The latest UN report on climate change finds that by the end of this century, the world, as we know it, may completely end because of global warming. It may seem strange to discuss the implications of global warming on a fashion forum. In actuality, climate change is not too distant from fashion. Studies find that the clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world. Clothing production and consumption releases billions of tons of carbon into the planet and chokes our oceans. Our tendency to invest in fast fashion is a major problem. This means that manufacturers make cheap clothes out of environmentally hazardous material, through environmentally-damaging practices. We end up wearing these clothes for a very short while, and discard them without a thought, to buy more such clothes.

In the wake of the UN report, it is important that we change our consumption patterns and focus on sustainable fashion and shopping methods. Sustainable fashion means making clothing choices based on how it affects the planet. So this means you buy clothes of environmentally-friendly materials and brands, and use them optimally. To understand how to do this, read on to find out 7 things you can do to shop more sustainably.

Buy Less, Style More

Many people think that unsustainable fashion is terrible because it limits your choices. Actually, sustainable fashion helps you be more creative with your look and self. One of the most important things that sustainable fashion hints at is buying less, and styling more. Many people make the common fashion (and environmental) mistake of unthinkingly following the latest trends. Sure, keeping up with certain new styles can be fun and interesting. But completely changing your wardrobe to reflect the many fashion changes of through a year is just not sustainable! By shopping sustainably, you will learn to focus on the most important thing that makes an outfit work: style. Each person has a unique style and once you identify that, you will stop chasing trendy fashion. Instead, you will focus on differently styling a look that is classically you. As sustainable fashion means buying less and optimizing it more, it requires you to identify your style. Once you do that, invest in a few basic pieces, like a basic white t-shirt, fashionable bodybuilding apparel (which you can use outside the gym as well),  and a flannel shirt. The versatility of these garments means that you can style most outfits around them, and so you will automatically buy less.

Quality Over Quantity

Another argument for not buying more and more high street, fast fashion, is that you save a lot of money. Trends change up to six times each year, and keeping track of them is nearly impossible. This does not mean, however, that you should buy no clothes at all. Instead, buy only a few pieces of fashion made ethically. Choose items made with organic materials (whose production does not involve dangerous chemicals and pesticides) and with trademarks certifying that they use high-quality material. Although such outfits may be more expensive than high-street fashion, you can at least rest easy knowing that your love for fashion is not compromising the health of the planet. Another trick you could try is buying clothes that aren’t season-specific but work throughout the year. Plaid shirts, for example, are a good investment, because you can use them throughout the year, whether it is hot or cold, in a variety of styles. Sweater dress is an other worthwhile investment because their short length means you can wear them to an evening party in the summer while holding onto them for warmth during the winters! Simply that these outfits are made from ethically-sourced cotton, wool and other fibres.

Try to Avoid Certain Fabrics

Alongside buying fabrics that are organic and ethically sourced, you need to cut back and avoid the vast majority of commercially produced fabrics. If you check your clothes tags you will find that most clothes aren’t made fully of cotton. This is because cotton is more expensive and less malleable than polythene-based material (like nylon and rayon), so manufacturers favour these textiles. However, these textiles are petroleum and plastic-based, which means producing them results in massive carbon emissions. Plus, manufacturing rayon has a colossal impact on our water: microplastic from these fabrics fills the water used to manufacture these materials. Manufacturers then re-introduce this water into the oceans. This chokes the oceans and the marine life within it. This being said, it is important to completely avoid these materials. The better option is to buy sustainably produced materials that function similarly, like EcoVero (an alternative to viscose)  or Tencel, a rayon alternative made out of Eucalyptus trees.

Use and Reuse

If you absolutely cannot avoid using materials made out of rayon, nylon and polyester, the next best option is to optimally use the outfits made of these materials. Instead of buying a new pair of nylon tights when one develops a tear, stitch it and reuse it. If you cannot fix the tear, try restyling the tights into a pair of cycling shorts. The idea is to use an outfit to its absolute maximum, and then discard it. Another method worth trying is to buy and give away from thrift stores and secondhand shops. Many of us are guilty of simply hoarding clothes in our closets, and being over-consumerist. Instead, hold a clothes swap, where you can exchange the items you own with a friend. Or give your clothes away to a second-hand shop. You can even consider visiting vintage and secondhand charity shops to look for clothes. With the right accessories, no one will be able to tell that what you are wearing is secondhand!

Reducing The Amount of Denim You Use

If you are trying to shop sustainably, denim is one of the most precarious materials you will encounter. One on hand, denim is quite versatile. A single pair of denim jeans can last you years at a time, and its versatility means it can go with practically anything. This one fact should make denim the poster-child of sustainable fashion. On the other hand, denim production has one of the most major environmental impacts of any fabric. As studies show, it takes nearly 7000 litres of water to produce one pair of jeans. Not to mention, manufacturing denim causes 1.7 million tons of chemicals into our oceans, every year. This paradox leaves most sustainable fashion followers at a loss. But an easy solution to this problem is to limit your jeans shopping to one or two pairs only and using and reusing these two jeans. You can also invest in jeans made by brands that are trying to manufacture low-impact denim, Interestingly, mainstream brands like Jack and Jones and Levi’s are taking up this initiative, so finding a pair of sustainable jeans won’t be too great a task!

Follow Ethical Brands and Bloggers

Even if you decide to shop sustainable and live sustainably, it can generally be hard to keep up. You may not know where to go to get ethically produced clothes. Or you may find it hard to keep up a sustainable lifestyle, because you may find that it is limiting. An easy way of ensuring that you are keeping up with this practice, and finding what you want (while being sustainable) is by following ethical brands and bloggers. Brands like People Tree, ABLE, Kotn and Everlane are all leading the way forward in producing sustainable outfits. For outfit ideas, lifestyle and tips and tricks, you can follow blogs by sustainable fashionistas. Check out The Sustainable Edit by Jen Brownlie and Sustainable Siren by Jenny Wang! Both these blogs provide ideas for sustainable living, With this, you can discover a community of like-minded people, and have a support system for this lifestyle switch!

How You Shop

One of the less-talked-about, but equally important aspects to sustainable fashion is not just what you shop, but how you shop. Research finds that 22% of the environmental impact of the garment industry comes from the oil you burn in getting to a shopping centre. Most people drive to go shopping, since taking public transport can be inconvenient with bags. An easy way to save time, money (and the planet) is to simply shop online. Or, if you are buying only a few things, walk to your nearest shopping centre. Another thing you can do is to always keep a cloth- or jute- based bag handy, to carry all your purchases in. Completely avoid plastic bags, and go for these sustainable options instead.

The UN report shows that global temperatures are now at high risk of increasing by 3.5 degrees by the end of this century, which could destroy all of humanity. By taking a few small steps, we can avoid what seems like an inevitability. By shopping sustainably, not only will you reduce your carbon footprint—you will force manufacturers to take notice and incorporate more sustainable practices as well. So if you follow these simple ideas in the bid to change the planet, your small change can go a long way.

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