Through my recent foray into more sustainable and ethical purchasing, I’ve learned a lot of things about myself and this way of life. For one, I’ve realized that there are a lot more brands out there selling sustainable and ethical products than I thought. Many of them are small and growing so sometimes it requires research to find them. I plan on sharing my favorite brands and a list of brands I have discovered soon! The second thing I have learned is that NOT shopping is actually the most sustainable and ethical option. Sure, we all need clothes so you’re going to have to buy things eventually but if you’re anything like me, then you already have PLENTY of things in your closet. When I moved from Philadelphia to NYC, I realized just how much stuff I had (and had to pack). It was pretty shocking and it made me want to get rid of things that I don’t like or use anymore. Instead of doing a big spring clean, I keep a pile of things to sell or giveaway near my closet so I am always getting rid of things.
As a part of the capsule wardrobe, I made a commitment not to buy anything new until the end of June when it’s time to plan my summer capsule. So far, so good, with only one time when I broke the rule. I bought a new dress for my brother’s wedding weekend, which was a great purchase and I will be able to wear this dress a ton. Those pictures will live on forever so I really wanted to feel good in what I wore. Other than that, I have only bought new underwear, which I don’t really count J. I’ve kept a running list on the Notes app of my phone with a “wishlist” of items I really want and think will fill gaps in my wardrobe. It has helped me avoid spontaneous purchases and curate my clothes based on my style. With or without the capsule wardrobe, I’ve been trying to purchase fewer items and do my best to make sure that what I do buy is sustainable and ethical. It isn’t always easy to resist the multitude of ads and messages that we receive each day so I’ve come up with a few tips to help you shop sustainably, ethically and mindfully.
1. Unsubscribe from fast fashion emails
This is my #1 tip for resisting the urge to shop. When I decided to purchase more sustainable and ethical items, I unsubscribed from emails from J.Crew, Loft, Madewell, Nordstrom, Gap and many other fast fashion companies I was subscribed to. This alone removes the temptation to buy something just because it is 40% OFF! News flash: there are always sales at these stores and you really don’t need another t-shirt.
2. Unfollow social media accounts that don’t align with your values
Not only have I unfollowed a lot of fashion bloggers who wear adorable clothes that are often out of my budget and not in line with my values, but I’ve also unfollowed accounts that just don’t make me feel good about myself. Social media is supposed to be a way to connect with people and feel inspired, not feel inadequate, so do a social media spring cleaning and get rid of those accounts! This will help you shop less and love yourself more.
3. Make a commitment to third party certifications
Commit to purchasing items that have a third party certification like Fair Trade, Organic, or B Corp. This alone will limit the companies you’re willing to purchase from and to be honest, they are often more expensive products so you’ll be less likely to walk out of the store (or online shopping cart) with 10 items just because the clothes are so cheap.
4. Go on a walk
Just get outside and be in nature! That alone will take your mind off more material things and you might even forget about what you were even going to purchase by the time you return home.
Maybe this one is just for the foodies out there but I find that cooking is such a great stress-reliever and creative outlet. It can also be exhausting! Sometimes, after I cook a big meal, I don’t want to do anything besides veg out on my couch watching a movie with my boyfriend and I barely have the energy to open my computer or pull out my credit card. Problem solved! Food is always a good remedy
6. Spend time with people you love
So often we shop to fill a void. Maybe we are bored or lonely or feel like we need more stuff in order to be “perfect”. I find that spending time with people I love, or meeting new people, is a great way to find value through connection over material goods.
7. Give yourself 48 hours
If you are really feeling the urge to buy something new, give yourself 48 hours (or more) to think about it. Your item likely won’t sell out that fast and this will give you time to think about how and where you will wear it and how it fits into your existing closet. I’ve always loved this rule for myself and it’s helped me buy more quality pieces I know I love. You want things in your closet that you “can’t live without” so giving yourself that time ensures that you really want that item.
8. Surround yourself with people who have the same values
One of my best friends, Brittany, is 100% on my level when it comes to purchasing sustainable and ethical products. She and I both do our best to seek out these types of companies and buy from them when we can. But we also fall into the traps of fast fashion trends and influences every now and then. We aren’t perfect and it’s all about the journey. She and I remind each other about the detrimental practices of fast fashion brands and that we should reconsider if we really “need” something new. And we aren’t judgmental of each other if we end up buying from the not-so-sustainable companies. We are learning and each day we get better, which is what really matters.
BONUS TIP: Remind yourself who made those clothes and of the environmental degradation likely went into making them
When in doubt, I remind myself that fast fashion is often made by people working and living in horrible conditions. I don’t want to contribute to that kind of system, nor do I want to be a part of the environmental degradation caused by extreme water and energy usage, toxic dyes, inhumane animal practices, and land destruction. Whenever you can, purchase from sustainable and ethical brands, but when you can’t use the tips above to make sure you’re buying something that will last a long time and bring you a lot of joy.
I hope these tips help you shop sustainably and ethically whenever possible, and resist the urge to shop mindlessly.
What are some of your tips for resisting the urge to shop frivolously and purchase more sustainably and ethically?