Cultivating a greener, more sustainable relationship with clothing doesn’t have to cost a fortune, and it doesn’t mean throwing out everything you own and buying all new from conscious brands (please don’t do that.) Here are a few ways to start shifting today, without much money. Slow down, appreciate what you have, and use a little creativity. It can be fun and liberating!
- 1. Shop your closet. Take a good look at what you already own, and use and enjoy it. What are the pieces hiding in the back? Are there items you’ve forgotten about?
- 2. Restyle. Get creative and wear something you already have in a new way. Add a belt, tights, a scarf, a tie, or bold jewelry. Layer it, tie a top in a knot at the waist, tuck in your loose tee, pair floral patterns with stripes or wear something backwards. Ask a friend for suggestions or look online for fun ways to style.
- 3. Mend and repair. Keeping your items in circulation longer is the number one way to be more sustainable with your wardrobe. Instead of shopping, take the time to replace a button, hem pants, patch your jeans, or glue your broken shoe. Find tutorials online and learn a new skill, or find a local tailor, friend or shoe repair person to do the repairs for you. Dry cleaners often do alterations and repairs. In Portland check out Hidden Opulence for alterations and help with creative upcycling.
- 4. Upcycle and remake. Alter what you own into something new! Try turning a tee into a tank top by cutting off the sleeves, shorten a dress or skirt for a new look, embroider over a stain or dye your pants to liven them up. Find lots of fun ideas on Pinterest.
- 5. Wash with care. Wash only when truly necessary. Use cool water and natural, eco-friendly detergent. Hang dry whenever possible. Using a dryer degrades your clothing. It will last longer and look better with a gentle approach. Hang items outside to freshen them up instead of washing them if they aren’t actually dirty.
- 6. Swap. Find friends, family or neighbors that you can trade clothing, shoes and accessories with. Look for swap events, too.
- 7. Join your neighborhood Buy Nothing Project, where neighbors offer and receive things and help for free, including clothing and accessories. Start a group if your neighborhood doesn’t already have one.
- 8. Shop second hand. When you do want a new garment, shop your local second hand, vintage and consignment shops. Many offer online shopping too.
- 9. Don’t throw clothing in the trash! When you are ready to let go of garments, donate, swap, sell or recycle them. Look for places in your community that accept used clothing for recycling. What else can you use the fabric for? Make rags from stained clothing, stuff pet beds, wrap gifts in fabric, etc.
- 10. Save up to buy high quality. Use the money you made from selling unwanted clothing and save up what you would have spent on cheap, poorly made fast fashion to purchase a new item from a small sustainably minded brand. Make sure it’s a well made piece that you love and will wear repeatedly for years to come.
New, sustainably made fashion isn’t over priced. It’s the actual cost of what it takes to make something ethically and with care for the environment. The cost of slow fashion includes paying for decent wages and safe working conditions, healthier more sustainable fabrics, supporting local economies and making a high quality items that will last for years. It’s a great way to go when you can, but it’s not the only way to cultivate a green closet.