Curb Your Overconsumption: A Newcomer’s Guide to Shopping More Sustainably
By Elizabeth “Betsy” Kim
From thrifting to seeking out slow fashion, there are many ways to shop sustainably. Among them, however, one method stands out: consuming less.
A recent survey conducted by Barley Communications and British charity Barnardo’s estimated that customers wasted nearly £3 billion on “throwaway outfits”, or outfits that would be disposed of after very little use, in the summer of 2019 alone. The survey also discovered that 25% of respondents were reluctant to wear the same outfit to a special or formal occasion more than once.
The pervasiveness of wasteful consumption is undeniable. With the throwaway culture that has accompanied fast fashion, however, also comes a significant and meaningful opportunity for consumers to mitigate waste by adjusting their shopping habits. Below is a 5-step guide to consuming more consciously.
Step 1: When it comes to online shopping, what keeps you clicking? ⌨️ 🖱️
Maybe it’s the fashion influencer who is constantly posting about their latest fashion haul, or maybe it’s the Buzzfeed articles that insist that you “need” new swimwear for the summer. Identify what makes you susceptible to compulsive consumption and reflect upon what you can do to minimize those influences.
If you find yourself being distracted by the retail ads that pop up while you’re scrolling through the news or social media, consider installing AdBlock so you’re not constantly being bombarded with images of new clothing. If you have your credit card saved on retail websites, removing it from your browser’s memory may help stop you from checking out after piling your virtual shopping cart high with things you do not need. Finally, unsubscribing from brand email lists can reduce the sense of urgency that is created by a stream of never-ending notifications about sales and seasonal collections.
Step 2: Figure out your “why” and write 👏 it 👏 down 👏
Why do you want to start shopping more consciously and intentionally? Is it because you’ve become concerned about the fashion industry’s contribution to carbon emissions, or because you no longer want to buy clothing that was manufactured under adverse labor conditions? Maybe you’ve decided that your shopping habits run contrary to your savings goals, and the ethical and sustainable benefits of reigning in your spending are just a bonus.
Whatever your reasoning, write it down along with your sustainable fashion goal. Having a clear picture of your objectives and the motivations behind them can significantly raise your chances of accomplishing what you set out to achieve.
Step 3: Clean out your closet 🧹 ✨
As the most time-consuming activity of this list, admittedly, this is no easy ask. But taking stock of what you own can be incredibly useful for several reasons. First, whether it’s caused you to relocate, gain weight, or change jobs, the pandemic has likely affected your life in a number of different ways. And whatever your current situation is, it’s useful to observe what’s missing from your closet so you can adjust your style accordingly.
On the flip side, sometimes it takes organizing your closet to realize that you actually own five identical T-shirts, or that you bought a bunch of clothing that you never ended up wearing. Knowing what you lack as well as what you already possess will allow you to act as a more informed shopper moving forward.
Step 4: Sit with the old stuff 🪑 🩳
Now that you’ve cleaned out your closet, what will you do about the clothes you don’t wear anymore? Sort the pile into three groups: clothes you want to resell, clothes you want to donate, and clothes you may be able to repair yourself. If you’re impatient, you could just drop the whole bag off at a nearby Goodwill. Alternatively, clothes that are like new or gently used can be resold on platforms such as M.M. Second Act. Items with stains or holes you can try repairing yourself or taking to the dry cleaner’s for repair.
Step 5: Find community 💬 👭
Perhaps most importantly, find a community that will support you on your journey to be a more conscious consumer. Thrift shopping and clothing swaps are fun and sustainable activities to do with friends or family. However, many communities that have sprung up around sustainable fashion also thrive on social media. On TikTok, while the @imperfectidealist teaches her followers about the importance of focusing on cost per wear as opposed to upfront costs, @mindful_mending will show you how to darn an old sock rather than throwing it away. Meanwhile, LA-based TikToker @sustainablecherub offers a lot of advice on how to evaluate a brand’s sustainability practices.
Above all, it’s important to remember that rather than being an end goal or a box to check, sustainable shopping is a lifestyle. The more people you find to encourage and guide you along your journey, the more likely you are to endure and succeed in your sustainability goals.