4 Easy Ways to Dress in a More Environmentally Responsible Way

1.    Buy better quality clothing—and less of it. Not only will higher quality apparel last longer, but you’ll be more likely to see it as an investment and less willing to banish it from your closet. Consider giving your business only to clothing companies that follow sustainable practices, too, such as Patagonia or Toad & Co. Yes, you may end up spending more on a single item of clothing, but purchasing less overall will help balance the cost. Not only is the apparel industry responsible for around 10 percent of the world’s carbon footprint, but it’s also the second largest polluter of our planet’s fresh water.

2. Buy used! Giving clothing a second (or third, or fourth) life is a terrific way to conserve resources and keep perfectly good apparel from ending up in the landfill or incinerator. The average piece of clothing is worn only 7 times before being discarded. The result? Every second, a garbage truck’s worth of clothes is burned or thrown in the landfill—enough to fill the Empire State Building 1.5 times every day. Check out online companies like Thred Up and Swap, which curate pre-owned clothing, or browse local consignment shops like Neat Repeats and Buy Again Alley. Have a big party or costume ball coming up? Consider renting your outfit from an online company like Rent the Runway or The Black Tux instead of buying.

3. Skip the polyester. Found in about half of all clothing (check your labels!), this material is actually a plastic made from fossil fuels. Opt instead for clothing made of natural fibers, like cotton, linen, silk, or wool. Keep in mind, though, that there’s still an environmental cost to any kind of apparel production, so only buy what you truly need, and only wash clothing when it’s truly dirty. Every time you wash an item of clothing containing synthetic materials, tiny strands of plastic, called microfibers, are released into the waterways. 

4. Think twice before throwing out a piece of clothing. Break out the sewing kit to patch rips and tears, replace broken zippers, and stitch up torn hems. Don’t know how to do it yourself? A tailor can do it for you. Of course, if something no longer fits or you just don’t like the style anymore, there’s no need to keep it in your own closet. Assuming it’s in decent shape, give someone else a chance to enjoy it by donating it to a shelter or selling it at a consignment shop. A whopping 85 percent of clothing cast-offs in the U.S. end up in landfills or incinerators—don’t let your old clothing be part of that!




World Resources Institute


The New York Times