As consumers, how often do we think about the impact our purchases have on the environment? With the average person tossing out around 81 pounds of textiles each year, it’s no surprise that 85 percent of textiles end up in landfills (12.8 million pounds in the US alone). While it may not seem like you’re able to make a difference just by making adjustments to your attire, building a more sustainable and ethical wardrobe can have a major impact on our planet. Keep reading for tips to dress more sustainably, while staying fashionable.

Educate yourself

Take the time to research your favorite brands using reliable resources like Rank a Brand or the Environmental Working Group to determine whether or not they are sustainable. These not-for-profit websites use credible criteria to establish whether or not a brand is sustainable. Another great resource you can utilize in order to learn more about which brands to trust is the Fashion Transparency Index. This source allows you to discover which brands have shown improvement over the past few years and which still need to up their game. As you do your research, be sure to go to trustworthy sites to avoid greenwashing. This is when a business conveys a false impression that its company or products are more environmentally sound than they actually are. Apps such as Good on You are also a handy resource. Or you can even look for the Green Story metrics and lifecycle analysis data on your brand’s page.

Research the working conditions

Before you shop, take a look at the website of your favorite brands to see what they are doing to improve labor conditions for the garment workers who are making their clothes. You can typically find this information under the ‘About’ or ‘Sustainability’ pages. Shop from brands that are both transparent about their labor policies and pay fair living wages to their employees. If you’re shopping in-store, you can also check the tag for the clothing’s country of origin. A good rule to follow when building an ethical wardrobe is to stick with brands who make their clothing in countries with strict labor laws such as the United States or the United Kingdom. You can also utilize resources like the Fair Wear Foundation which reports on the efforts of registered brands on their website. If you’re not able to find information about the working conditions of your favorite brand, ask them about it! Tweet, email, or even call them up!

Get thrifty

According to The Carbon Trust, clothing accounts for around 3% of the global production of carbon dioxide emissions per year. This includes both the production process and emissions produced after we have bought the clothing including washing, drying, and ironing. The choices we make as consumers and how we look after our clothes can have a major impact on the environment. When building your wardrobe, keep in mind that you don’t have to buy brand new clothing. Make a visit to your local thrift store or consignment shop. Thrift stores are a treasure trove for finding beautifully crafted one-of-a-kind pieces. It can sometimes be overwhelming to shop at a thrift store as they are filled with a ton of unique items. If you’re struggling to find pieces you love, consider shopping at an online thrift store like thredUP. This allows you to easily access clothing from over 35,000 well-sought after brands at up to 90% off retail prices including affordable Madewell pieces. Research done with Green Story shows that if everyone bought one reused item instead of new every year, we could save 5.7 BILLION pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s the same as taking half a million cars off the road for a year.

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Choose eco-friendly materials

When shopping for clothes, your first thought most likely won’t be “where did this fabric come from?” but maybe it should be. The environmental impact of the clothing industry is largely determined by the amount of chemicals used to make clothing. With that in mind, stick to clothing made from natural and biodegradable materials such as organic cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp, and Tencel. You should be able to find the material information on the clothing label or on the product page of the brand’s website. If you want a quick guide, check out Green Story’s own Green Fabric Guide.

Quality over quantity

At one point or another, we’ve all been sucked in by the bargains we see when shopping. We’re all guilty of buying pieces that we don’t really love or may never even wear because the price is so good. Rather than loading your closet up with a ton of clothing that you’ll only wear a few times, strive for quality over quantity. It’s way more satisfying to buy one beautiful $150 dress you can wear frequently for years, than five cheap dresses that fall apart after a couple wears. Build a wardrobe of classic staples that will last for years! Not only will you get a ton of use out of them, you’ll also reduce the amount of clothing ending up in landfills thus reducing your own carbon footprint.

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