10 Ways to Shop More Sustainably

By: Laura Madden

Could shopping sustainably be the pre-Tidying Up strategy we are all missing?

FASHION + EARTH. If you’re anything like me, you love fashion and you care a lot about the planet. The fashion industry and the environment are intricately and intimately connected, yet unfortunately this is a relationship far off balance. Every year, as the demand for faster, cheaper fashion increases, the resources fashion demands from planet Earth grow scarcer.

Yes, fashion may be a love affair many of us share, but with fashion being one of the largest polluters of the planet, we are at a crucial stage of rewriting our relationship to fashion and how we consume it. It is believed that Americans dispose of about 12.8 million tons of textiles annually. Why are we purchasing so much stuff just to be discarded as trash?

If the fashion industry’s ethical and environmental strains are not cause enough to seek more sustainable fashion options, maybe the fact that we are drowning in excess stuff will be.

Photo: Olivia Lopez

Photo: Olivia Lopez

It’s not exactly breaking news that our society as a whole is suffocating from our own overconsumption- meaning we have way too much stuff. It’s no wonder the Mari Kondo method of Tidying Up has risen to epic success around the world. Her method may bring a much needed solution to recovering from excess expenditures and accumulation, but that doesn’t fix the root cause. We are buying way too much stuff.

Good for us, but not so good for the environment.

With the rise of fast fashion and it's rock bottom prices, it is easier than ever to over consume without overspending. Though Kondo's strategic purge may help turn people’s lives around once they’ve freed themselves from the excess, what happens to all that unwanted stuff? We are still blowing through Earth’s resources at a severely unsustainable rate.

Preventing the problem of overconsumption.

There is a solution for that too! Not nearly as trendy as Kondo-ing, but more environmentally responsible, money- and time-saving in the long run. It's called shopping more sustainably or conscious consumption.

What does sustainable shopping look like?

This is basically getting responsible and intentional with your purchases. In the simplest of terms, sustainable shopping can be summed up in one simple phrase: buy less but better things. But if it were that simple, we'd all be doing it already, wouldn't we? Below are ten simple ways to get you started shopping more sustainably. Give it a try. It’s actually quite fun! Promise

photo: Kara Thoms Boutique

photo: Kara Thoms Boutique

How to shop more sustainably

  1. Shop secondhand

Secondhand shopping decreases the demand on the fashion industry to produce faster, cheaper clothing. Production follows demand, and if we take away the demand, these brands will slow down the output. Bam!

2. SHop sustainable & ethical fashion brands

There are many brands I do support that are doing fashion well- responsibly, consciously and in an ethical and eco conscious manner. There are many resources to identify conscious brands, but one of my favorites is Remake. Check out their database of brands committed to both style + ethics here.

3. Shop local

The closer to home we shop, the lower the carbon footprint of shipping and handling all those items. Not to mention it’s a really good idea to support your local economy. Everyone wins!


4. Natural fabrics

Natural fabrics are innately more eco friendly than synthetics. Linen, silk, wool, alpaca, cotton, cashmere, hemp do not require the chemical processing that synthetic fibers do, which means less resources wasted altogether. Also, natural fabrics are essentially biodegradable and as long as they are not mixed with other fibers, they can be recycled. Newer options to look for are modal and Tencel.

5. Timeless garments

A timeless garment is something you see yourself wearing for many years to come. Think of prints, silhouettes, colors, etc., that won’t look dated with the changing of the seasons. Anything super trendy, or of-the-moment styles would not be considered timeless, and you’ll likely tire of them before even the biggest fashion snob starts to.



6. Multitaskers

Items that work overtime for you. The more you can wear them, the more you will wear them. Consider: How many ways can you wear it? To how many different occasions?  And with how many other items that you already own?

7. Be intentional

Make sure there is a true purpose for purchasing this item. Consider: Is there a void in your closet that this item will fill? Were you looking for this item to begin with? Does it fit you well? Where do you see yourself wearing it? Have you checked your closet for a substitute or duplicates?

8. Love

Truly fall in love first. If you don’t really love it, you’re probably not going to wear it. Ask: Does it speak to you? Does this item make you smile, squirm and squeal? Do you LOVE it!? Usually this is a gut reaction- not something you really need to think about. But sleeping on it isn’t such a bad thing if in doubt.

9. Rent

The clothing rental industry is a great disrupter in the fashion industry today by slowing down the demand to produce at its current rate, similar to secondhand fashion. Rent The Runway is one of my favorites, but there are many to choose from to help you save money and space in your closet. Yay!!

10. Have an end game

Think more circular vs linear, and consider what you will do with your purchase when you’re done with it. Ask: Will you donate? Is this a brand that is desirable enough to resell or consign? Will you upcycle, recycle, or repurpose? Will you gift it? Will you share or swap it?  

At the end of the day, sustainable shopping all boils down to knowing thyself- your true style and your needs- and slowing down, taking time to think about your purchases, and the consequence of what you are consuming.

Laura Madden is a sustainable fashion advocate, influencer, stylist and model who reports on the intersection of style, sustainability and self-esteem on both her blog, titled the ReFashion Report, and various conscious lifestyle publications. Laura’s style philosophy is that ‘Nothing is out of style unless it’s not your style.’ She believes that fashion can & should be used to express and empower oneself, but not at the expense of the environment. Laura also serves as a global ambassador for nonprofit Remake, a board member with San Francisco Fashion Community Week, and is a co-founder of AZ Sustainable Fashion.

For more sustainable style & shopping tips, check out iamlauramadden.com and follow her on instagram @iamlauramadden.

photo: Goodwill AZ

photo: Goodwill AZ