A Realistic Guide to Shopping Sustainably

If you didn’t know: Climate change is real. Shocker. On a more serious note, though, climate change is a problem whose severity has grown exponentially over the past couple of years. Increased temperatures, polluted atmospheres, destruction of animal habitats and natural landscapes, the effects of climate change are tearing our planet apart from the inside out. 

When you’re young, it can feel impossible to combat against such a large and widespread conflict. It’s not as though many of us parade around with the funds and resources to re-flourish the forests or jump-start our own climate change study. However, we can still make a change in our own, small, yet nonetheless, effective ways. 

We can make a contribution to the cause by doing something as simple as changing the way that we buy clothes and shopping sustainably. Each year, 85% of textiles head straight to landfills. As the process of decomposition takes place in these landfills, the discarded textiles produce greenhouse methane gas, leading toxic chemicals and dyes to excrete into our groundwater and soil, which can negatively affect the environment in a number of different ways, such as over-eroded soil and the negative alteration of marine life. By making the choice to shop sustainably, teenagers can help make a large change and there are a number of ways you can start!

  1. Develop your personal sense of style

Easier said than done, I know, I know, but when you have a solid idea of what you want to wear and want to look like, you’ll avoid buying things you end up not wearing, and ultimately avoid over-consumption and contributing to waste. The process can take a while and some experimentation, but in the end, it’s worth it. Not only are you helping your environment, but you’re also helping yourself become more confident in the long run, too. The clothes make the man, or whatever they say. The Beat has a great, in-depth article about finding your own personal style, so check that out! 

  1. Buy basics!

Basics are the key to building your closet. Depending on your sense of style, basics can mean something different to everyone. My personal advice is to seek out articles of clothing that YOU can style in several ways. Some of my favorite basics that I can conjure up a number of looks with are: a black mini-skirt, light-washed mom jeans, my Black converse that I purposely beat up for purely aesthetic purposes, and black/white cropped tanks. When you have a handful of basics, by pairing them with accent pieces, you can construct a handful of outfits, without constantly buying a handful of clothes. 

  1. Second hand shopping #SLAY 

Second hand shopping is a way more sustainable option for buying clothes; Instead of these clothes heading to a landfill and producing more pollution, they’ll be able to find new life in your closet! Thrift shops are a great way to start second hand shopping. Even if you think thrifting isn’t your thing because you’re not into the whole vintage aesthetic, the thrift is still a good place for basics. You can get soooo many staple clothing articles from the thrift at lower prices: jeans, plain tops for layering, leather jackets, over-sized tees, outerwear, etc. If you’re on the more modern side of things, DePop or Mercari is also great if you wanna find unique second-hand pieces. I also recommend ThredUp, an online thrift store.

Be forewarned, though, the thrift is not your oyster. Many people use thrift stores to buy clothes that they NEED, and you shouldn’t be buying out the thrift store simply because you have the ability to. Buy with a conscience and don’t take away necessities from people. Also, if you buy clothes from the thrift store for five dollars and upchuck the price to simply resell them on the Internet, you are a bad person, glad we had this chat. 

  1. Breaking news: Fast fashion is OK! 

Regardless of what the Internet tells you, you are not the devil reincarnate because you shop at SHEIN every so often. Not everyone can shop from strictly sustainable sources; It can be expensive, size exclusive, and just plain inaccessible for many. Which is why it’s perfectly fine to buy from fast fashion stores. You’re not a horrible person for wanting to own clothes that you actually like or treating yourself to a haul every now and then. Just don’t over-do it. Again, buy what you need, or at least like, a reasonable amount. Just because there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism, doesn’t mean you should buy a thousand dollars worth of SHEIN clothes or revamp your closet every single season. 

  1. Trend or timeless?

Before you buy something, stop and think to yourself: “How long will I be wearing this for? Do I see myself continuing to wear this next season? Next year?” If you find yourself answering “No,” to any of those questions, then it’s probably not a worthwhile purchase. I know the whole point of trends is that they are desirable to participate in during a specific time period and aren’t meant to have much longevity,— and I’m not no stranger to partaking in the occasional every now and then, don’t get me wrong—but engaging in every single trend that cycles through our fashion sphere is incredibly harmful for both the environment and your bank account. To avoid adding to landfills when you ultimately scrap the contents of your latest haul two months because the supreme law of the fashion land, TikTok, has declared it’s outdated, buy pieces that’ll outlive the fleeting lifespan of today’s trends (Cough, cough, basics). You’ll save your money, our environment, and you won’t ever have to worry about your clothes being outdated because timeless pieces are timeless for a reason! 

  1. Donate, donate, donate!

Sentencing your unwanted articles of clothing to the dump isn’t the only way to discard them. Instead of just simply throwing them out, donate them! Give them away to the thrift, donation bins—In fact, Blake has some right outside of our building!— family members, try everything you can before throwing them out. If you want, you can even sell your own clothes through garage sales, flea markets, and online reselling apps like EBay and DePop.

  1. Reduce, reuse!

Find ways to reuse old clothes; these boots aren’t JUST made for walking. That’s totally how the quote goes, don’t question me. Something my family does is we use old and worn-out shirts as cloths for cleaning. Saves money, materials, and the environment. I also use old shirts of mine to dry my hair LOL; Which I totally recommend by the way, it’s so much better for my hair, towel-drying is not the move. There are so many other uses for clothes than just wearing them. And if you’re extra artistic, up-cycling, the act of “flipping” or altering clothes to reflect your current style, is always super cool. And speaking of reusing, if you like vintage clothing, try shopping… in your parent’s closet. I’ve gotten so many cool clothes from rummaging through the depths of their drawers. Also, if you have siblings, you have another closet at your disposal, too. Basically, if you want new clothes, try reusing some before outright buying them.

Helping the environment doesn’t have to be grand. It can be done by just changing little parts of your life, and in turn, make a big difference in the world. Start by shopping sustainably so we can sustain the Earth.

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