Having too much of everything has become a common first-world problem. Mass-produced apparel from stores at the mall (Chinese imports, usually) falls apart after one wash and is too expensive. Boutiques are awesome. All the stars shop at boutiques. The problem is that only the stars can afford to shop there.
What to do with your old(ish) jeans that are so 2012 is not to toss, but to trade, barter or donate. This way, when the ever-accelerating trend winds blow, fashion-forward people can take advantage without paying an arm and a leg. Plus, it’s more environmentally sound to recycle clothing instead of throwing it away.
According to Beth Greer of the Huffington Post, few consumers realize the environmental and social impact of the clothing we purchase. Some clothing companies use dyes and bleach in their manufacturing process. Other utilize unfair labor practices to ensure the largest profit margin. So, how do you keep up with the latest fashion trends with a clear conscious. Greer recommends these steps:
What to Look for in Sustainable Fashion
- Look for organic cotton on clothing labels. Organic cotton is grown without the use of harmful pesticides, and it is manufactured without using synthetic dyes. Find organic cotton products at Bed Bath and Beyond, Eileen Fisher (sourced from INDIGENOUS), and Wal-Mart (the world’s largest buyer of organic cotton) and Sam’s Club.
- Look for companies who practice Fair Trade. This means they work to ensure fair wages and safe working practices are allowed for not only their own employees, but especially those of the suppliers often located in countries whose labor laws are not enforced. Fair Trade also helps to preserve native arts and improve the quality of life for communities around the world. Approximately 5 million people earn a living from fair trade production.
- Avoid polyester and nylon fabric. Because these materials are made from petroleum, their production contributes to global warming, releasing dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere, including acidic gases such as hydrogen chloride.
- Avoid any garment that is advertised as being anti-shrink, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antistatic, anti-odor, anti-flame, anti-wrinkle, or anti-stain. These all contain chemicals not tested for safety on humans.
- Support companies who are Certified B Corps, or Benefit corporations — businesses who care about healthy environments and alleviating global poverty.
Do Eco Friendly Fabrics Cost More?
The challenge with buying environmentally-responsible clothing for most people has been the price. Traditionally, eco friendly clothing costs more than mass-produced apparel due to economies of scale. “Green” fashion labeling increases the perceived value (and upward spending threshold of die-hard eco-conscious shoppers), but until economies of scale catch up to demand, the average person must strike a balance between ‘going green’ and paying rent. Until then, instead of falling back on big box pricing, find alternatives to expensive ecologically friendly clothing and apparel:
- Buy vintage clothing or second-hand. You not only combine the thrill of updating your wardrobe with the exhilaration of the hunt, you also chance finding a famous designer or hidden treasure.
- Buy clothing from apparel retailers with sustainability in their mission statements. More major retailers are beginning to adopt serious sustainability practices, including H&M.
- Arrange a clothing swap with your friends and co-workers. What’s one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure – and it’s free!
What to do with used clothing that is slightly out of style
There are many ways to make the most of those old threads sitting in your closet.
- Trading and bartering used apparel, footwear and accessories is a great way to stay in style, live sustainably and refresh your closet without breaking the bank. Try thrift store shopping or organizing clothing swap with friends.
- Donate your unwanted clothes and home décor to Goodwill and you’re not only helping to reduce the amount of new clothes that must be manufactured, you’re also helping to employ Nashville’s population of adults with special needs.