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  • Kristen Gilbride

Sustainable Wardrobe Step 1: Just Stop

When I first started getting into sustainability I didn't know how to feel about the un-sustainable clothes that hung in my closet, in my drawers, and stuffed into bags in my basement. I felt this need to throw it all out and start all over. A lot of this feeling came from my blog, why would I be posting pictures of a cute shirt I got from H&M last year? But getting rid of all your clothes to replace them with sustainable clothes isn't sustainable or economically savvy.


Currently, there isn't a 100% sustainable way to donate clothing. Donating clothes is good (and at times necessary) but an estimated 10% of those donated clothes actually get sold. The clothes not sold most likely will get shipped to a textile recycler, or sent to 'poor' countries where these types of mass donations hurt their local economy. So donating all the clothes you have isn't the answer.


What I would suggest is to halt shopping all together. Depending on how much you shop, give yourself a set goal of 1 month, 4 months, 6 months, etc. of not shopping. Not buying a single piece of clothing. When I did this I really got to know my wardrobe. I realized how I was drowning in 'pajama' t-shirts; I learned more about how to wash clothing to make them last longer; I realized how I like structured shirts that are actually my size. I learned a lot from not constantly overloading my closet with cheap clothes.



But when I stopped shopping I found something else changed within me. I've read some opinion pieces on this but haven't found any scientific articles (but if you know of any please send them my way), but I somehow felt like I could think more clearly when I stopped buying. Maybe it was being away from the poorly ventilated mall air, but I feel like a part of my brain that craved buying and browsing shut off and another part turned on. I stopped wanting to buy anything, and started to appreciate the things I did buy.


We can thank/blame our ancestors for the way we shop today. They gifted us with scarcity impulse; meaning that if they saw something they took it because they weren't sure if they would ever come across it again. Although we can practically get any style we want from various different fast fashion sites--old habits die hard. Fast fashion doesn't operate on a seasons model, so we actually don't know if we'll see that piece again. The industry knows us too well. Getting rid of this impulse is important in becoming a conscious consumer.


So my first step to becoming more conscious is to stop shopping. Not to buy one single new piece of clothing. If you REALLY need something, borrow it, reuse what you have, rewear something you've already worn--get resourceful.