Green Tips: Sustainable Clothing

Green Tips | August 16, 2018

Style that’s sustainable!

Although we may not often consider how what we wear impacts the planet, the clothing and textiles industry makes an immense contribution to global warming. A 2017 report put the total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production at 1.2 billion tons per year, “more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.” This startling level of climate pollution is fueled by the manufacturing and exportation of cheap garments — a.k.a. the fast fashion industry.

As public recognition of the connection between our outfits and our carbon footprint grows, it’s up to us to go on the hunt for a more climate-conscious style.  Here are some tips to get you started.

Get thrifty. Now a trendy alternative to name-brand fashion, thrift shops offer an opportunity to fill your wardrobe with in-style looks while sparing your wallet and the planet. Thrift stores are located across New York City. If you can’t seem to make it to one in-person, check out online thrift networks such as Thred Up.

Avoid fast fashion. Seek out durable wear. Buying fewer, higher-quality pieces is more eco-friendly than constantly buying cheaper clothing, and it can actually be more cost-effective in the long-term. Thrifting is one of the easiest ways to do this, since second-hand items have a longer lifetime. You should also look for items you can wear through multiple seasons, rather than buying from the New Arrivals rack and pursuing short-term fashion trends.

Buy local. As with buying food, it’s best to go local with your garments. Try to avoid ordering clothing online, which incurs the additional energy expenditure of transportation. Instead, support local clothing outlets — especially small shops and thrift stores — and take advantage of online reservation services to do pick-up instead of delivery.

Ditch dirty fabrics. The production of synthetic materials like polyester requires heavy use of fossil fuels and crude oil. Look for clothing made from organic materials and eco-friendly fabrics such as hemp, soy silk, cashmere, organic cotton, and linen.

Recycle old clothing. Donate old garments to clothing drives and charitable organizations such as Housing Works. You can also drop your unwanted clothing and textiles off at a Greenmarket Clothing Collection to be collected, sorted, recycled, and repurposed into new products. Or bring your old clothing to a Stop N’ Swap community reuse event — you can return home with new second-hand goods!

Join refashionNYC. Commercial and residential buildings in NYC can enroll to receive a refashionNYC bin to recycle unwanted garments with city-facilitated collection.

Check your brands. If you’re buying name-brand clothing, use online tests and rankings to measure and compare their level of environmental sustainability. Review brand websites to read up on corporate practices and see if they have any eco-friendly endorsements.

For more resources, check out our partner and Director of Green Inside and Out, Beth Fileni’s book, The Green Wardrobe Guide. Major fashion publications have also shared recommendations for sustainable shopping.

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