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Sustainability 101 – Sustainable Shopping

Living sustainably – it ain’t easy!

When trying to live a more sustainable life, shopping sustainably is key. But making the right decisions all the time is hard. It takes mental and physical energy and you don’t always get it right. I really try to reduce my impact on the environment but there is just SO MUCH to think about when you are buying a product – what it is made of, how is it made, who made it, where was it made, how did it get here, how long will it last, what is the environmental cost of maintaining it, how is it packaged…? To name a few!

And it can be so disappointing when you’ve gone to the effort to find the environmentally friendly alternative but the unknown lets you down. For example, I ordered compostable bin liners for my everyday waste. They came in 2x plastic packaging which I don’t think was even recyclable 🤦. When I did an online shop recently and asked for no bags – EVERY substitute was in its own plastic bag. I think there were nearly 20 plastic bags. Seriously, WTF? (No naming and shaming, they promised to do better!)

Sustainability and TTC

I have tried to bring the same effort to my business. Tights aren’t exactly the most sustainable product 😬 – they are disposable and can’t yet be commercially recycled (but can be repurposed!). But they are still a necessary item for many. I have been very conscious about our packaging. You won’t find us adding any plastic. Our tights are sent in envelopes rather than boxes as far as possible to reduce the amount of packaging altogether (and which are totally recyclable).

Clothes rail - sustainable shopping
Photo by Lauren Fleischmann

5 tips for sustainable shopping

Now I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I have done my research. So if by sharing some tips I can help you make more sustainable choices without adding to your stress levels then that’s a bonus! The aim is for this to be a series covering a variety of topics but let’s start with sustainable clothes shopping…

1. Quality over quantity

Buying less is one of the most important changes to make when shopping sustainably. I actually think it’s easier for your workwear wardrobe where classic styles are more likely to dominate. For me the hardest is summer clothing – it’s so tempting to buy a load of on-trend dresses and tops or a new bikini. But if you can resist, the same rules apply. Buy items that are classic so they won’t date and you can wear them over and over. Preferably in natural fabrics. And invest in the best quality you can afford so they last.

If, like me, you are someone who needs a rule to control your impulses, try Livia Firth’s (the founder of Eco Age) 30 wears test – buy it if you’ll wear it at least 30 times, say no if not. The other one is the ‘ex-boyfriend test’ – you have to like it enough that you’d be happy to bump into him in it 😂, buying only what you really LOVE and makes you feel great is a great way to cut down.

2. Rent clothing for one-off occasions

There are a few great dresses in my wardrobe that I wear for weddings and I tend to just rotate them. I don’t think I’ve worn the same dress with the same crowd so far. They are all great quality pieces, most of which I bought at a decent discount like a bargain Erdem dress purchased from The Outnet!

But if I did want something fresh or more on-trend I would definitely rent. Not only is it more sustainable it’s also cheaper than buying something as a one-off and I will be able to afford a to rent a more premium dress than I can buy. Byrotation is always tempting me with it’s gorgeous stock of dresses – serious dress porn right there.

3. Sustainable shopping = pre-loved

To be honest, I haven’t done this a whole lot although I have donated or sold a huge amount of clothing that hopefully got a new lease of life. Some great stuff too which, ultimately, I didn’t love or couldn’t wear enough or grew out of (including brands like Maje, Sandro, Issa and Nicole Farhi)!

I do have some outdoor gear I want to buy which is really expensive as it’s technical clothing so I will definitely be hunting for that second hand online – it’s amazing what people end up with that just doesn’t work for them. The obvious places to go are sites like Preloved and Ebay or your local charity shop. Check out Conscious By Komal for tips on pre-loved shopping.  She’s a workwear style blogger with a passion for sustainability and pre-loved shopping.

4. Avoid micro-fibres

Man-made fibres that break down on washing and leave millions of tiny bits of plastic that are virtual impossible to clear up, eventually entering our oceans. Micro-fibres come from garments made from fabrics such as nylon and polyester. Unfortunately they are in A LOT of clothing from yoga leggings to padded jackets. About 60% of our clothing is made with them making it a minefield for sustainable shopping. Read the label and avoid if you can. Think cotton, linen, wool, silk.

If you love your activewear but want to make a more sustainable choice check out this Stylist article.

5. Shop versatility

To hit the 30 wear test you probably want to make sure you can wear it for as much of the year as possible. Think layering and shopping for the climate you live in. Dresses that can be worn with bare legs or tights, with or without a jacket. T-shirts and blouses layered under jumpers and jackets.

Spend your money on the items you wear every day, buying the best quality you can afford. Soon you will have a timeless, high quality and sustainable base wardrobe.

Hopefully these tips on sustainable shopping help you focus or inspire you to make some small changes which could make a big impact. I’ll be back soon with some more tips, let me know in the comments if there is anything you think I should cover.

Leanne xx

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