Making fashion more environmentally just may seem like a massively daunting task. But collectively, if consumers take even small actions, we can play a big part of the solution.
The key is being intentional about the way we shop for, use, care for, and discard our clothing items. Imagine a circular life cycle for our garments, where they are reused, recycled, and reimagined, and we do what we can to keep them from the place they are most dangerous: the garbage can.
Here are some ways to do that:
Buy less, and buy better
Strive for quality; avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester, polyurethane, and nylon. Buy clothing styles that will last years, not just for a trend cycle.
Consider where clothing is made and by whom
Use resources like Good On You to determine which brands align with your environmental justice values. For brands that are not listed, search company annual reports for information about their factory locations, conditions, and workers’ wages.
Understand that tons of donated clothing end up as waste, threatening the climate in areas that impact people in marginalized communities hardest. A drop-off at a donation center creates the possibility of your clothing contributing to that harm. Have clothing in usable condition? Do a clothing swap with friends or post it on a local Facebook page. Clothing that’s flawed or the wrong size? Alter it to fit or make repairs. Try to find a new, upcycled use for items that are no longer wearable.
Support unionization efforts of textile workers
The more power workers can leverage, the better working conditions will be. It also results in the reverse rebound effect: paying fair wages slows the fast-fashion cycle, resulting in lower carbon emissions and other climate crises exacerbators.
Repurpose, repair, and refresh
Make a quilt out of your old sweaters or favorite T shirts. Have a well-loved item that has become stained or has lost its color? Get it redyed to give it new life. Have ill-fitting clothing altered by a tailor or dry cleaner. Or do it yourself.
Don’t buy to return
Buy individual pieces that you need rather than shopping hauls. Try on each piece and decide if it fits your wardrobe before you buy it. Fewer than half of returned clothes are sold at full price, so buying to return significantly contributes to excess textile waste.
Support local brick and mortar and online resale shops in order to keep the garment life cycle circular, not a dead end.
Urge lawmakers to act
Demand legislation that requires clothing makers to be more transparent about their supply chains, materials used, workplaces, and workers’ treatment of workers and wages.