Monday, March 21, 2011

Thinking About Eco-Friendly Wardrobe Choices

It’s time for spring cleaning, and you know what that means: a nice wrestle with your closet. Everyone is pulling out their “summer clothes” as the whopping 50-degree temperatures make us NEOhioans feel like we’re in a tropical paradise. We’re purging our closets of cardigans that have hung untouched on the hanger for months, tee shirts that we’re not 100% sure about the origins of, and (in my case) eliminating anything from my wardrobe that looks like a 14 year old would be comfortable wearing.

I realized last week, when a close friend offered to let me go through her two enormous garbage bags before dropping them off at Goodwill, that this purging is incredibly good for the environment. I mean, someone (in this case me) gets clothes for free and Goodwill benefits from whatever isn’t taken—no clothing in the landfills is fantastic. When we start getting the itch to replace those pieces with something new, however, many will run to the mall and get whatever trendy thing is hanging on the racks.

I admit, I took a (fantastic) trip to Columbus this week to do some shopping with the girls, and hit stores like Forever 21 and H&M. It’s pretty ridiculous to assume that we’re going to stop frequenting the stores we love. There are ways, however, that we can make choices concerning where and how we shop that can make our wardrobes much better for the environment. Here are a few:

Think Thrifty

Goodwill (and in our area the Village Discount Outlet) is not just for dropping clothes off. I’ve been surprised on a number of occasions that I’ve found quality, name-brand clothes at a really great price at the thrift store. Further, great clothes don’t necessarily need a known brand. You can find incredibly unique items that can work into your wardrobe flawlessly—you just have to look.

Consignment Shops

These are my personal favorites. I live literally two minutes from Plato’s Closet, and just found an adorable pair of Candie’s flip flops for $5. I’ve purchased a number of items in there at amazing prices—a BCBG Max Ariza dress for $18, tops from Old Navy, Wet Seal, and Express between $2-6. Another great consignment shop is located in Green (south of Akron), and is called Jerry’s Closet. Jerry is a wonderful person, and so very helpful! I’ve purchased American Eagle jeans for $12. Talk about a steal.

[I got both of these pairs of shoes at Plato's Closet for under $5.]

Clothing Swaps

Though I’ve never organized one of these, I’m pretty certain I’m going to have to really soon. This time of year is perfect for it. In essence, a party is hosted that involves everyone cleaning their closet and bringing their “unwanted” articles of clothing. This way everyone has a chance to swap, and it can be done very cleverly—setting the party up like a boutique. I personally think it would just be fun to try on all of the clothes together, serve martinis, and use it as an excuse to get dressed up before heading out for the night!


If you’ve got an old piece of clothing that you’ve held onto forever despite the fact that you never wear it, maybe it just needs to be repurposed. Perhaps the fabric is incredibly comfortable, or you love the print. If you’re crafty with a sewing machine, that fabric could find new life in a different article of clothing. Recently, I cut the sleeves from a shirt of mine, sewed it to a skirt I bought at Goodwill, and added a belt for a cute summer dress. Similar projects can be done—both with clothing you own, and great finds at the thrift store.

[The shirt (top left) had sat unworn in my closet for over a year, and the skirt (top right) was a $3 buy at Goodwill. I lopped off the sleeves of the shirt and made it into a tank, and now am in the process of attaching it to the skirt (you can see the pins in the photo still). The belt will be added to complete the look, and was also purchased at Goodwill-- for only $1!]

Only Buy What You Really Love

One rule that I’ve come to live by recently is to only buy what you really, really love. If you purchase thinking you may wear it, it’s likely that piece of clothing may only be worn once, if at all. Fall in love with your clothing. The more use it gets, the less wasteful the purchase is. Sure, you may donate that unworn piece of clothing—but your demand for that product increases the number of them that are produced to begin with! The economics of retail is a funny thing, but certainly is important when it comes to the amount of energy, water, and materials that are put into making clothing. Further, purchasing a handful of really great, quality pieces is much more eco-friendly than purchasing a closet full of clothes that will sit never worn.

Rethink Your Jean

Speaking of water used in production, our jeans consume a ton of it! Though those of us in NEO see fresh water as an abundant resource (thank you, Great Lakes), the reality is that it is quite scarce in many parts of the country and the world. One of these days, it will be even more so. There are a few companies these days that are producing jeans that use less water in the production process. This includes Levi's new Water Less Jeans. However, the greenest way to buy jeans is to purchase ones that have already been worn. Consignment shops are a great way to go.

Recycled and Fair Trade Clothing

There are plenty of companies out there that design and produce clothing made from recycled materials. Everything from shoes to tops can be found recycled from pieces or fabric from used pieces of clothing, plastic, or other materials. Another important factor to take into consideration is quality of work environment and value world-wide. Fair Trade products are created under fair working conditions, and purchased at a fair rate. Supporting these companies is a great way to increase the demand and value of these eco-friendly practices and pressure the larger companies to take a look at their own practices. If you're in or near Akron, check out The Market Path for adorable Fair Trade goodies and accessories.

There are obviously countless ways you can make your wardrobe a bit more eco-friendly, but the first step is just being conscious of the fact that what you wear does make a difference. Whatever you do, live and look fabulous!


  1. I agree with falling in love with your clothing. I try to think of at least three different ways I can wear something before I buy it. I'm all about staple items too, I've spent so much money on unnecessary trendy items that I hardly ever wear. Good job with the top! I'm so bad at stuff like that.

  2. I live by these kinds of guidelines! And hey, we're fellow Akron bloggers if you'd like to arrange a clothing swap, we'd be interested!


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