Globally, according to multiple reports, the fashion industry is responsible for three to eight percent of the world’s carbon emissions. And every two minutes, a garbage truck worth of clothing, shoes, and accessories is landfilled in the US, according to Environmental Protection Agency data.
In her new book, The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good, journalist Elizabeth L. Cline digs into the issue of fast fashion and gives readers the tools to affordably build an ethical wardrobe.
Here are some key tips:
Evaluate your clothes. Start by going through your closet and dividing your wardrobe into piles: keep, sell, donate, repair, and recycle. Cline recommends focusing on in-season garments only, both to help make decisions and ensure your rejects are in demand.
Donate responsibly. Clothing should never be trashed. Donate pieces in good condition, but always check first to be sure the organization can use your items. The Buffalo City Mission and Child & Family Services, for example, list critical needs online. For pieces that cannot be worn, Goodwill and H&M offer textile recycling.
Buy what you love. Take stock of why you wear your favorites—is it the color, cut, or fabric? Use this to sharpen your personal style, and only buy pieces you love that fit well with solid construction and quality fabric.
Shop smart. Cline advises trying everything on, planning ahead to avoid impulse shopping, and assessing items before checking the price (to stop buying just because things are on sale).
Get thrifty. Pieces at secondhand stores have already stood the test of time. Cline recommends looking here for jackets, sweaters, vintage handbags, and accessories.
Rent a look. For special occasions—when you’ll wear a garment a few times or less—consider renting an outfit from services like Rent the Runway.
Research brands. Baptist World Aid’s Ethical Fashion Report and Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index grade brands on their sustainability efforts and labor practices. Research brands you wear, and look for third-party certifications on garment labels for nontoxic, organic, or recycled content.
Care for clothing. Cline’s book includes tutorials on sewing buttons, darning sweaters, and patching denim. And unless garments need to be dry-cleaned or handwashed, save energy by washing on cold, and line drying or drying on low heat for more time.