Practical Ways to Embrace Sustainable Fashion

By Erika, Fashion Expert

With issues like climate change looming larger and larger, my family and I have been working to incorporate practical ways to reduce our environmental impact into our lives. With our busy schedules and three kids, we needed to find simple ways to reduce our impact. Of course, I’m the leader of the charge when it comes to style and fashion. Sustainable fashion – “a movement and process of fostering change to fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice” – is one way our family is trying to reduce our environmental impact.

The idea of sustainable fashion often conjures up images of more expensive pieces, wildly minimalist wardrobes, or, I don’t know, walking around in a burlap sack. But take it from me, there are tons of ways that you can embrace sustainable fashion that will be easy and relatively painless for you. Below are some ways that I have embraced sustainable fashion and introduced it to my family.

Hat + Poncho: Gifted & Thrifted (New to You Consignment Shop)
T-Shirt: J.Crew
Jeans + Boots: Lane Bryant

Join a No-Buy Community

Thanks to the recommendation of a friend, I joined “No Buy Baltimore,” an online community where people give away or trade items they no longer need. The group is for people to give away anything to others (furniture, appliance, etc.) so that it can have a second life; however, I primarily use it to give away clothing. I know that I can always donate clothing but I’m not always convinced it ends up in the hands of someone else; and, I usually have no way of knowing what happens to the items if they don’t get given away or sold (like at a thrift store). By giving the clothing to another member of the no-buy community, I feel good about it getting a second life. And most recipients give away anything they don’t use in the no-buy community, so things continue to be paid forward.

Of course, if you have a friend or family member who can use your things, you can always give them directly to that person. This is especially helpful for babies who grow so fast! We have given away most of the clothes James (our 4-month-old) has outgrown to a family friend who is expecting a baby this spring. The especially dirty things (think onesies riddled with spit up stains) are turned into cleaning rags. And I saved a few things for his baby box. The clothing they can’t use (it’ll be summer by the time their baby is 3 months and all of his 3 month clothes are heavy winter items) we are selling at a second-hand store. Which brings me to the second point.

Resell or Consign Items

This goes for both clothes and accessories (though lots of thrift shops take other items too!). Nowadays, it is so easy to resell and consign your items depending on how much time you have to devote to selling and how little or much you hope to make on your items. Obviously, you can take your clothing and accessories to a consignment shop where they will inspect everything, accept items that meet their conditions, and offer you a percentage of sales on the item. Some consignment shops will not pay you until the item sells (and usually return it to you or donate it if it goes past their 60-day or 90-day sale period), while others will pay you upfront for your items. Anything the consignment shop doesn’t accept is yours to keep, donate, or sell via a different avenue.

There are also online consignment and resell options as well. You could go the route of putting your things up for sale on a site like Ebay or Poshmark. With both of these sites, you’ll have to do the heavy lifting of photographing your items, keeping track of offers and sales, and packaging and shipping your items once they sell. The upside is that, because you’re doing the heavy lifting, the fees are often lower when you sell through these sites and apps. I really like Poshmark because you can negotiate with buyers and they can bundle multiple items from your store, which makes shipping so much easier for you!

If you’re like me, you might be a little short on time and an app like ThredUP will be helpful for you. It’s an online consignment shop. You simply order a closet clean-out kit, load it up with items you are trying to sell, and then mail it back to the company. They will go through each of your items and choose whether or not they accept them. Anything that they don’t accept or doesn’t sell can be donated or returned to you. If they accept them, they’ll photograph them and post them for sale. Once your items sell, you’ll get your percentage of the sale price. I really like ThreadUP because it’s ZERO work besides loading up your bag and dropping it off at the post office!

Oh, and all three sites mentioned allow you to consign women’s, men’s, children’s and baby clothes, as well as shoes and accessories. Regardless of how you go about it, reselling and consigning your clothing is an easy way to participate in sustainable fashion and make a few extra dollars!

Hit Up the Thrift Store

Thrift stores are treasure troves of pre-loved items that are just waiting for you to give them a new, loving home. A great way to be a part of the sustainable community and save a few bucks is by thrifting your clothes, shoes, or accessories.

I personally love to check out thrift stores for cool rings, brooches, and necklaces. I’ve gotten some truly awesome finds. The outfit I’m rocking in these pictures was partially thrifted from a store in Annapolis called, “New To You” and from my father-in-law’s closet.

Buy Less and Invest in More Quality Pieces

Finally, we can all make fashion more sustainable if we skip the fast fashion, invest in some better quality pieces, and buy less overall. I know that this is hard – especially with the rate of which fashion changes. But let’s be honest, a classic pair of jeans isn’t going to go out of style, a well-made white t-shirt is going to last a lot longer than one from Target, and you’re more likely to get your shoes repaired (instead of throwing them out) if you spent $700 on them.

This step is definitely the hardest and can be accomplished by taking baby steps. I started to invest in quality in my bags and shoes first. A high quality work bag, shoulder bag, cross body and clutch are staples that you can look for. Some high quality black pumps and a pair of two of reliable, stylish flats are also a great place to start. As you start to better your accessories, then turn your attention to your every day wardrobe staples – jeans, t-shirts, blazers, slacks, LBD – for your investment in quality. As older items wear out, you won’t need to run out to replace them right away. This will not only help the environment, it’ll also give you more space to see what’s actually in your closet.

Listen, I am in no way an expert on sustainable fashion. But I’m making a more conscious effort to reduce my and my family’s environmental footprint in small, manageable ways. Every little bit helps!

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