How to shop sustainably for clothing

Shop sustainably for clothing

By Leah Sorini

Recently, I wrote about ways you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) when shopping for food. I soon wondered where else might I make changes.

With a bit of research, I discovered that fashion has a comparatively large carbon footprint.

“Nearly 20 percent of global waste water is produced by the fashion industry, which also emits about ten percent of global carbon emissions,” according to the United Nations.

Christine Ro’s Can fashion ever be sustainable? suggests changes that may lower your carbon footprint.

Buying less is our best option — not so easy in an industry that pushes new trends each season. Some manufacturers, like Levi’s— with its new “Buy Better, Wear Longer” campaign— and Patagonia, seem to have gotten on board the sustainability train. But how you order clothes is also important.

Buying less is our best option.

Ordering clothes online might be the more sustainable option—if you live far away from where you are traveling.

When possible, check the label for fabric content to see if it has a sustainable certification.

If you are buying vintage or secondhand, the label might be long gone, but the benefit is you’re giving new life to old clothes, which is an excellent way to shop sustainably.

Ro highlights the importance of avoiding returns, when possible, by purchasing only what you plan to keep. Although, this is not always practical if you are ordering online and don’t have the advantage of trying something on first.

I’ve made the choice to buy what I need and choose labels based on sustainability, when affordable. Now, as much as possible, if I would be driving a long distance, I order online if I have shopped the brand before to avoid returns.

How you care for clothes matters

Washing clothes made from some synthetics, such as some fleeces, can lead to the release of small plastics in your washing machine. One remedy is to wash your clothes less, which will also increase how long they last (reducing your need to buy something new), while reducing the amount of microplastics in our water system.

If it’s in your budget, you can also buy filters that prevent plastic from going into the water, like PlanetCare’s.

Based on a suggestion in Ro’s article, I will hang my clothes “out to air” so that I can wear them a few more times before throwing them in the washing machine.

Not every option will be doable for everyone; it’s about making changes that work for you. What’s important is to think about how you might become a more sustainable shopper the next time you need new clothes or are planning a trip to the grocery store.

Read more about corporate marketing initiatives on shopping sustainably

Patagonia’s “Buy Less” Campaign May Lead to More Revenue

Levi’s wants you to stop buying so many jeans

For more on shopping sustainably, see earlier posts on our blog.

Read Part I on Shopping Sustainably for Food

A Sustainable Thanksgiving

How to Have a Green Halloween

Local Companies that Value Sustainability

Have you found other ways to shop sustainably, or do you have feedback on these suggestions? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

Leah Sorini is a communications professional with experience in writing, project management, strategic planning, community engagement, and public speaking. She is involved in the Chicago chapter’s communications work. She’s passionate about raising awareness to encourage action that addresses the climate crisis. 


One Response

  1. Molly Mahoney says:

    Great article. The waste in the fashion industry is mind blowing. I’d never heard of those filters before. Purchasing today!

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