Pollution is present in every phase of garment manufacturing making the fashion sector the second most environmentally unfriendly industry in the world behind the petroleum sector. Most of the textiles used in making garments are made with a variety of harmful pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In fact, the National Resources Defense Council estimates that 20,000 chemicals are used by textile mills to make clothes. Then of course there’s another slew of chemicals used to clean the garments via laundry and dry cleaning. And at the end of the garment’s life, those out-of-commission textiles end up in landfills or worse, break down into microfibers and pollute our oceans.
In addition to being a significant source of environmental pollution, clothing and apparel services can make up a large part of the average American’s budget. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics the average American aged 25-34 spends $1,932/year and those aged 35-44 spend an average of $2,508/year on both clothing and apparel services (such as dry cleaning and alterations). To help you reduce your own fashion footprint and save a few bucks without compromising your style, I put together a list of tips to help reduce the amount of money you spend on clothing and have a more positive impact on our planet.
1. Buy second hand.
If you have an event coming up that requires you to wear an item that you’ll only have to wear once such as a costume or an outfit for a wedding, borrowing from a friend or family member might be your most budget-friendly option. Buying second hand from online thrift stores such as PoshMark is another eco-friendly and budget-conscious strategy.
If you have some time to shop and a good grasp on what style you’re looking for, you can find some awesome things at local thrift stores for super cheap. Local consignment shops or online consignment such as ThredUp can be another good option to purchase second-hand but they tend to be a bit less budget friendly since these companies tend to be for-profit and are usually pretty picky about which brands they sell.
Repurposing old clothing into other items is a great way to save money and suck any last bit of life out of those old or unwanted clothes. If you’re handy with scissors and/or a needle and thread, there are infinite possibilities that you could create. Here’s a short list of household items that you could create from clothing that may not be worthy of the donation bin:
- Produce bag made from a t-shirt
- A rug made from denim
- Mittens made from an old sweater
- A baby bib from any kind of shirt
- A draft stopper a pair of jeans
- Scrunchies made from tshirt sleeves
Consider the possibility of reducing the amount of items that you own by renting and/or getting rid of those items you never wear. Project 333 is a really great way to challenge yourself to minimize the number of items you own by creating “capsules” of 33 items for 3 months at a time. The idea is to reduce your wardrobe into pieces that are versatile instead of pieces that can only be worn once in a while (like that kelly green blazer that you only wear when St. Patrick’s Day falls on a work day).
Another way to thin out your wardrobe is to actually keep track of the items that you wear throughout the year and get rid of the ones you don’t. Try this simple trick to help you keep track of clothes that you actually wear.
If you’re one of those people that can’t stand to wear something more than once, there are also options where you can rent clothing and return them when you’re finished wearing them such as Rent the Runway for fancy clothing, or check out these websites for renting every day clothes.
If you’re going to spend money on new clothes, look for fabrics made from bamboo, wood pulp (aka lyocell), wool, hemp and recycled materials such as plastic bottles or…. banana peels. These natural fibers are much more durable then the synthetic alternatives so you’ll spend less in the long run and having items in your closet made with these types of fabrics also reduce the need for dry cleaning (a win for your wallet and for the planet).
Recover Brands is another great and affordable option for purchasing clothing made with eco-friendly materials – especially when you purchase them in bulk for your company’s branded items.
I would also suggest investing your hard earned dollars in clothing that has a positive impact on the planet such as Ten Tree which offers stylish men’s and women’s apparel made with sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, cork, or coconut. Not only is their clothing environmentally-friendly, but they plant 10 trees for every item purchased. As of today, they’ve planted over 24 million trees.
Check out these other eco-friendly alternatives:
- Pact is a company that uses 100% Fair Trade Organic cotton in all of their clothing – from underwear to sweaters for both men and women.
- Aeon Row uses “revived fabrics” that uses existing materials that have already been used to create clothing. This company also offers discounts on their clothing when you donate old clothing to them to revive into a new item. Old clothing sorted by color, then is broken down and combined with polyester to create new yarn that is used to create new clothing. Pretty cool, eh?
- Fair Indigo clothing is made from organic Peruvian Pima cotton and baby alpaca (which is stronger than wool and other cotton) and colored with eco-friendly dyes. They avoid fleeting fashion trends by making timeless and high-quality sweaters for men and women that will last for years.
6. Green Your Cleaning.
If you do have clothes that require dry cleaning look for a green dry cleaner in your area. Replacing your dryer sheets (even the chemical-free ones) with re-usable wool dryer balls will save you from buying dryer sheets but will also reduce your household waste. Trap those microfibers before they enter the environment with a washing machine ball such as this one, or use pantyhose as a lint trap on the pipe that drains into your drain.
7. Host a Swap Party.
Instead of donating those unwanted clothes to the thrift store, host a swap party with your friends instead. Tell your friends to bring a bag of clothes (or other unwanted household items) that they don’t want and start swapping. You can even go so far as to set specific requirements for the clothes such as size or quality. If you’re requesting clothes for a specific season like summer or an event like an upcoming wedding that you’re all going to, you might want to think about having a themed party. Make it even more fun by providing some healthy snacks like these and play games for prizes.