How to Make Your Wardrobe More Sustainable (Without Buying New Clothes)

When you first stumble upon the sustainable fashion world, it can be tempting to get rid of your entire closet of fast fashion and buy new clothing from sustainable and ethical brands.

But not only is that expensive and wasteful, it’s also less sustainable when you think about it. New clothing (whether made sustainably or not) still consumes resources. And all of that old clothing that you’ve gotten rid of that doesn’t sell at the donation shop ends up disrupting local economies and environments overseas, or in landfills.

So in reality, the most sustainable thing is to just wear and use what you already have. With that in mind, in this article I’m going to be sharing some tips on how to make your wardrobe more sustainable without having to buy anything new.

1. Update your laundry routine

The first place that can help you make your wardrobe more sustainable is through your laundry routine. Machine washing and drying clothes consumes a lot of energy and water. So the easiest thing here is simply to wash your clothing less frequently. Only wash clothes that really need it. If there’s just a small stain, use a stain remover and rinse it out instead of washing the entire piece.

Also, hang dry as much of your clothing as possible instead of using the dryer. We hang dry all of our clothing, and only use the dryer for three things: bed linens, towels, and socks. Bed linens because our apartment is too small to hang them properly, and we need them to dry quickly so we can make our bed again and sleep in it! And towels and socks because I always find that if I leave these out to dry, they become scratchy and crunchy, and I haven’t found a way around that yet. The point is, the more you can air-dry instead of machine-dry, the more energy you’ll save in the long run. As a bonus, this also saves you money on your electricity bill!

A great way to keep clothing feeling fresh after multiple wears is to make sure it’s hung or folded properly and not left in a crumpled pile on your floor (to keep it from being wrinkled). You can also spray it with a homemade laundry spray made with essential oils to give it a fresh scent.

There are also some kinds of clothing that don’t really need to be washed often if at all, like bulky wool sweaters and denim. Another way to increase the longevity of pieces like this is to wear undershirts that are much easier to wash and don’t matter as much if they become worn over time.

Finally, some clothing that is made of synthetic fabrics (like polyester, nylon, etc.) will release microplastics into the water when washed. These are just little fibres that come off of the clothing and can’t be helped. But the problem is that the synthetic material ends up in waterways and oceans, contributing to plastic waste.

The best way to combat this if you have clothing with synthetic material is to wash them in a laundry bag, such as a Guppyfriend. This catches all of the microplastics that come off of your clothing so they don’t get washed out with the water, and instead can be scooped into your garbage can after washing.

2. Take good care of your clothing

Another way to make your wardrobe more sustainable is to make sure it lasts you a long time. This means taking good care of your clothing, shoes, and accessories in order to help maximize their longevity.

There are a few ways to make sure you’re taking the best care of your clothing possible. The first as we’ve already discussed is to wash your clothing less often. Washing can be really hard on clothing, so when it is time to wash them, try using the delicate cycle with cold water to reduce wear and tear (cold water also saves energy since it doesn’t need to be heated.)

Air drying your clothing is also a much gentler way to dry them than using the dryer. And if you are machine-washing and drying your clothes, always follow the washing instructions to ensure your clothing doesn’t get damaged in the process.

Another way to care for your clothing is to make sure it’s stored properly. Hang items that need to be hung so that they don’t get wrinkled. Fold things like knitwear that could get misshapen or stretched when hung up.

For any out-of-season clothing that is stored away, make sure it’s not kept anywhere that it could get wet or damaged, like a damp attic. Also try to keep moths away, as that’s a surefire way to ruin your clothing!

3. Learn to mend and upcycle

Mending clothing used to be a way of life for many people. But in the days of fast fashion and disposable clothing, the need and skills for mending seem to have slowly ebbed away. Cheap clothing these days isn’t made to last, and our first reaction when something has a hole or stain is to dispose of it in favour of something new.

Learning to mend your clothing is an important part of making your wardrobe more sustainable. The best thing you can do is try to wear the clothing you already have for as long as possible. So picking up some basic sewing skills (whether by hand or machine) is a great way to get more life out of your clothing and use it longer.

When it comes to styles that we’re just not enjoying wearing anymore, upcycling is a great way to continue to get use out of them instead of just donating or disposing of them. Old t-shirts can be made into rags, an oversized sweater can become a cute crop top, old ripped denim can be made into shorts or a skirt; all you have to do is get creative with it. Anything to keep those materials out of the landfill!

I hope you enjoyed this article and that you found these tips helpful. If so, you might also like my article on how to shop like a minimalist. What are some ways you’ve made your wardrobe more sustainable? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,

Emily Lightly

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How to Make Your Wardrobe More Sustainable - Emily Lightly

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  • You always give such practical, easy and direct tips, I love it!! You constantly make me feel more inspired to treat my own belongings with more care and thought. Thank you <3