two women holding shopping bags in front of a pink wall.
two women holding shopping bags in front of a pink wall.

Zero-Waste Fashion: How to Look Good with Minimal Clutter

Looking your best is a combination of details, and one of the most important is how well put-together you are. Being “well put-together” doesn’t mean looking too proper or well-behaved at all times.. It just means that whatever you’re wearing – whether it’s a t-shirt, a dress, a skirt, or anything in between – looks like something you would want to wear.

So what does this have to do with zero-waste fashion? Well…Everything we wear has an impact on the world around us. The materials and dyeing processes used to make it, for example, use water and pollute air and water supplies in the manufacturing process. Once the clothing goes through its first user – either by being worn once or many times – it ends up in a landfill or incinerator somewhere. And all those industrial processes combined create quite the environmental footprint.

But there is good news. You can have great style while minimizing your waste footprint at the same time. Here are some tips to help get you started…

Research zero-waste fashion brands and buy with intention

When you buy with intention, you’re much more likely to buy quality, long-lasting products that you will enjoy wearing for a long time. This is not only great for your style, but it also reduces the amount of stuff you have to buy. When you’re shopping for clothing and textiles, it can be easy to get distracted by the abundance of products out there and buy things you don’t really need. And when you’re browsing online, it’s easy to buy things impulsively and forget about them.

So how do you avoid this? The best way is to do your research before you buy anything. When you go shopping, you’re likely to bring a long list of things you need TO BUY and you will get in and out quickly. But when you’re shopping with intention, you shop with a different mindset that is more thoughtful and careful. You take your time looking at the products and reading the labels to find the best option for you.

Buy secondhand or upcycled fashion as part of you zero-waste fashion lifestyle

In the past, many people had a negative association with secondhand shopping. But the truth is that secondhand and upcycled fashion are great ways to find the best styles that express the best in you, and not to mention, it’s a fantastic way to minimize your waste footprint.

Not only are you reducing the environmental impact of the manufacturing process – which, let’s be real, is inevitable when you buy new items – but you’re also reducing the amount of clothing that will end up in the landfill. You can find great secondhand clothing at thrift stores or on online resale markets like Poshmark.

Or if you have an eye for unique design and don’t mind getting noticed, you can buy upcycled fashion, which is new clothes that are made from parts of used or unwanted materials, on the online upcycling marketplace, RE.STATEMENT.

If you can sew well, you can also upcycle clothes you no longer wear into new pieces and give them a new life. You can also transform old materials like curtains, blankets, sheets, and upholstery into new clothing. There are lots of tutorials online to help you get started, and you can also sell them online once you’ve developed a knack for upcycling clothing.

Shop at ethical, eco-friendly stores that create from zero-waste initiatives

There are tons of great stores that care about the environment, animals, and their workers. You’ll find some of them in the list of recommended stores below.

You can also look for the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) label on clothing or textile products. You can also use online tools like Good On You to help you find brands that are eco-friendly, ethical, or vegan and cruelty free. There are tons of options on this directory, so you can shop at a store that fits your ethics and still have great style while searching for zero-waste fashion.

Reduce the amount of clothing you buy

This is probably the most sensible and easiest way to be zero-waste – once you get the hang of it.

There are many ways to reduce the amount of clothing you buy. The first is to be mindful of the types of fabrics that you’re buying and make sure they’re right for your lifestyle. For example, if you’re someone who is always on the go and always outside, you may want to opt for lighter materials like cotton and linen. If you’re someone who lives in a cold climate, you’ll probably want to opt for wool or synthetic fabrics like fleece. If you’re someone who is always in the office or indoors, you may prefer to opt for heavier fabrics like polyester.

There are tons of different types of fabrics out there, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before you buy something and make sure you end up wearing the clothes you buy many times over. A way to reduce the amount of clothing you buy is to wear clothes for a longer period of time before replacing them.

Don’t forget to mend and repair your clothes that you love

Not everything needs to be thrown away or replaced when it gets old or worn out. In fact, certain pieces can be fixed to last much longer than they otherwise would. It’s a great way to save money, reduce your waste footprint, and extend the life of your clothing.

You can repair almost anything, including holes in fabrics, zippers, broken buttons, and more. You can also try to mend items that aren’t clothing, like bags or backpacks, or other items that you love but are starting to show wear and tear. So don’t just throw them out or replace them, give them a little TLC instead!

Disclaimer: When all else fails, donate or properly dispose of your old clothes!

It’s true that certain types of clothing aren’t really worth mending or repairing, like t-shirts or socks. When that’s the case, you can either donate them or properly dispose of them. If you’re not sure how to dispose of your old clothes, it may be worth calling your local waste management company and asking what they recommend.

Don’t forget that clothing is the second-most recycled textile in the United States, so there are lots of organizations that are set up to take your old clothes and turn them into something new. You can also throw them in your compost bin or worm bin if you have one, or put them out with your other household unwanted items for thrift stores and donation centers to come pick them up.

Wrapping up: The bottom line

Ultimately, when it comes to your wardrobe, you want to look your best while doing the least amount of harm to the environment. Luckily, there are lots of ways to achieve this.

From cleaning up your closet to find out what you actually wear to buying upcycled clothing, there are lots of ways to reduce your waste footprint while still looking stylish and fashionable.

The easiest way to start? Begin by cleaning up your closet, shopping with intention, and wearing items for a longer period of time before replacing them. Doing these simple things can reduce your waste footprint while still allowing you to have great style and be stylish with minimal clutter in your life.


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