How to Help the Environment with More Sustainable Clothing

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Sustainable clothing choices are just one part of caring for our planet, but it makes a big impact! 

You’re likely here because you’re looking for more ways to help the environment. Your closet is one of the easiest avenues to doing just that.

clothes hanging on a rack with text overlay 'how to switch to sustainable clothing'

Your closet has a huge environmental impact

It’s true. Fashion (and particularly, fast fashion) contributes an insane amount of waste, swallows resources, and pumps out greenhouse gases. It’s the second most polluting industry on the planet. Dyeing and treatment of clothing alone accounts for 17-20% of all industrial water pollution. Not to mention the often unethical treatment of workers in warehouses overseas.

But there’s one stat that affects you directly: the rapid pace that most people refresh their closets. One study found that on average, people don’t even wear at least 50% of what they own.

Sound crazy to you?

Your clothing purchases DO make an impact

Whatever your feelings on capitalism, our current US system allows the consumer to decide what survives and what doesn’t.

I truly believe that change can gain steam based on where and how we spend our dollars. I’ve got proof that back up that belief! Forever21, a fast fashion icon, filed for bankruptcy in late 2019. Yes, there are still many fast fashion brands — but every time you choose not to buy that cheap $5 top and instead save that money for a high quality $30 blouse, you’re helping.

Clothes hanging on a rack
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

Where to start for a more environmentally friendly closet

To fill your wardrobe with sustainable clothing choices, you’ve got to start somewhere, right? Here are a few tips for getting started:

Declutter

Go through your current wardrobe and give away, sell, or donate anything that you wouldn’t wear right now. That includes clothes that don’t fit right or clothes that simply don’t fit your current tastes.

Limit how much you own

Widdle down your wardrobe to a set number of items, like 30. Setting a firm limit prevents you from buying more clothes than you wear, but also gives you the space to purchase more as you phase out older items.

Why enforce a limit? Well, let’s be honest: are you wearing everything in your closet right now? Probably not. A limit might seem restrictive, but as long as you’re buying clothes you absolutely love, it won’t feel limiting at all.

Your wardrobe is just one place to declutter and simplify. See more tips on how to simplify your life!

Shirt from Amour Vert and black jeans from prana
Shirt from Amour Vert; jeans from Prana

Focus on quality

Try to focus on quality, not quantity, as you fill out your wardrobe. Obviously, if you’re reading this article, you’re probably interested in sustainably, ethically-crafted clothing, but buy within your means. Your wardrobe will already be more sustainable if you aren’t purchasing cheaply-made new clothes every single month! But not everyone has the money to afford clothes made with organic materials at zero-waste factories, and I don’t think sustainable living is reserved for higher income households.

Shop with intention

Buy with purpose. It can be hard to resist buying something cheap and cute — trust me, I get the struggle! When I first overhauled my wardrobe, though, I started to see that I didn’t even wear most of the cheap clothes I bought. Instead, I was consistently wearing only my favorites; the clothes I bought KNOWING I’d love them.

Now, I never want my clothes in my closet to only be worn once or twice. If my jeans get torn beyond repair and I decide to swap them out for a new pair, I make for damn sure I’m going to love the new pair I get.

Bonus: repair instead of replace

I have a winter coat that I adore. Last year while lifting a box while wearing my winter coat, one of the seams busted out — the struggle of being a woman with really broad shoulders/back! Still, I was shocked when my mom told me to throw the coat out. It’s only ripped on the seam! Instead of replacing the coat, I took it to a tailor to get repaired.

Too often in today’s busy life, we throw out instead of repair or reuse. It’s cheap to replace our stuff, so why not toss it? Frankly, it’s just not sustainable. When we throw things out, it’s out of sight out of mind… but in reality, it’s getting tossed into an ever-growing landfill, adding to our environmental problems.

Instead, repair when possible. Jeans ripped in the inner thigh? That can be repaired. After all, who’s going to see the sewing work?

Resources for further reading

Want to read more about sustainable clothing and the impacts of fast fashion? Check out these resources:

Sustainable clothing brands to check out

The below list a comprehensive list by a long shot. But they’re brands that I’ve either bought from and love or are next on my list to check out!

  • United by Blueuse my link for $10 off a $75+ purchase!
  • Amour vert — My Amour vert blouses get worn ALL they time. They’re incredibly soft and I love the way they drape on my body. Worth the price for sure!
  • Pact use my link for 20% off your first order!
  • Reformation
  • prAna — My FAVORITE jeans are from prAna. They fit so dang well, even for my muscular thighs and squat-provided booty!
  • The Girlfriend Collectiveuse my link for $10 off!

Chelsea

I'm Chelsea, the author behind Do You Even Paleo! I believe life should be full of flavor. I enjoy creating recipes that are nourishing, flavorful, and satisfying. When not experimenting in the kitchen, I usually have a camera, barbell, or mug of coffee in hand. My posts may include affiliate links, which means if you click through a purchase something, I make a small commission at no cost to you. It helps me fuel my coffee habit and pay rent!

2 thoughts to “How to Help the Environment with More Sustainable Clothing”

  1. I’ve been working on trying to declutter my wardrobe, but not that I know it will help the environment as well I’m even more motivated!

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