I moved and I had 10 + trash bags FILLED with clothes. Did you know the US trashes 26 BILLION POUNDS OF CLOTHING PER YEAR and purchases 80 BILLION pieces of new clothing per year? To add insult to injury, most of the clothing is not biodegradable, either, since it’s largely made out of synthetic materials.
As always, the most sustainable choice with any type of good is used, because it doesn’t take any new resources to make + you are taking it out of the waste stream. This is why I started shopping almost exclusively at thrift stores, except for items like undies and socks. I keep all of our wardrobes (mine, husband, kids) minimal and choose natural fibers whenever possible. Here’s my method when I need a new piece of clothing:
- Head to my local thrift stores. Check out all the ones in your area so you know which ones you prefer. Make sure you have enough time to look through things- if you’re in a rush you will definitely get frustrated and not find much. Take a deep breath and enjoy the process! You could even put on a playlist on your phone and listen with headphones to make it more enjoyable.
- If I can’t find something at my local thrift stores, my next resort is: Ebay, Poshmark, The Real Real, Vestiaire Collective, Depop, and sometimes Etsy (vintage stuff). These all offer used clothing and are great when you’re looking for something very specific. I always include a note to the seller asking something like “Please ship in reusable or recyclable shipping materials only- no plastic please! I live a sustainable lifestyle and I’m trying not to create any trash. Thank you so much!”
- New- if I must buy something new, I always will buy from a sustainable, ethical company. I haven’t had occasion to resort to this for any clothing except socks and undies, which I ordered about 6 months ago from Pact Organic which unfortunately came packed in plastic (ugh). So I’m still looking for a better option there. Let me know if you know of one! Other amazing companies include: Reformation for womens clothing (I steer clear of the synthetics but their linen pieces are fantastic and well made) Veja sneakers (vegan jute ones) Jungmaven (amazing hemp and organic cotton tees and sweatshirts) Elizabeth Suzann (thoughtfully designed minimal pieces in gorgeous raw silk, linen, cotton) Patagonia (long time sustainability mavens).
In addition to being hugely environmentally friendly, buying secondhand also allows me to spend way less for higher quality pieces that last a long time. Buying less also makes me happier. A minimal, ethical closet = peace of mind for me. Enjoy these pictures of my kids in awesome secondhand finds.