Check the label
An estimated £140m worth of clothing ends up in landfill each year and synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and acrylic are some of the most commonly used, despite the fact they are slowest to biodegrade. It’s not just man-made fabrics that are the worst offenders, however, with cotton production contributing to a sixth of all pesticide used globally, with up to 3,000 gallons of water used to create just one t-shirt. Therefore, try to opt for pieces made with organic cotton (many high-street shops are now labelled as such) and while not entirely without its issues, choosing naturally biodegradable fabrics like wool is always an eco-friendlier choice.
Take your time
Impulse purchasing is one of the easiest ways to end up buying something you don’t really need, and that may eventually end up in landfill. Try to shop only when you’ve got enough time to decide on whether something is right for you – but if you really are in a rush, consider the ‘three outfit rule’ before buying – i.e. if you can’t think of three different ways to style it with pieces you already own, then remove it from your basket.
Shop certain brands
The number of brands using sustainable practices in their manufacturing processes has increased dramatically in recent years, making it far easier to make ethical choices that doesn’t sacrifice on style. Navy Grey is an SL favourite for classic wool sweaters designed to last up to 20 years, while Pangaia’s cosy tracksuits are perfect for lockdown 3.0. If you’re in need of further inspo, check out our monthly Conscious Edit feature.
We’re all guilty of buying something new to wear once, only for it to gather dust in the back of your wardrobe afterwards. Renting clothes is a great way to get that ‘new dress’ feeling for special occasions without the guilt of only wearing it one time. You can also rent out your own wardrobe to others too, to monetise and make your purchases more circular. Peer-to-peer rental sites include Hurr and ByRotation, whereas sites like Rotaro and Onloan manage their own selection in house.
Buy second hand
The best way to avoid contributing to mass manufacturing and consumption is to buy what already exists. These days, there are plenty of online vintage sites that make the process of buying pre-loved much smoother than you’d think. We love Retold Vintage for sophisticated jackets, dresses and knitwear and Pin Denim for the coolest selection of Levi’s that won’t break the bank. Plus, try resale sites like Vestiaire Collective and Hardly Ever Worn It to pick up designer favourites at a lower price – while it does require a bit more time than a browse on ASOS, it’s all the more satisfying when you do manage to snap up a bargain.
It’s easier than ever to order clothes online and send back what you don’t need, but sadly it’s not as simple as putting returned products straight back on the shelf. Much of what is returned is not fit to be resold, so is instead sent to landfill, with tech company Optoro, which helps retailers process returns, estimating that landfill waste from returns contributes 15 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So, if you want to do your bit, try to cut back on those serial returns.
While many fashion brands have pledged to make positive changes, there are still some making unsubstantiated claims about their eco-credentials – a practice also known as ‘greenwashing’. This darker side of the industry can make it tricky to know what’s truly sustainable, so a bit of background research is always worthwhile before you commit to buying.