While the fashion industry might appear to be all catwalks, parties and fabulous freebies, there’s another side to the industry that we don’t often hear about. Between pesticides, transport, chemicals and resource extraction, fashion is right up there with oil and agriculture in terms of total environmental impact. And as you probably already guessed, that isn’t exactly something to brag about. Unfortunately, the popularity of fast fashion hasn’t exactly helped matters, rather it’s increased the amount of pieces that are (sadly) destined for the dump. But what can you as a consumer do to about it? Well, a few things actually, like making informed decisions about what you buy, changing your shopping habits and supporting brands and manufacturers that take sustainability seriously. Here are seven super easy ways to get started on the path toward becoming an eco-conscious shopper.


1. Know Your Stuff

Choosing to become a more eco-conscious shopper requires a bit of legwork beforehand, but it’ll be totally painless, we promise. First things first; start educating yourself on what goes into the process to actually get clothing into your closet — the whole process, from the extraction of materials right down to the transportation. Knowing the difference between organic, recycled and chemical-free products is key, and being able to understand the pros and cons of Made-in-the-USA goods and imported organic cotton. Once you’re in the know, you will be able to make informed decisions about not only what to buy, but who to buy from. Sites like Ecouterre and Sustainable Brands are a gold mine of information and will help you get on your way to being a better consumer. (via Ecouterre)


2. Love What You’ve Got

This may not come as a surprise, but the greenest garments are the ones you already have sitting in your closet. Why? Because they don’t require any additional resources, transport or production, but need just a little washing (which by the way can result in some serious water usage — but more on that later). So now’s the time to start finding new ways to wear those most-loved (or under-worn) pieces. Short on ideas? Check out our Style Resolutions column for fresh new takes on everything from classic A-line skirts to your favorite sweatshirt. (via AndOtherStories/Youtube)


3. Get Thrifting

If the majority of your wardrobe traces its origins to the corner consignment shop or Salvation Army, major kudos. For everyone else, it’s unchartered territory just waiting to be discovered. Consignment and vintage shops are basically the fashion world’s equivalent of a trip to the swap shop, only about 1000 times better. You can score some seriously incredible and high-quality threads without the scary price tag. The clothing is usually well-made and in impeccable condition, not to mention often carrying a high-end label (score!). Buying consignment is the perfect way to add some unique pieces into your wardrobe without having to worry about the environmental impact of your purchase. It’s more or less a form of glorified recycling. (via New York Vintage)


4. Shop Local

While buying local addresses a whole host of ethical problems and puts money back into your local economy, buying from companies that manufacture and source their materials in the U.S. also helps to lower the carbon footprint of your purchase. A huge part of this is transportation. The less a product has to travel to get to your door, the smaller its carbon footprint. But there’s more — local designers and shops are able to better monitor their supply chains and have a tendency to place more emphasis on sustainability, either through using alternative materials or only selling clothing from designers that place the environment at the forefront of their business model. And can we mention another awesome part about buying local? There’s less of a chance you’ll find yourself wearing the exact same Zara dress as about 6 other people in your office. (via Partners Trust)


5. Choose Eco-Conscious Brands

This one is pretty obvious. If you’re thinking about adding a few new duds to your closet to spice things up, trade out your favorite fast-fashion retailers for brands that design clothes with sustainability in mind. With a growing demand for low-impact products, the market is expanding, meaning going green doesn’t have to mean donning granola-y getups. Brands like H&M, Urban Outfitters and ASOS each boast their own eco-conscious collections that are not only affordable, but incredibly stylish and accessible as well. But they’re not the only ones. Online boutiques like Helpsy, Shop Ethica and Beklina are all about finding a harmonious balance between fashion and nature, stocking only designers that live up to their values and ideals. And of course, there’s always good ‘ol Reformation. (via H&M)


6. Go for Quality, Not Quantity

Before you run out and start stocking up on organic cotton tees and trainers made from recycled bottles, hear this. Being an eco-conscious shopper isn’t just about looking to sustainable brands to feed your shopping addiction. It’s also about reducing the number of things you buy. You know that term “quality vs. quantity?” Well, that definitely applies here. It’s time to start putting those impulse buys to rest and start investing in quality pieces that will last a lifetime (rather than flimsy clothing destined for the landfill after just a few months). And when you do decide to dish out for a new piece or two, choose designers and brands you can feel good about. You’re sure to find pieces that’ll look great 10 or even 20 years down the line. Plus, taking this approach will actually help you save a few bucks in the long run. And how can you argue with that? (via Amour Vert)

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7. Take Care

If your shoes seem a little scuffed up or your favorite blazer is starting to sport a few holes, don’t throw it out — get it fixed. We have a tendency to think that once our clothes start to show a little wear, they’re no longer good. But quality threads have to potential to be fixed, unlike those $5 kicks. Taking a trip to the tailor or a cobbler (yes, they do still exist) can save you serious cash in the long run and you’ll be able to keep wearing your favorite duds for years to come, which is key once you’ve finally scored the perfect pair of pumps.

Another thing to consider when shopping is the care that will go into maintaining a piece. “Dry clean only” items require serious chemical processes to keep them looking on-point (although less toxic methods are becoming more widely available) and tags reading “permanent press” indicate that the clothes have been treated with harmful chemicals to get that no-wrinkle effect. If possible, try to avoid clothing with these labels. Cold washing and hang drying will not only help extend the life of your garments, but will also cut down on the amount of energy and water used to maintain them. (via CBS Local Los Angeles)

What are you doing to live a more eco-conscious lifestyle? What are some of your favorite ways to bring new life to your tried-and-true duds? Tell us in the comments!