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How to Shop For Spring Styles Sustainably

Mar. 9, 2020Buying all-new all the time has major environmental consequences. Introducing no-new-anything spring.



With spring on the horizon, many of us are fantasizing about sandals, spring dresses, shorts and the warm weather that comes with wardrobe transitions. It’s also a time when our inboxes and store shelves are flooded with all things new. The temptation to buy all new everything is always strong, but especially tempting during seasonal shifts when we’re ready for new styles. But while our feeds may be flooded with ads for all things fresh, the environmental impact of all that newness is far less appealing. 

The environmental impact of the garment, textile and fashion industries are often presented as a fast fashion problem: We’re purchasing too many wear-it-once products that are often produced in factories with substandard conditions that are intense on natural resources and produce crazy carbon emissions. But the problems with the industry — and our own consumption — run much deeper than that. 

Every aspect of the fashion supply chain makes an impact on the environment, from the dyes to the fabrics (polyester is one of the worst for the environment), and as the truth behind the industry continues to come to light, consumers have had to come face to face with their own consumption habits. 

A beneficial side effect of all this has bad news is the increase in popularity of secondhand shopping. Ten years ago, thrift shopping was still pretty niche, but now you see everyone from luxury-market influencers to celebrities to thrift-dedicated bloggers touting the benefits of thrifting, and showing off their finds. If you’ve got your eyes on something new for spring, why not work to lessen your carbon footprint and challenge yourself to a no new anything spring? Here are our tips for refreshing your wardrobe without the environmental costs. 

Photo by Ellieelien on Unsplash

Shop your closet

Before setting off on your secondhand wardrobe journey, take stock of what you already have. If you pack your out-of-season clothes away, pull them out, steam out the wrinkles, and take an afternoon to try things on and see what you have to work with. If you’ve been craving something specific, like a linen top or new pair of shorts, be sure to see whether or not you already own that particular item, and if you do, ask yourself what it is about that item that makes you want to replace it. Is it the fit? Destressing or lack thereof? Stains? While some garments may truly need replacing, you may find that a simple patch job or DIY project could make an item feel like new.

As you sort, try on, and add to your mending pile. This is also a great time to collect garments to donate or bring in for recycling. Many businesses and recycling centers now offer garment recycling programs, like Girlfriend Collective, who offers a program called ReGirlfriend, trading store credit for worn out Girlfriend products. This grants you the opportunity to give items that may not be suitable for donation a new life. Because only about 1 percent of the world’s textiles are recycled, and because it can take old clothes thrown into landfills up to 200 years to decompose, it’s vital that we find use for or recycle as many of our old worn-out clothes as possible. 

 
 

And what of that favorite sweatshirt or pair of jeans that sadly have a hole in them? Make like your granny and mend them! A simple online search will turn up hundreds of mending techniques and DIY ideas for fixing garments. Broken zipper or a bigger mending project at hand? Bring your clothes to a professional tailor to get them reworked or fixed. By placing value in the items you already own and investing in their care, you’re not only cutting back on landfill waste but decreasing your carbon footprint as well.

Plan a clothing swap

Before you drop those ‘to donate’ items in the bin at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army, why not plan a clothing swap among friends? While donating goods is a better option than simply throwing them away, there’s still a large percentage of donated items that end up in the landfill. Clothing swaps are a simple way to ensure your items find a new home and help you refresh your wardrobe at the same time. Gather a few friends, bring your items and lay them all out, and get swapping! Make a special day out of it with good snacks; cocktails, mocktails or coffee; and a great playlist. After spending the cold winter months in hibernation, gathering with friends while you sip and swap is the perfect way to welcome a new season.

Photo by Yasmine Boheas on Unsplash

Become a secondhand superhero

Now that you know what you need and what you don’t, it’s time for the main event: shopping. But before you hit the mall or power up your laptop, stop and think: Do you really need all those garments to be 100% brand-spanking-new? With the exception of undergarments and socks, the answer to that is probably not! But that’s not to say you can’t use current styles as inspiration for thrifting and shopping secondhand, you may even be able to find those exact items on resale sites, like Poshmark, Depop and Ebay. Before setting out on your secondhand excursion, make a moodboard or list of exactly what you’re looking for, being as specific or nonspecific as you want, and marking off items you’d be willing to purchase secondhand “dupes” of (as in, looks close enough) and the pieces you may be less willing to budge on.

For specific garments that you’d like to find used, saved searches on secondhand apps like those mentioned above are an excellent tool. That leopard printed slip skirt you’ve seen all over Instagram may not be available on Poshmark in your size right now, but with a saved search, or a few saved keywords, you could be among the first to know when someone does end up selling theirs. 

Next up: thrift and vintage shopping. Thrift shopping has seen a boon in the past several years, in part thanks to social media and influencers showing off the amazing items they’re scoring secondhand. This has helped spawn a whole new way to shop vintage and used: on Instagram itself. Even if you don’t live within range of thrift stores, following accounts that post flash sales on the app can help you build an enviable wardrobe without buying new. Another online option? Sites like thredUP, the “largest online thrift store in the world,” which allows users to shop name brands at deeply, deeply discounted prices, and TheRealReal, an online destination for luxury consignment (less discounted, but a great option if you’re searching for last season’s “it bag”).

 
 

If You Are Going to Buy New, Buy Organic

Polyester is a byproduct of crude oil. Do you really want that on your body? If you have to shop new, buying materials with organic certifications can go a long way to decreasing the environmental impact of the garment and massively reducing the amount of water needed to process the material. Conventional cotton is also a polluted crop. Responsibly and sustainably grown cotton doesn’t use pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. This is better for you as well as the farmers harvesting the cotton. Best of all, organic cotton delivers a luxurious finish, breathes easily, and wicks away moisture better than any synthetic fiber.

Some of our favorite sustainable brands include: MATE the Label for comfy loungewear, Outland for eco-friendly denim, Reformation for when we’re feeling fancy, and Ecocalf for all things outerwear. And if you want to dive deep to support brands that are good to our planet, people, and animals, check out Good On You and The Good Trade for the ethical brands that you can trust.

 
 

Do you have tips for thrift, secondhand and vintage shopping? Share with our community on social by tagging @AvocadoMattress and #AvocadoGreenMagazine

Julie O'Boyle

By Julie O'Boyle

 —  Julie O'Boyle is a freelance writer and content strategist with a background in fashion and DIY and a devotion to the outdoors and functional nutrition. Currently residing in the woods of Maine, when she's not writing you can find her at the beach or on a mountain, or otherwise getting her hands dirty.

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