When you think of waste, you often imagine things like crumpled paper, plastic utensils, dirty diapers and banana peels. But sometimes, waste comes in the form of a perfectly wearable pair of jeans that got sent to the rubbish bin just because it’s no longer in style.
Every year, the world generates nearly 20 million tonnes of textile waste. We’ve been so accustomed to poorly-made synthetic clothing from fast fashion shops as well as impulse purchases from an aisle of sale racks. Runway trends change at the speed of light and fashion has become almost as disposable as water bottles.
There is a misconception that switching to the Zero Waste lifestyle means giving up your love for clothing. That’s not true at all. There are definitely ways you can remain hip and stylish without contributing to the textile waste stream.
Tour Your Own Wardrobe
I know you’ve heard this more than once in your lifetime, but I’ll say it again: look for treasures within your own closet.
Many Christmases ago, your favourite aunt probably bought you a new sweater you thought, at that time, was hideous. But now that you’ve found your style and tend to lean towards the kitschy side, it’s now a piece of clothing you imagine yourself wearing to undergound concerts or rooftop parties.
Or you might have an ill-fitting skirt you could never let go of because of how lovely the print is. Bring it to a tailor and have them adjust the waistline. With just a few stitches, it’ll feel like you bought something new.
If there are gaps in your wardrobe, such as a lack of bottoms or formal wear, keep those in mind when purchasing clothing. This reduces the chances of you throwing out clothing you don’t need while staying frugal.
Become a Conscious Consumer
No more running to the malls when the holidays come. There are enough clothes in the world as it is – supporting big brands only encourages them to produce more low-quality clothing that will eventually end up landfills.
Being conscious about your purchases also means knowing where your clothes come from. If you’ve seen The True Cost (2015), you’ll know that some fast fashion shops abuse their sweatshop workers and harm the environment just to meet the demands of the clothing industry. Boycotting a brand is one of the most powerful things you can do to stop a clothing business from taking advantage of its employees and the environment.
Fall in Love with the Old
Veteran Zero Wasters are also the best thrift shoppers. Vintage stores and secondhand boutiques are the best places to shop in. Why?
First of all, the items in secondhand shops are incredibly cheap. I have heard many stories of friends finding Chanel purses and Fendi coats in thrift shops for less than a quarter of their original price.
Second, the quality of the items isastounding. Many of the clothes, bags and shoes in thrift stores were manufactured in the 20th century. At that time, fabrics were thicker and threadings were tighter. You can easily score a 20-year-old leather bag that is much sturdier than what fast fashion brands produce nowadays.
Third, you minimise waste just by purchasing from a secondhand shop. Since these are donated or discarded items, they were lucky enough to find a new home instead of ending up in landfills.
When shopping at secondhand stores, this is what I suggest you bring:
- Reusable bags (lots of them) – Since you’re doing shopping at a secondhand shop, they often just provide plastic bags at the checkout counter. Avoid bringing any plastic home by carrying your reusable shopping bag with you at all times.
- Water – Thrift shopping can be tiring, given the abundance of items in some stores. Place your refreshment in a reusable bottle, and you’re good to go.
- Snacks – Unlike a mall, there likely isn’t going to be a line of food stalls outside the thrift shop. Bring your own snacks with you and place them in reusable containers to avoid making waste as well.
- Face mask – Many secondhand stores have accumulated dust over time because they change stocks slower than usual stores in the mall. If you’re prone to allergies, wear a mask while shopping.
Functionality is Key
It’s easy to leave the thrift store with fifty items in your bag. But remember: less is more.
Consider buying pieces that are stylish yet practical enough for outfit repeats. A white button-down shirt, for example, can look great over jeans and sneakers, or tucked underneath a skirt and topped off with heels. This way, you get the most use out of one time and lessen the chances of you throwing things out.
When in doubt, go for black. Articles of clothing that are black in colour are timeless pieces you can use over and over without worrying about going out of style.
Fashion doesn’t need to be expensive and wasteful. With these few tips, you can become the stylish person you’ve always wanted to be without hurting the environment.