(This story is sponsored by Metro Vancouver.)
When you think about reducing your carbon footprint, some of the steps that first come to mind might be driving less and walking or bussing more, running an energy-efficient home, and reducing water use. They’re all excellent ways to help take care of the planet.
There’s another that might not be as well known: minimizing the environmental impact of your wardrobe.
We buy on average three times as many clothes as we did in the ’80s. Along with fast fashion and cheaper clothing, the increase in consumption is leading to more clothing waste. And all of those pieces of apparel add up to extreme environmental harm.
It’s estimated that one garbage truck full of clothing goes to landfill every single second around the globe. In Metro Vancouver alone, we threw away 44 million pounds of clothing last year. That works out to 17 pounds per person, or the equivalent of 44 T-shirts.
The great news is there are tons of easy ways to reduce your closet’s carbon footprint. In response, Metro Vancouver has launched the Think Thrice About Your Clothes campaign. It’s encouraging residents to reduce, repair, and donate their clothing to reduce waste. The initiative has all sorts of resources, including information about clothing-donation drop-off and pick-up services, to help.
Reducing the amount of clothing in your closet doesn’t come at the cost of style. Here are seven ways to limit your clothing lineup while still looking fantastic and on-trend.
Rent your next look
We rent cars, party supplies, and outdoor gear; why not rent a gorgeous outfit for that special occasion or onesies for your new baby? Renting is an option that’s becoming more and more popular.
The process is just like shopping; you check out inventory online or visit a bricks-and-mortar store and find a style and fit. The difference with renting is you return it when you’re done with it. It’s quick, easy, and fun.
One caveat: Seek out local rental companies (such as Lusso Dress Rentals and FlauntBox) rather than those in other cities or countries; having to ship clothing great distances by air or car could negate the environmental benefits you’re going for by renting in the first place.
Head to the library
Clothing libraries are another way to go. Once you become a member, you get to choose pieces from to a full “closet” of high-end or vintage clothes. Some companies let you loan out your own clothes for rental as well. These exist in both online and physical shop form.
Turn to peer-to-peer renting and borrowing
This is a way of renting that allows loaners and renters to send garments to each other directly, without a warehouse or online library as a go-between. It’s just like borrowing from a friend. Find or establish a local peer-to-peer community, post your clothing items for rent, earn some extra money from your existing wardrobe, and gain access to thousands of garments listed to the site.
Get a clothing subscription for baby
We want the best clothing for our babies—soft and cute and comfy—but our little bundles of joy grow fast. Tradle is an example of a clothing subscription specifically for wee ones. Here’s how it works: you reserve a clothing bundle depending on your little one’s age, and the company sends a package to your door complete with a zero-waste laundry kit. You can even chat preferences with baby stylists and even add Tradle to your baby registry before you’re due. When baby outgrows the clothes or the season changes, you order the next bundle and the bunch of clothes you’re done with goes back to be used by another family. When the clothes are fully worn out (many babies later), the company disposes of them responsibly so less stuff ends up in landfills.
Just like with renting, inquire about the environmental cost of having items shipped depending on where you live.
The resale market is helping people extend the life cycle of clothing, and it’s a category that’s poised to explode.
Younger generations are leading the way, with millennials and Gen Z adopting second-hand 2.5 times faster than other age groups, according to thredUP, the world’s largest fashion resale marketplace. Value Village, Salvation Army, VGH Thrift Store, and Society of St. Vincent de Paul Value Shoppe always have fabulous finds. Then there are consignment shops such as Shameless Resale and Little Miss Vintage are other solid sources. (Check out this article for more.)
Pro tips: Try clothing on and have a clear focus of what you’re looking for so you don’t come home with something you can’t wear or don’t need.
Consider consignment when you’re ready to part with your pieces
Consignment is a great way to turn your previously loved clothes into cash. Turnabout is one such shop. With multiple locations throughout Metro Vancouver, it is one of Canada’s largest luxury clothing re-saler. It’s also the only one that has added a not-for-profit location to its operations. Turnabout Community (4180 Fraser Street) is a fundraising store run in collaboration with Dress for Success Vancouver. All profits go to the not-for-profit organization that helps women achieve economic independence through support, development tools, and professional attire.
There are dozens of other consignment stores in the region that offer in-store and on-line shopping (see above). Another tip: ARCHIVE, which is described as Vancouver’s largest consignment pop-up event, occurs bi-annually. Follow the team on Instagram for next dates. @heyarchive.
When buying new, seek out high-quality pieces made to last
So much fast fashion consists of pieces made of poor-quality materials that don’t stand the test of time; possibly, they could be produced using methods that are a drain on the planet. Sustainable items are keepers.
High-quality clothing should feel smooth and substantial to the touch. Hold the garment up to the light to examine it. The more tightly packed or spun the weave, the better. Look for even, closely spaced stitching. Avoid buttons that look flimsy or button holes with fraying ends.
For more information on textile waste, plus suggestions on how to reduce, repair, and donate your clothing, visit Metro Vancouver’s Think Thrice About Your Clothes website. See other stories in this series—such as this one about donating clothes—to explore some of the specific actions you can take to minimize your textile waste.