Is your closet overflowing with clothes? Do you always feel like you have nothing to wear? Do you want to start wearing eco-friendly pieces? Where do you start to build a sustainable closet?

Building a sustainable closet can sound overwhelming, but here are 6 tips in order to get you started on the path of building an eco-friendly and sustainable wardrobe. It’s also a great way to practice transitioning into your zero waste lifestyle.

sustainable wardrobe (clothing on hangers)

Why it matters

Each year more than 80 billion articles of clothing, which is up more than 400% from twenty years ago. With the rise in the production of clothing, humans are also discarding their clothes at alarming rates.

It has been suggested that the average American throws away more than 80 pounds of textiles each year.

The rise in textile waste can be contributed to the popularity of “fast fashion” stores like Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, and Primark. These stores, and many others, create low-quality products that are sold with the intention to only last a few months. After a few months, the clothes will literally fall apart or quickly go out of fashion.

Not only do these fast fast fashion companies contribute to insurmountable amounts of waste, they are also bad in terms of water pollution from their manufacturing process. Cotton is one of the most popular fibers in fast fashion, and needs a lot of water to grow. According to WWF, it can take 2,700 liters of water to produce a single cotton t-shirt (that’s the same amount of water that an average person drinks in two and a half years!).

How to build your sustainable closet

1. Take inventory of what’s presently in your closet––Take notes on what types of clothes you have in your closet, and which items you wear most often. Do you wear mostly jeans? Is their specialized attire that you have to wear to work each day? What sorts of colors do you wear? Ask yourself these kinds of questions to guide yourself on the next few steps. For this step, it may be helpful to ask an honest friend for help to tell you what really looks good on you and what doesn’t.

2. Decide what items you want to keep––Obviously, keep your favorite clothing items, even if they are fast fashion pieces. The item has already been purchased, so no need to toss it until it’s completely irreparable. When deciding what items to keep, remember that many items can be hemmed, sewn, and fixed! Just because something has a hole in it, that doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed and worn again! Ask yourself if you have any similar clothes in your closet. Do you really need them both?

3. Find a good home for the items that you don’t keep––If something totally doesn’t fit within your aesthetic or you just don’t see yourself wearing find a new home for it! Clothes can be donated to your friends, family, and charity shops or sold on sites like eBay, DePop, and Poshmark. Selling items isn’t the only way to repurpose unwanted clothing items. For example, unwanted shirts and be transformed into reusable fabric napkins.

4. Test out your cleansed wardrobe––Try wearing your cleaned out closet for a few weeks and see what items you’re still missing. When you decide what you need to round out your closet try hitting up secondhand shops to find whatever item you need.

sustainable wardrobe (tops)

5. Buy sustainably––If you can’t find an item second hand, buy from local sustainable brands. There are some really great brands out there that explain their sustainability efforts from start to finish. Some of my favorite are Everlane, PrAna, and LA-CA-USA. You can also download the app Good On You to learn a bit more behind the eco-friendly efforts of many clothing brands.

6. Follow through––Now it’s time to take care of your clothes. Follow the cleaning instructions on the labels and repair items as necessary. Try and repair these items before you buy new or secondhand.

sustainable wardrobe (denim)

By following these simple instructions you’ll save lots of money that would have otherwise been spent on fast fashion. Instead, you’ll have invested in a wardrobe that will last for years, and you’ll feel good about your clothing purchases.

What are some of your favorite eco-friendly tips for maintaining a sustainable wardrobe?

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