So what is the most sustainable way to shop for clothing?
This is a question that I’ve asked myself over and over again throughout the years. The truth is, there is no definite answer.
What’s sustainable and isn’t is dependent on a huge variety of factors. Including, but not limited to the materials used to make the garment and the impact of those materials. Furthermore, how workers are being treated and whether the clothing can be recycled after it’s been worn to pieces.
This article on Fashionista highlights some of the issues associated with brands that call themselves “sustainable”.
The moment I quit fast fashion
I quit fast fashion in 2015, shortly after watching “the true cost”. The true cost is a documentary about the fashion industry that I highly recommend watching.
Over the years I’ve experimented with the following:
- Thrift shopping
- Small stores on Etsy
- Bigger ethical companies (Everlane, American Apparel, Prana)
Which option I go with, whenever I do need something, is usually dependent on where I am at and what resources I have available to me.
The truth is, high-quality second-hand clothing isn’t available everywhere. In some places, it’s more popular and therefore more abundant than in others. The quality of used clothing that you have available to you is also largely dependent on where you are located.
How things used to be
I used to buy clothing whenever I saw something I liked and could afford. I spent countless hours just browsing online shopping sites such as ASOS for the newest arrivals. Fashion was something that really excited me. I was also a huge fan of thrift stores and bought clothing for as low as €0,50. There’s no denying it, I purchased way more than I actually needed.
Needs vs. wants
It’s important to differentiate between an actual need and a want. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs comes to mind. At the very bottom of his five-tier model are “physiological needs”. Physiological needs are biological requirements for human survival and include things such as air, food, drink, shelter, clothing, warmth, sex and sleep.
“Is this item going to fulfill a need or a want?”
Whenever you are about to purchase something, ask yourself if the item in question fulfills a need or a want. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Just being aware of whether something is going to fulfill a need or a want can make all the difference.
The most sustainable way to shop for clothing
The most sustainable way to shop for clothing is to not shop at all. Yes, I said it. Not purchasing something that you don’t really need is the most sustainable way to shop.
Food for thought
I’ve read countless posts about the importance of shopping second hand and the importance of supporting ethical companies. The truth is, those are valuable options, provided, of course, that you actually need what you intend to buy.
Real life example #1: I have an amazing winter coat that I got almost 10 years ago from American Apparel. I intend to wear it until it literally falls apart. Would it make sense to replace it right now? No, it wouldn’t. I don’t have a need for a “new” coat just yet.
Real life example #1: I am the proud owner of three jumpers (pullovers for my American readers). One I had for almost 5 years, the other one is soon going to be 3 years old and my newest edition is a little over 1 year old. If I were to see one at a thrift store. Would I buy it? No. My current ones do the job just fine.
The truth is, if you already have x amount of jumpers in your closet then buying another one-second hand or from an ethical company does not make it any more sustainable. You added something to your wardrobe that you didn’t really need and there’s nothing sustainable about that.
So, what’s the most sustainable way to shop?
The most sustainable way to shop is to only every buy something, if you need it. It’s as simple as that.