Written by Evelyn Wilroy
I consider myself to be something of a recovered shopaholic.
When I was 19, the paychecks I received at my part-time retail job pretty much inevitably went straight back to the store.
When I got a job after college, I discovered the true meaning of “retail therapy.” I was at a job with a nightmare of a boss, being paid very little, consistently working late nights.
When I had any free time to spare, it was spent shopping.
Buying new things and keeping up with new trends was my escape. It made me happy. This was normalcy. It had been for as long as I had my own money to spend.
But the older I got, the more I realized that there is a disconnect between the idea of supporting a fashion company you love (particularly fast fashion), while also being a proponent of sustainability.
This was not an easy thing to come to terms with.
You see, for most of my life, two very defining parts of who I am have been at odds: the fashion aficionado in me versus the “tree hugger.”
At 6 my favorite thing to do was dress up in “play clothes” which were pieces my mother sewed when she was in college. That same year, I argued with my Catechism teacher when he said trees didn’t have souls.
At 16, I was wearing my mother’s kitten heels to high school and collecting Vogue magazines. That was also the year I begged my father to become a member of an environmental protection non-profit.
At 24, style.com was my bible and I started a fashion blog on the side of my master’s degree studies. Two years later, I made a vow to be a more conscious consumer after volunteering at a permaculture hostel in Bali.
Fast forward to 29-year-old me. I’ve changed the way I look at clothes. I’ve changed the way I look at consumption, really.
Not only has it allowed me to strike that compromise between the fashionista/environment protector in me, but it has leant to the process of de-cluttering my life and thus, increasing my overall happiness.
Here are a few tips for my fellow fashion-loving, Earth warriors:
- Keep clothes for longer.
Keep, and more importantly buy, classic pieces. If the average life of clothes could be extended by just nine months it could reduce not just water, but carbon and waste footprints by 20-30%.
- Shop secondhand.
Every item of used clothing purchased means one less new one is produced. Regardless of the material, the production of clothing is costly to the environment. Clothing made of synthetic fibers such as polyester requires a lot of crude oil, energy, and releases byproducts such as toxic gases and chemicals into the atmosphere. This doesn’t even include the transportation-related pollution involved in shipping.
Thrift shop and vintage store shopping requires really digging, meaning that to find that piece that fits right and speaks to you might take more time and effort. This not only keeps your consumption way down and your wallet fuller, but it actually makes shopping a much more thrilling experience.
For those of you who simply don’t have the time for said-scavenger hunts (I see you moms and dads!) and just need efficiency and convenience, there are various online consignment and thrift stores that are affordable and offer a huge selection for women, men and children.
My go-to: Thredup.
- Ask yourself: Does this add value to my life?
Even if you’re shopping secondhand, before you buy something, ask yourself: Do I really need this? Will this really add value to my life? And learn from the times you’ve purchased something that you were over a few months later. Pay attention to your habits and make sure that when you buy those pair of jeans it’s because you really could use them, not just because you have money to spend, they’re the newest trend, and they happen to fit.
- Be a “Repeat Defender”
You know how it used to be a fashion faux pas to be caught in the same thing twice? I’ve been known to be a “repeat offender,” but I decided to rebrand the label.
I have spent a lot of time cleaning out my closet over the years, donating the clothes I don’t wear. Now that I am down to a much smaller closet with only pieces that I actually love, I don’t mind wearing them all the time. Get creative and mix and match with what you have.
And the best part? You don’t have to be a hardcore environmentalist to make these changes. We all can do a little more, and it might be even easier than you realized.
Evelyn is a realtor and digital/social media marketing specialist from Los Angeles. When she’s not helping families secure their dream homes in San Diego, she can be found painting, writing, or exploring new trails with her Husky-mix pup. She is an avid traveler and green fashion enthusiast.