Sustainable fashion is a huge topic in the eco-friendly world right now, and to be honest I'm still on the journey to figure out exactly where I stand. Like many other environmental issues, it is extremely complex and the right answer isn't always clear and obvious. If you just take the materials themselves into account, you have the super popular polyester vs natural options like cotton.
Polyester is made from fossil fuels, which is obviously not awesome, and what many people don't know is that it (along with the other synthetic fibers) releases microfibers which are tiny pieces of plastic that accumulate in our rivers and oceans and harm wildlife.
On the other hand, natural materials like cotton have to be grown in farms which take up lots of space and often use harsh chemicals and pesticides (which also harm wildlife) in the process.
And to top it all off, I care about looking cute once in a while and want my clothes to "spark joy." I've done tons of research into environmentally friendly clothing lines using natural fibers, and to be honest I'm not drawn to any of them! I love bright colors with fun patterns and all I've found are solids in some shade of white, gray, brown, or black. It's just not me.
So, although I'm still grappling with what materials I want to wear and it's quite possible my views could change as I continue to educate myself, there's one fashion choice I have come to love and embrace: the #chooseused movement.
If everyone in the US bought just one item used instead of new in 2019, it would save nearly 6 billion pounds of carbon emissions - the equivalent of taking over half a million cars off the road for an entire year*
Regardless of what materials you decide to wear, choosing to buy used clothes over new has a tremendous impact: it helps not only reduce the skyrocketing demand for materials to make new textiles but it also reduces the huge number of textiles that end up in the landfill every year.
32 billion new garments are produced for the US market every year, and 64% end up in landfills*
I'm personally a huge fan of ThredUp. I used to be super hesitant about shopping online for clothes, but the ThredUp app has so many filters and ways to sort through your options that the process is super easy and my "fit success rate" is about 90%. I also love that you can specify the condition of the clothing if you want. I'll admit, I'm pretty picky about this so I only choose to look at items that ThredUp has categorized as "like new."
And of course, let's not forget about how sustainable this is for your wallet as well! One of the reasons I sing ThredUp's praises from the rooftops is because of all the amazing deals I've gotten for great quality clothing that I'll be able to wear for a long time (something else to keep in mind when trying to be a more conscious shopper). Take a wild guess - how much do you think I paid for these four fantastic outfits (two dresses and two tops) all in "like new" condition? Be prepared to be jealous... an average of $13 a piece!! I'll admit ThredUp was having a sale, but you just can't beat that!
If you're not an online shopping fan, fear not! There are tons of great brick and mortar resale shops out there each with their own niche. And for those of you who love the fancy stuff, there are even luxury consignment shops like Clotheshorse Anonymous that have got you covered!
So long story short, sustainable fashion is a toughie! But regardless of where you stand on material types or production processes, buying used is a super sustainable option simply by reducing the demand for new textiles and preventing many of these clothes from ending up in a landfill.
If you want to dive a little deeper into some of these topics, here are some resources to get you started:
*Proprietary data from commissioned environmental study by independent research firm Green Story, Inc.