6 Easy Tips for a Zero Waste Wardrobe

After a deep dive into a Zero Waste Kitchen, let’s keep travelling through the magic world of sustainability with 6 easy ways to enjoy a Zero Waste Wardrobe.

3 years ago I founded Inspire, a non-profit that aims to help and inspire people to live Zero Waste. Living Zero waste might sounds a bit intimidating by its name, but that really means to quit single-use of superfluous stuff.

Before that, I’d like to give you one extra reason to opt for a Zero Waste and sustainable wardrobe.

The textile industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. And is not just a matter of mass production. Many of the clothes we wear, especially those coming from fast-fashion, release toxic chemicals and micro plastics. This means they could end up polluting the Earth and us.

How to create a Zero Waste and sustainable wardrobe

1. Ask yourself this question: Do I really need it?

We all have a lot more clothes than we actually need. It’s not a criticism or a judgement; it’s just a reality. And because of that we don’t really need new clothes. So the very first advice I can give is to use a simple, yet incredibly useful question: “Do I really need it?”

If the answer is no, then simply don’t buy it.

Try to buy something just if you really have no choice, and before buying it, verify if you can find a more sustainable alternative.

Maybe you can borrow it from a friend? Especially if you’re going to wear it just once. Or maybe you can find it second-hand? Or better yet, maybe you don’t really need it?

As we will see, there are many sustainable alternatives that we can opt for before buying something new and we’re here to get you to know them all.

2. Swap and borrow

At Inspire among all the different activities, we organize events with EcoFesta (meaning EcoParty) to swap clothes.

Nei tuoi panni organization (meaning ‘In your shoes’), organizes events to swap clothes, shoes and all sorts of wardrobe items.

It is an occasion to allow people to get rid of something they don’t wear anymore and get something new in return.

The result is something amazing: No waste, no high expenses, getting to know new people, building a sustainable community and social inclusion.

They are an exquisite example of something that you might find nearby you, or that you can organize on purpose with your friends.

If you see something that you really like but it’s not up for swapping, you can ask to borrow it and then return it.

The same goes for when you have a special occasion or engagement, or if you’re about to do an activity that you won’t repeat often. We all have that friend who has exactly what we need, so we won’t have to buy it new.

Last but not least, of course if you have old clothes that you don’t wear anymore, don’t just throw them away. Exchange/donate/sell them, be sure that someone out there is going to do good use of them.

3. Reuse and vintage markets

Vintage clothing and second-hand are definitely a cool way to be zero waste. If we need clothing but we do not have any choice to borrow from someone, we can consider flea markets and vintage shops.

This will be a great way to make a purchase sustainable, because no extra energy and materials have been used to produce that item. In addition, vintage is so fashionable that we will not just please the environment and our wallet, but also our inner Carrie Bradshaw.

zero waste sustainable wadrobe

4. Choose durability

What if we get to the point where swapping, borrowing, vintage shops and flea markets are unfeasible for the object we are looking for?

Two suggestions:

  1. Steer away from fast-fashion brands
  2. Opt for durable, sustainable clothes

Fast-fashion brands have no interest in sustainably producing clothes unless the production paradigm will change completely. Please do not be fooled by “made with recycled material” or “made with natural material” or “made with organic material” claims. Those are little pieces in the fast fashion brands mass production process. The sustainable lines will assume a concrete importance only when the percentage of sustainable production will overrun the core one.

Generally speaking, you can recognize a sustainable brand when it has, as many as possible, of the following characteristics.

  • The materials that compose the item are produced sustainably
  • A short and traceable supply chain
  • The fact that a product can be easily fixed, possibly thanks to the company themselves with no extra costs

Translated, this means that brands shouldn’t present capsule or seasonal collections every few months, while investing on “hero” products.

Since we’re touching the topic, I’m also going to add this: Sustainability is also a great opportunity for the brand and not just for the buyer.

As per Yvonne Chuinard’s book “Let My People Go Surfing”, a sustainable profitable business is possible without producing many different collections every season.

Purchasing a sustainable product costs more. But the premise is different since the very beginning.

The idea is not to buy a product for pleasure but because you need it.

So the purchase intention should be to invest money in something that will last instead of something that will be over in one month.

Given this, spending more now will allow us to spend less in the long run. It is just a shift of mentality.

5. Repair

Exactly because we want our clothes to last and we paid more for them, a good practice is to repair them when broken.

Especially when an item is made of good materials, fixing it is easier and absolutely sustainable.

To repair something could sound like “unconventional” because we are used to throw away products when broken. Repairing is so fun and makes your garment last for years, exactly as for the zero waste principles.

To repair means to make something last, possibly forever. In Japan they even use repairing as an act of enrichment. It’s called Kintsugi and is the art taking a broken piece of pottery and repairing it with gold, so that it’s going to be even more precious.

zero waste sustainable wardrobe

6. Buy locally

Last but not least, a great way to shop sustainably is to shop directly in a store, possibly a local one or even better from an artisan.

We are used to buying online but online shopping implies the shipment of millions of objects everyday to different destinations. This generates a huge deal of oil, hence CO2 emissions.

“Why should we reduce our personal online shopping while everyday deliveries are planned to stores?” you might wonder. The difference is that it takes a lot less transportation to deliver 100 pieces to the same place, than to 100 different places.

Where to start this path towards a Zero Waste life?

First suggestion: You do not have to do it all at once!

If you wish to start applying a Zero Waste lifestyle to your wardrobe, pick one of these 6 tips and begin from there. Small steps are the most sustainable way to do things, after all.

Curious to discover extra tips? Download the Inspire open guide on how to be Zero Waste

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