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How to shop more ethically and sustainably for clothing

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In a previous blog post I looked at 13 ways to get rid of unwanted clothing without sending them to landfill.  I was shocked after reading 300,000 tonnes of clothing went to landfill in 2016 when they all could have been repurposed, reused or recycled!  So now you know what to do when your clothes are worn out or unwanted, but perhaps you are wondering how to shop more sustainably or ethically for your clothes in the first place. 

This is something that is quite new to me too and naturally feels like the next chapter for me to explore in my healthy living and living more sustainably journey. 

How to buy sustainable clothing and ethical fashion

Over the past few years I have changed all beauty and household products to natural where possible, changed all the food that we can to organic, become more conscious about plastic use and the amount of landfill waste in our home and made several other changes which you can read in my blog post 15 eco-friendly things I do on a regular basis.

In this blog post I am going to explore some of the ways you can shop more consciously for your clothing.

Fair Wear Foundation

The Fair Wear Foundation is a non-profit organisation that seeks to improve working conditions in 11 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa.  They keep track of the changes the companies implement to ensure workplace conditions are improved. 

They help to ensure there is no child labour, a fair wage is paid, conditions are safe and work hours are reasonable as well as setting many other fair working standards. 

The Fair Wear Foundation currently have 80 companies signed up which represent over 120 brands including, for example, engelbert strauss who are a German workwear company who also sell amazing all weather protective kids footwear, perfect for outdoor loving families. 

Simply go to the FWF website and search the brands that are signed up.  You can check out their reports and be sure that these brands are working with the FWF to improve labour conditions where the clothes are produced.

Organic cotton

Chemical pesticides and fertilisers are so destructive to the planet, wildlife, our water supply and our own health.  We are a living experiment for the routine use of these chemicals and I’m sure all their devastating health consequences are not yet fully known. 

We know we are suffering from soil erosion which is having an impact on food production and its mineral content is reducing. 

The best way to make a stand against chemical farming is to choose organic instead. 

Yes, you can choose to eat organic food, but you can also choose to buy organic clothing which is made from organic cotton.  This is much kinder to the environment and in my experience the clothes are of a higher standard, softer and last longer.

Sustainable brands

Buying sustainably doesn’t always mean giving up the brands you love.  Even many popular High Street brands have green, conscious and upcycled ranges. 

You can still shop in some of the stores you love whilst making a more planet friendly choice. 

Before shopping with a brand have a look in the footer of their website to see if they have any information on their sustainability efforts. 

Just dig a little deeper before choosing a brand to make sure they are taking responsibility for their clothing production and to ensure their vision aligns with yours.

Just be sure to avoid trends when shopping with High Street stores that offer affordable prices, even from sustainable ranges, and make sure you pick items that will last for years.  Opting for slightly more costly sustainable brands with higher quality clothing is cost-effective for your wardrobe and better for the planet. 

Buy second hand

So many people give away perfectly wearable items to charity stores or even sell them on eBay.  Perhaps the fit was not right for them, they’ve not worn as much as intended or they have worn the item but no longer require it. 

Either way, there are plenty of second hand clothing items for you to snap up! 

Buying second hand is cheaper than buying a brand new item, plus it prevents the planet damaging production of a new item for you. 

If you buy from charity shops you are also supporting a worthwhile cause.  It’s also exciting to rummage through rails in thrift stores as you’ll never know what you’ll find.

Opt for a capsule wardrobe

Far too many of us have far too many clothes in the first place. 

There’s no need for this over consumption and throwaway fashion culture that we have been used to. 

I’ve been working on reducing my capsule wardrobe to around 50 pieces of clothing only.  Count your clothes and you may be surprised at how many you own in total.

By starting a capsule wardrobe you will automatically become more conscious when clothes shopping as you’ll need to ensure the piece can mix’n’match with several of your other clothing items, as well as ensuring it’s a staple piece that you’ll wear time and time again. 

I saw an article once say to follow the rule of 30 – if you won’t wear it at least 30 times then don’t buy it.  I’d like to disagree. 

I think 30 is still too little and you should go for a rule of 100 at least!  I have several items of clothing I have had for several years and work them on a weekly basis, if not a few times per week.  This is what we should all be striving for to drastically reduce the unnecessary clothing production, pollution and waste. 

We need to get it out of our heads that we can’t be seen in the same outfit more than once and this is something the celebrity world needs to adopt and encourage.

Hopefully we can all start to make a change in the way clothing is produced and instead choose recycled, organic and repurposed clothing as our first choice.