Did you know most of the clothes we wear contain some form of plastic in them? Whether it be polyester or nylon, your clothes have a high chance of being made out of plastic. You might be wondering why plastic in your clothes matters. That's a good question, and there are several reasons it matters.
For starters, these synthetic materials are not healthy for you at all. Plus, they do not decompose at the end of their life or break down (like cotton or hemp clothing do). They also shed microfibers or plastic with every wash, which pollute our environment.
Synthetic fibers aren't the only problem when it comes to clothing: There's also how the materials were sourced to make them and how much pollution they produced while being made. Want to get away from all that? Here are three ways to build a sustainable wardrobe.
1. Buy Used Clothes
One of the best things you can do is buy clothes secondhand. Clothes that are vintage or in thrift stores have been around for a while so they’re probably made from sturdier, high-quality materials. You’re also helping to keep them out of a landfill through purchasing an item secondhand. The resources used to make them have already been used up, so you might as well utilize the clothes.
You can shop secondhand in local thrift stores or vintage shops in your town. Just do a quick search to see what’s available near you. You might be surprised at how many are near you that you never knew about. I have one near my house that’s literally a hidden gem I stumbled upon just by walking around. The clothes at thrift stores are usually really cheap too, so you’ll also be grabbing a bargain. Supporting a circular economy certainly has its benefits! Yet another way to support the secondhand market from the comfort of your own home is to shop at online thrift shops. They sell an assortment of secondhand clothes you can easily purchase from the comfort of your own home. You can even send clothes you no longer want or need to them, and they’ll happily take them off your hands (which is great, because you won’t be throwing your clothes away and contributing to more textile waste).
2. Buy From Ethical Brands
Yet another option is to buy from ethical brands that create clothes using natural fibers, or recycled materials. There are several brands that exist in the marketplace that sell sustainable, eco-friendly clothes. You can find many different ones online by simply searching “ecofriendly clothing brands.”
However, it’s important to note this is definitely a pricier option. Eco-friendly clothing tends to be much higher in price because it isn’t made using cheap materials or in sweatshops. The clothes are made ethically, and the companies actually pay their workers a living wage, so of course their prices must be higher.
With the internet, it’s easy to research ethical clothing brands. Make sure to read up on their practices. Here are some qualities to look for:
- uses eco-friendly materials, like recycled materials, non-toxic dyes, and organic cotton
- is designed, sourced, and sewn in your home country
- has transparent and ethical production process
- committed to zero-waste philosophy
- is GOTS-certified
If you choose items that are 100 percent organic cotton, you can easily compost the garment at the end of its life.
3. Repair & Reuse Clothes You Already Own
Perhaps one of the least expensive, most eco-friendly options is to simply keep using the clothes you already have. If a piece is ripped or needs a patch job, try repairing it yourself or taking it to a tailor. Doing this will keep the item out of the landfill and possibly add several years to your garments. If you’re not sure how to repair a garment, but want to give it a try yourself, there are plenty of tutorials you can find online. It’s not hard to learn the basics of sewing—at least how to patch something and sew a button back on. After all, who wants to replace a perfectly good shirt when all that’s missing is one button?
Stop & Think
I understand sometimes the desire to make impulse buys gets into our heads. We see something in a shop window and say to ourselves “oh, I’d love to have that.” But please take a moment to step back from the item and ask yourself if you really need it. You probably have more than enough in your closet as is to get you by. Of course, I’m not saying you must deprive yourself of ever purchasing new clothes again. I’m simply saying to be more aware of who you purchase them from, and how often you’re doing it.
Once the clothes you own no longer serve you and can no longer be repaired, then buy something new—either secondhand or ethically made. Make sure to recycle your old clothes so they don’t go to waste though. Another good philosophy is to give away one garment for every new garment you purchase, so your closet doesn’t fill up with clothes. Half the time we don’t even realize how many clothes we have until we go through them all: Make a point to go through your closet and discover some garments that could be lurking in the back or on the floor gathering dust.