4 Ways to Shop More Sustainably (and Why What You Buy Matters)

When you walk through the sprawling department stores or fashion outlets, what do you see? Usually, you see rack after rack of brand new, unworn garments looking for their new owner – and it feels exciting. So many styles to try! So many ways to update your wardrobe!

Shopping for a new outfit is extremely convenient these days, and, at some stores, not terribly expensive, either. You can wear the latest style this week, toss it to Goodwill when you’re done, and move onto a new statement look next week. Easy as pie.

Fast, affordable fashion may cost less, but often comes with a high price for the earth and for those who manufacture it.

But with all of this convenience and affordability comes a high price – both for Mother Nature and for many of the behind-the-scenes people trying to make a living manufacturing mass-produced clothing. That’s why the sustainable fashion movement (also called the eco-fashion movement) came about.

What is sustainable fashion, exactly? Well, it’s all about looking at fashion from the perspective of every human and material element involved in its creation. When you buy a pair of new wedge heels, for example, you’re investing your money in more than just a pair of shoes – you’re financially supporting a company (and industry) built on the mass production of these items.

Where did the company source the cloth or leather for the straps and cork and rubber for the soles? Were the workers who crafted the shoes paid fair living wages and provided a safe and healthy production environment? What does the company do with all of the unused scraps of material created during the manufacturing process? Do they use sustainable packaging? How does their transport and shipping process contribute to carbon emissions? 

What is the real hidden cost behind your clothing?

Sustainable fashion involves asking such questions which dive into the REAL cost of production… and changing your buying habits if the answers aren’t pretty. The good news is, there are lots of ways to shop more sustainably starting right now. Here are a few of our favorites:

Become Aware. The first step to understanding sustainable fashion and how to shop more responsibly is learning about the many environmental and human rights consequences of mass-produced fashion. Websites like the True Fashion Collective share lots of good information, and documentaries like True Cost explain in detail how our fashion buying habits affect so much more than just our wallet.

The True Cost documentary dives into the story behind your shopping experience.

Research Your Brands. Many brands include an “About” or “Sustainability” section on their website which gives you a peek at their eco-conscious efforts. If your favorite brand doesn’t have one… well… it may be time to contact them directly or switch up your style entirely. Websites like the Fair Wear Foundation also list certain brands which are making strides like creating better working conditions for laborers.

Read the Label: Materials Matter. Mass-produced clothing often results in the broad use of harmful chemicals, unsustainably-sourced materials, and a whole lot of unbridled waste. Purposefully choosing natural, biodegradable materials like cotton, linen, hemp, Tencel, bamboo, and wool can make a huge impact on our environmental health. 

Biodegradable hemp is a great sustainable alternative to synthetic materials like acrylic, polyester, rayon, and nylon, which are treated with toxic chemicals.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The three R’s of the recycling movement apply to far more than just plastics and paper. Thrifting is a super popular way to reuse and repurpose items, rather than contributing to further manufacturing and waste. 

Quality Over Quantity. The fashion industry moves at the speed of style – which changes almost daily. Many manufacturers discovered they can make more money by mass-producing seasonal styles quickly using cheap materials, knowing that most consumers will simply toss them out and move on to the next big thing. Opting to buy quality, sustainably-made pieces built to last (as opposed to cheaply-made garments designed to fall apart fast) can go a long way toward reducing waste.

It isn’t difficult to style yourself sustainably. All it requires is a bit of extra attention and awareness. With time, your shopping habits can have a huge impact on the earth and on the lives of many people working in the clothing industry. The choice is yours!

Be sure to shop the Verte Luxe collection of sustainable brands for eco-fashion at its finest.