How to shop more sustainably

Words by Hannah Rochell

Shopping sustainably is better for the planet and your purse. (Getty)
Shopping sustainably is better for the planet and your purse. (Getty) (Mariia Skovpen via Getty Images)

It’s Earth Day today, but we all need to shop for our fashion more responsibly every day of the year for the sake of the planet and all of us that live on it. The good news is, it’s easier than you think to get into sustainable fashion! Here are 8 tips to help you shop more sustainably.

1. Stop stressing about trends

London, UK - August 13, 2019: Regent street view with shops and people walking by. Popular destination for high street shopping
The high street isn't always right. (Getty Images) (IR_Stone via Getty Images)

The fashion industry is built on us all wanting the latest trends, but what if we didn’t have to worry about that anymore? What if you just bought stuff you like that you reckon you’ll love and wear for years? Believe us, it’s a game changer, both for your wardrobe and your wallet.

Read more: New climate change GCSE will teach students how to protect the planet

2. Get to know your personal style

Getting to know your personal style will help you make fewer shopping mistakes. (Getty Images)
Getting to know your personal style will help you make fewer shopping mistakes. (Getty Images) (PIKSEL via Getty Images)

It’s much easier to nail point 1 if you've figured out your personal style – the items that you reach for again and again because they suit you and you feel great wearing them. Keeping note of how often you wear (and don’t wear) items in your existing wardrobe is a great way of figuring out your hero items to invest in in the future, as well as admitting that those on-trend pieces from a few seasons ago were a bit of a waste of money.

3. Check your labels

sale assortment denim collection on the stand in a stylish boutique shop selection
Do you know what your clothes are made of? (Getty Images) (Yuriy Kovtun via Getty Images)

We’re not talking about designer labels here, but the ones that tell you what fabric an item is made from. Polyester makes up 52% of all fibres produced globally, but did you know that it’s actually plastic? Which means it will hang around on planet Earth for thousands of years, so it’s best to avoid buying it, if you're trying to be more sustainable.

Read more: Earth Day 2022: 7 ways to reduce your carbon 'foodprint' to save the planet

Instead, keep your eyes peeled for natural fibres like linen, wool, organic cotton and sustainably sourced viscose; if you are buying a man-made fibre look for recycled options like PET (made from recycled plastic bottles) and Econyl® (made from recycled nylon, like fishing nets).

4. Curate your Instagram feed

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holding smartphone with social media or social network notification icons
Find sustainable shopping inspiration on social media. (Getty Images) (Witthaya Prasongsin via Getty Images)

Unfollow the fast fashion brands that constantly dangle newness like a tasty fashion carrot on your feed and start introducing sustainable ones instead. The algorithm will kick in and start suggesting more similar brands and before you know it, you’ll be a sustainable fashion expert! It’s also a great idea to follow sustainable influencers for ideas and tips – we love Venetia La Manna, Aja Barber and Izzy Manuel.

5. Edit your in box

Closeup of a man hand holding cellphone with internet browser on screen. Man with spectacles relaxing sitting on couch while looking at mobile phone. Closeup of mature latin man using smartphone to checking email at home.
Clean up those marketing emails. (Getty Images) (Ridofranz via Getty Images)

Unsubscribing from brand emails is another way to avoid temptation. It will also help to lower your carbon footprint; an email with attachments like videos and images – exactly like the ones you might receive from a fashion brand – has an average carbon footprint of 50g CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent).

6. Shop second-hand

Man looking through clothing while at a thrift store.
Pre-loved fashion is growing more and more popular. (Getty Images) (SolStock via Getty Images)

Keeping existing clothes in circulation for as long as possible is vital when it comes to slowing down our shopping habits. The second-hand fashion industry is positively booming, which means there is loads of great stuff out there to choose from. Whether you’re second-hand shopping from a website like Whering, raiding your local charity shop or heading to a clothes swapping event, you can do it guilt-free.

7. Give yourself a cooling off period

Woman sitting on the windowsill with mobile phone and looking away. Woman relaxing at home looking outside the window.
Do you really need those jeans you saw earlier? (Getty Images) (Luis Alvarez via Getty Images)

Seen something that you think you really ‘need’? Sleep on it or give it a few days’ thought. A ‘cooling off’ period will help give you perspective on whether or not it’s a necessary purchase.

Use the time to think about whether you already have something that does the same job in your wardrobe and to research the brand and the item in question.

What fabric is it made from? Who made it, were they paid fairly and did they work in safe conditions? Does the brand have good sustainable credentials? You might even realise a few weeks later that you never gave the item a second thought.

8. Do your research

Mature businessman working from home on laptop with copy space. Mid adult entrepreneur focusing on work while working on laptop in living room. Manager wearing eyeglasses while working on laptop for project.
Buy the right way. (Getty Images) (Ridofranz via Getty Images)

This might all seem a bit overwhelming, but there are apps out there to help you! Good On You is a good starting point; the app rates brands on planet, people and animals. We’d also recommend checking a brand’s website for sustainability information – if there isn’t any, take your money elsewhere!

Watch: Sustainable wardrobe essentials