While not many of us may consider climate change while shopping for clothes, it is a grim reality that the fashion industry contributes to 8% of the total carbon output – more than all international airline flights and maritime shipping trips combined! That’s a lot, and consumer culture is the fuel.
Though there is a growing sustainable fashion movement, eco-friendly corporatewear isn’t a topic that’s garnering a lot of attention. But since we spend most of our week in the office, the clothing we wear there does make an impact on the environment. If you’re concerned about your own carbon footprint and want to help move Earth in a better direction – especially from the office, you can do so by incorporating sustainable fashion principles into your work-wardrobe shopping.
Tips for Having a Sustainable Fashion Wardrobe
1. Have a capsule wardrobe
One of the best ways to shop sustainably is to create a capsule wardrobe of essential pieces you’ll wear for a long time. You can do this by:
looking for materials that feel durable
caring for your clothes
2. Limit laundry days
Help your pieces last longer by following their washing instructions and washing them less than usual. Every time you wash a piece of clothing made from a synthetic material (like polyester, nylon, or acrylic), it sheds microplastics that end up in the ocean. These microplastics are eaten by marine life, work their way up the food chain, and eventually end up on our plates. You can easily take part in reducing microplastic pollution by rewearing your clothes before throwing them in the hamper.
3. Shop second-hand
It’s easier than ever to shop second-hand, and you can save a ton of money when you make the switch. If you live in a cosmopolitan city, you’re likely to have a plethora of options and amazing thrift shops nearby. NYC’s Beacon’s Closet and L Train Vintage are known for offering name-brand clothes for a fraction of the price.
If you love shopping online or live in a suburban area, online thrift-stores were made for you. Depop is a fun social media platform where you can browse, sell, and buy clothes from individuals worldwide. If you’d like a more traditional online experience, you might enjoy thredUP, Vintage Twin, or reStitch, whose websites are set up like any standard clothing shop.
4. Ask the right questions
The hard thing about shopping sustainably is the fact that there’s no widespread definition of what a brand should encompass to be able to call itself “sustainable.” This unsubstantiated claim that a brand is eco-friendly is known as greenwashing. Greenwashing is easy to capitalize on, so it’s everywhere and misleads consumers like us.
To avoid the trappings of greenwashing, question social and environmental aspects of a clothing brand to assess how sustainable it truly is. Specifically, look for transparency. Companies that have readily accessible information about their production processes are more likely to be eco-friendly than those who are not.
Here are some questions you should be able to answer from a sustainable brand’s website:
Where are the clothes made?
Do the factories provide safe, comfortable working environments?
Who are the clothes made by?
Are the workers paid living wages at all levels of the supply chain?
What makes the fabrics sustainable?
How are the fabrics dyed and with what?
Is the output waste from dyes disposed of responsibly?
Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to answer those questions. However, you’re in luck! Good On You has done the research for you. Use this search platform to determine just how sustainable your favorite brands really are.
5. Buy from vetted sustainable fashion brands
While the above tips can be used for everyday clothing, we strongly recommend using the same method to buy work-appropriate clothing. This way, you can make a positive impact on the environment every day that you’re at work. To help you, we’ve gathered a list of vetted sustainable brands that offer office-friendly fashion.
Uses eco-friendly materials including organic cotton and recycled polyester
All clothing can safely biodegrade or be recycled
Takes action to offset carbon emissions by manufacturing close to retail outlets, using carbon-neutral mills, and more.
Packaging is from 100% post-consumer waste materials
Uses sustainable fabrics
Transparent about waste
Committed to improving their sustainability model
Provides living wages and health care benefits to its factory employees in Portugal
The lining of the blazers are biodegradable
Uses upcycled buttons
Conserves and purifies water in a closed-loop process after dyeing
Fair Trade Certified
Provides substantial insight into working conditions, materials, dyes, and labor standards
Uses organic cotton and recycled fabrics
Committed to animal welfare
Designed to last
Clothing made to last
Easily accessible information about factories
Partners with three charitable organizations
Has implemented a recycling program to give new life to used clothes
6. Book a team-building activity that benefits sustainable fashion
Through Visit.org, you can participate in a sustainable fashion activity with your coworkers. From enjoying a happy hour drink while helping to sort and recycle fabric, to touring and getting hands-on experience in a facility that repurposes discarded designer fabric, there are multiple options to choose from.
As with any Visit.org activity, 100% of revenue will go towards supporting a non-profit or social venture that is working to make the world a better place.
Shopping for fashion sustainably may seem overwhelming, but it’s a lot more accessible than people might think. By knowing the right questions to ask and shopping with an environmentally-conscious mindset, you can have peace of mind knowing that you’re not negatively impacting the Earth when expanding your wardrobe both in and out of the office.
Cover Photo Credit: Gabrielle Henderson
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