9 Ways To Shop More Sustainably

This month is Second Hand September – a campaign launched and run by Oxfam to get us all shopping and living more sustainably. And let’s face it, we could probably all do better in that department. Here are nine ways to ensure any good you do for wardrobe is also good for the planet.
By Bibby Sowray

Assess Your Wardrobe

Shopping sustainably requires forethought and to do it well, you need to have a good understanding of your personal style and existing wardrobe. Having that makes it so much easier to make meaningful purchases that will be worn and loved for years to come, rather than regrettable buys that will be cast off after just a couple of wears. Start by assessing your current wardrobe. Get all of your clothes out, pick out the pieces you wear the most, and make you feel the best, and ask yourself why: is it the colour? The cut? The fabric? Then, siphon off the pieces you don’t wear and think about why that is. Be honest with yourself. Use this to build a picture of your personal style. Having a clear understanding about what really works for you – and what doesn’t – is a great way to ensure every purchase slots seamlessly into your wardrobe.

Shop Your Own Wardrobe

The most sustainable fashion is the clothing you already own. It can be so easy to forget what’s lurking at the back of your wardrobe – there could be some real gems in there. Once you’ve completed your initial wardrobe assessment, you’ll no doubt discover pieces you love but had completely forgotten about, or perhaps pieces you went through a phase of wearing a lot and then grew tired of. Play around with these pieces as if they were brand new purchases, pairing them with your other most-worn pieces to see if they could be reinvented.

The 30x Test

Will you wear it at least 30 times? That’s the question you should ask yourself when buying something new. If the answer is no, reconsider. Why 30? Well, it’s estimated that to justify the carbon emissions created during the production of an item of clothing, it needs to be worn a minimum of 30 times. It may sound perfunctory, but asking yourself this question forces you to really stop and think about the necessity of a purchase before you hit the checkout.

Buy Less, Buy Better

It’s never been easier, or cheaper, to shop. A few taps on your phone and it can be delivered to your door the next day, often for no extra charge. This makes it so easy to buy, buy, buy. You may not even notice you’re doing it, but we’re all guilty of it. Instead of spending £200 on multiple cheaper versions of the same item – a statement knit, for example – try to invest in one or two higher-quality pieces that will last longer. It’s not easy – we live in a culture that encourages quantity over quality and the urge to scratch that instant-gratification itch can be really hard to resist – but it will pay off in the long term, both for your wardrobe and the environment. If we spend more on clothes, we tend to take better care of them and are far less likely to mindlessly dispose of them. 

Buy Second Hand

This is what Second Hand September is all about – switching new purchases for new-to-you purchases. Thanks to online resale platforms like Depop, Vinted and eBay, finding exactly what you’re looking for is now so quick and simple. Yes, it’s still more time-consuming than a virtual spree at your favourite online retailer – sometimes it will take a few months before you hit the fashion jackpot (we recommend setting up item search alerts) – but that’s not a bad thing. Investing a little more effort into finding clothes allows us to really think about whether we need or want something. It’s also a great way to find designer pieces at more affordable prices, or hunt down those pieces you couldn’t afford or get your hands on when they were in the shops. We’ve rounded up the best designer resale sites for you here. But it’s not just about online shopping, check out your local charity and vintage shops too – you never know what you may find.

Seek Out Sustainable Brands

There are so many beautiful sustainable brands out there now, from Veja and If Only If to E.L.V. Denim and Deiji Studios. Yes, the price point is often higher than high-street brands but that’s for good reason – it reflects everything from the fair wage paid to those who made the garment, to the level of craftsmanship and manufacturing processes involved, to the scale of production, and much more. When you’re looking for something new, do your research and see if there’s a sustainable brand out there that could fulfil your need instead.

Rent It Or Rent It Out

How many times have you bought a dress for a wedding or party and only worn it once? Rental services are a great way to shop more sustainably, especially when it comes to occasion wear. By Rotation, Hurr, Rotaro, Onloan and MyWardrobe HQ are just a few of the platforms that offer countless pieces for hire. Whether you want an on-trend party dress for one night only without the huge investment, a statement piece for your upcoming holiday wardrobe or simply want to try out a piece before you take the plunge and buy it yourself, renting is a great way to satisfy your fashion urges and avoid panic purchases while being more sustainable. Perhaps you have little-worn but much-loved pieces hanging in your wardrobe that you could rent out and earn a little extra cash from, too.

Sell It On

Sustainability is all about closing the loop, so to be a truly sustainable shopper you need to be adding to the cycle. If you have pieces in your wardrobe that you don’t wear anymore but are still in good condition, sell them via the likes of eBay, Vestiaire and Depop. A recent survey by eBay found that 25% of consumers bought second-hand fashion in 2021, and that number is only set to rise as the cost-of-living crisis deepens. This, combined with our ever-increasing knowledge of fashion’s impact on the environment, means there are more people than ever before looking for and willing to buy second-hand clothing, so the effort involved in reselling has never been more worth It.

Repair & Alter

It’s all too easy to discard clothing when it’s damaged or ill-fitting, but before you do, consider whether that hole could be repaired or that hem could be taken up, giving the item a second lease of life. Alterations and repairs at local dry cleaners are usually very affordable, but we’re just not in the habit of thinking that’s an option, because often buying something new is quicker and easier. The Restory is a brilliant service that will breathe new life into damaged or little-worn designer bags, clothes and shoes, while companies like Make Nu and Clothes Doctor offer repair services, and app Sojo connects you to a local seamstress who can do alterations for you. So instead of spending on something new, spend on making something like new all over again.

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