The ultimate guide to shopping sustainably without sacrificing style

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It’s hard to be a good human, but it’s easier when you know where your stuff comes from. Here are five things to look out for to start shopping sustainably without giving up your style…

We know about straws. We know about Keep Cups. And we can’t even bring ourselves to face the shame of specifically asking for a plastic bag at Tesco.

But we also bulk-buy that cheap pair of jeans that fit just right and use next-day delivery services to sort us out for those last-minute Friday night plans.

Thanks to the BBC though, the fashion industry’s impact on the planet has become watercooler chat – Fashion’s Dirty Secrets is doing for fast fashion what Blue Planet did for disposable plastic.

Every year, 300,000 tons of clothing end up in landfill, and phenomena like the Aral Sea have become dusty and water-free because all the water has gone into Uzbekistan’s cotton fields.

To put it frankly, the fashion industry is the world’s biggest polluter after the oil industry.

It’s bloody daunting and overwhelming to think what little old us can do about it, but there are some easy fixes we can make, which is why we’ve pulled together this guide to shopping more sustainably without sacrificing style.

Learn about fabrics

Sure, it may not come up in a pub quiz, but it’s worth knowing.

Materials such as linen, hemp and bamboo are all eco-friendly because they use less energy, pesticides, fertilisers and water than other fabrics. Look out for certification from the Soil Association on organic products to guarantee your garbs have been made without harmful chemicals.

Others like lyocell (AKA Tencel) are produced using wood pulp from eucalyptus, which grows fast and doesn’t produce much pollution.

For those of you keen to make sure all your fabrics are cruelty-free as well as environmentally friendly, make sure you look out for brands that sell animal welfare-friendly materials like organic wool, vegan leather and vegan silk.

Brands such as Allbirds use products like ethically sourced Merino wool (sourced from New Zealand, where there are sheep aplenty) in their Wool Runners which have been dubbed the most comfortable shoes in the world. 

Even better, their Tree Runners are made from aforementioned Tencel, which comes from sustainably sourced trees, uses 95% less water in the production process than cotton and has half the carbon footprint. 

The rest of the stuff that goes into their trainers is all natural or recycled materials and sustainably produced, from the castor bean oil foam insoles to the laces made from recycled plastic bottles.

And just in case you need any more convincing, eco-champion Leonardo DiCaprio was an early investor in the brand, so…

Have an online strategy

Convenience is king. 

Unfortunately for us it’s one of the things that’s having a big impact on the environment.

Same-day and next-day deliveries and a heavy Asos addiction mean there are more vehicles on the road than necessary, with less cargo on board as they’re functioning outside of regular delivery hours.

So, try sticking to regular deliveries – and if you can’t, look out for online brands that deliver with electric vehicles (eco-couriers Gnewt are currently leading the way).

Cop that capsule wardrobe

Curating your clothes doesn’t mean you have to channel a Scandi influencer 24/7. It just means putting more thought into your buys: how many times will you wear it, does it go with other stuff in your wardrobe and is it just an impulse buy? 

Take a day or two to think about the item, and if you really need it.

Do that, and you’ll start cutting down on cheap and cheerful hits of clothing pleasure, and start building up a base of high-quality items that you get plenty of wear out of.

Shop vintage

Second-hand, charity and thrift shops are great. But vintage shops are even better.

Why? Because they hold curated stock of pieces that are at least 10 years old, and have lasted that time well. Which means they’ll do the same for you.

Not only does it lessen your environmental impact; it’s also less likely you’ll spot someone on the bus wearing the same coat. 

Get in that recycle cycle

If your threads are in no condition to make it to the charity shop or clothes bank, then find out if your council collects clothes and textiles to be recycled. 

That tatty jacket or jumper could be used for padding in chairs, or made into cleaning cloths or industrial blankets. 

It’s hard to be a good human, but it’s easier when you know where your stuff comes from. Start strong with Allbirds, who make sustainable style staples that also happen to be the comfiest trainers in the world.