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The one personal change that can really help the planet — and your pocket book!


Imtmphoto - Shutterstock

Cerith Gardiner - published on 03/01/19

It's easier than you think.

As more of us become aware of how our personal habits may be affecting the environment, there’s a group of people questioning their consumer behavior with one simple question: “Do I need this?”

That’s a question a lot of us might ask ourselves while shopping, but sometimes that perfect pink sweater, or cute purse, seems to be looking us square in the eye and begging us to buy it. And on occasion we give in and find ourselves coming home with that must-have item. So if we want to address our shopping habits we have to be realistic and balance our desires and needs, while keeping the environment in mind.

Luckily, in the bid to change mass consumption habits, some are thinking up ways of how to curb our spending urges. Statistics alone are quite alarming: Wrap, a charity involved in resource efficiency, revealed that in the UK there is $40 billion worth of clothes hanging in closets for a year that haven’t been worn, yet we still have the need to buy more. And often lots of these clothes end up in a landfill, which is very detrimental to the environment.

So we need to come up with solutions that can help end our desire for fast fashion, but also allow us a little bit of retail therapy.

One shopping fan, Lauren Cowdery, decided to address her habit when she noticed the amount she was spending on items during her lunch break that would end up siting in her closet complete with their tags. After seeing a social media post, she visited a local community clothes exchange and hasn’t looked back. In fact, four years later she is one of its directors, overseeing the clothing swaps that take place. The rule being that as long as the clothes are in good condition, a customer can swap one item for another.

The notion of swapping had a big impact on Cowdery’s shopping behavior. She started to avoid the regular shops she’d been so loyal to previously, deleted the emails she was receiving from various clothing outlets, and vowed to not buy anything new for a year. And she’s sticking to it — thanks to the clothing exchange she can update her closet while not adding any more to it.

Other shoppers like Sarah Fewell have used their sewing skills to add a touch of style to vintage clothing. Fewell has even managed to start a business called Identity Party, selling more than 3,000 second-hand finds that she’s given a unique twist to on the auction site Depop. Although sustainability wasn’t behind her motive to start the business, she’s now trying to educate her customers about clothing waste and encouraging them to pass on their clothes rather than send them to a landfill.

Then there’s Tania Arrayales from New York who has a passion for “disrupting” fashion by promising to not buy any new clothes. But in turning her back on fast fashion, she sometimes missed the pleasure of that “something new” so she founded Style Lend, a clothing rental site, which encouraged her to look at clothes in a new light, and taught her new styling techniques.

If you want to have a little impact on a very huge problem, here are a few new habits to adopt:

Don’t throw out new clothes. Always look to see if you can donate your clothes to a worthy cause, a friend, or neighbor. Or even hold a yard sale and earn a few bucks!

Think about why you shop. Is it out of necessity, a way of passing time, or an absolute need? Try to stick to needs, and if you can’t resist a bit of retail therapy, try visiting sites that promote sustainability, or offer vintage finds.

Learn some sewing skills. In our grandmas’ days, people would be able to repair or add a personal touch to their clothes. Look in your local library for classes or knock on the door of a skilled neighbor with a sewing machine.

Go for quality not quantity. It’s kind of a cliche, but if you buy quality you’ll hold on to your garment for longer and you’ll get more satisfaction knowing you made a great investment.

Thrift stores are a treasure trove. Once seen as a shopping solution for those on low incomes, your local thrift store can yield up some lovely surprises, especially thanks to those who are adopting a Marie Kondo approach to their homes and are filling thrift stores with wonderful finds.

Hold a clothes swap. Get some friends round with their unwanted clothes, then swap away. You can make up your own rules but the aim is to not throw any clothes away.

Read more:
Why we all need to get behind the trend of sustainable fashion

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