Like most people who aren’t trying to burn up the planet’s resources and leave behind a barren and unappreciated wasteland for future generations, I’ve been taking a long hard look at my habits and seeing what I can do to minimize my environmental impact.
-Eliminate plastic bags and all single-use kitchen plastic? Check.
-Buy bulk? Check.
-Stop buying fast fashion? Erm. . . this is where things get complicated.
I think we can all agree that not only is fast fashion incredibly detrimental to the environment, but it’s also a human right issue. I already have a closet that is probably a good 40% thrifted or vintage items, but since educating myself about the impact of fast fashion, I have definitely stopped and/or massively reduced my fast fashion purchases. I’m definitely not perfect by any means, but when it comes to changing our habits, I think we should put the focus on being mindful and conscious of how we’re spending our money and who we’re supporting when we do.
My problem is that knowing these things doesn’t make me automatically dislike the clothes. Does it make me feel differently about the brand and whether or not I’m going to buy clothes from there? Yes, definitely, 100%. That said, I still want a silk midi-skirt, slogan tees, and wrap dresses! And until I can afford to fill my closet with only sustainable brands, or a sustainable company starts making Topshop-esque clothes with the prices to match (a gal can dream) I have to get creative with how I build my wardrobe.
So if you too ever find yourself down an H&M rabbit hole, whispering “fast fashion, poor working conditions” over and over until you’re cross-eyed, here are a few things you can do to steer yourself towards more sustainable actions.
Just Don’t Buy Anything
They say you ‘vote’ with your money every time you make a purchase, but what about not making a purchase in the first place? In order to be a more mindful shopper, I think you really have to know what you need and what you don’t, and part of that is regulating your impulses to spend. When I let myself peruse online stores, my shopping cart ends up being filled with things I don’t actually need, or something that’s on sale that I only want because I feel like I’m getting a deal on it. Once I take a step back and assess what I actually need, I can save myself the money and the cost of shipping, and avoid a purchase altogether. It can be so so easy to feel like you have to fill these imaginary voids in your wardrobe, especially when a new season rolls around when it’s more than likely that you already have something in your closet that can serve the same purpose.
Save Up for Sustainable Items
I had a sudden realization a few months ago that if I wanted to purchase an item of clothing from a sustainable brand, that I could actually just save up for it? It doesn’t sound like such a foreign concept, but I think like most people nowadays, we’re so used to feeling the instant gratification of shopping, rather than making long term wardrobe investments. As you have probably deduced by now, I’m not a particularly wealthy gal, however, it’s the long thought-out purchases that I always come away feeling the best about. The longer it takes me to save, the longer I have to decide if I really need that item in my wardrobe, which is kind of like a built-in probationary period. Right now I’ve got my sights set on the Long Tiered Saska Dress in apple red by Bees and Bones. She will be mine!
Shop Vintage/Second Hand
I am a huge advocate for shopping vintage and second hand when you can. Not only are you supporting some amazing people who hand pick/mend/love these clothes, but you’re also keeping wasted textiles out of landfills. It’s recycling! I am lucky enough to live in a city that has a lot of curated vintage shops around, but I have also found a lot of great stuff online on Instagram vintage shops (check out this post by Lo of Capsule Closet who recently did a list of her favourite online vintage shops!) and on Depop as well. It’s honestly great fun to peruse these kinds of shops and see what unique pieces they have to offer. If I find myself tempted to do any online shopping at fast fashion brands, I try to distract myself by looking for similar second-hand items. Not to mention you can sometimes find great, hardly worn high street items too!
Shop Your Own Closet/Repurposing What You Already Own
You’ve probably heard the phrase “shop your own closet” a lot in the last year, and it’s a trend that I am very much a fan of. Like most people, I own a pretty decent amount of clothes that don’t really enter the rotation very often, whether that’s because I just haven’t worn them in a while, or because they’ve fallen out of step with my current style. When I am in a bit of a style rut and feel the urge to online shop (particularly with fast fashion brands) I take a look at what I already own and try to make new outfits and combinations to give myself a little boost of inspiration. Sometimes I’ll find a few images from Instagram or Pinterest to give me a general structure of what I’m looking for, and then try to find items with the same silhouette or idea in mind. It can be so easy to get into the ‘I have nothing to wear’ mindset when you’ve got a closet full of clothes. Going through your already loved stash is the best way to save yourself some money, while also feeling like your old clothes have a new lease on life.
And there you have it: how I fight the fast fashion urge. I realize that this isn’t necessarily the most fun list, but I truly hope you find it useful! Like I mentioned before, I am by no means perfect when it comes to my journey to sustainability, however, I try to take it one day at a time and be more mindful of how I am spending my money. What do you do to shop more sustainably? I would love to hear from you!