9 Ways to Be More Sustainable With Your Clothing & Sneaker Consumption Habits
Last Friday, 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg inspired protests around the world, with demonstrations in more than 150 countries. It was the largest such protest in the history of the movement, made even more impressive because it’s a youth-backed effort. After all, it’s the youngest among us who will have to deal with the ramifications dumped on them by older generations.
Of course, the demonstrations are just the beginning, and you may now wonder what you can do yourself to contribute less to this planet’s demise. We’ve covered sustainability extensively in the past, but to make it easier, we’ve culled from our archive to put together a cheat sheet of 9 ways you can change your clothing and sneaker consumption habits for the better.
Yes, it’s obvious. But it’s such an easy step it bears repeating. On average, Americans purchase 13 water bottles per month. So switching to a refillable jawn is a way to cut out 156 plastic bottles a year. Plus, it’s just a great accessory. Everyone from Prada to Off-White™ has gotten into the game, and even if you get a regular ass bottle, you can make it yours by slapping on your favorite stickers. That’s what we call a win-win.
This goes beyond hitting thrift and vintage stores, which give already produced goods a second life and allow you to find killer pieces on the cheap. More and more brands are beginning to refurbish their own used products and put them back on the market. The North Face, Patagonia, and Arc’teryx are leading the way by guaranteeing endurance with their old products. Buying used goods can be risky — ask me about the Louis Vuitton bag I bought only for it to promptly fall apart — but these recommerce platforms are a great way to consume less while removing any doubt.
“Sustainability” has become such a buzzword in fashion that it’s hard to know who to trust. Enough brands have claimed it for themselves without taking the necessary steps that there’s a term for it: greenwashing. To find out who’s really about that action, make sure you ask the right questions. Is the brand only making one sustainable line? How big is the company? Will the product last? Answering these may require some research, but the app Good On You will help with the homework.
Merino wool is the world’s natural techwear. It’s stretchy, antimicrobial, water-repellent, and can hold 30 percent of its weight in water (or sweat) without feeling wet. It’s also super lightweight and warm, and manufactured to last long. Even better, it’s an ethical and renewable material. Shearing a sheep is cruelty free and actually beneficial for the animal. The practice can be abused, however, so look deeper into the practice of mulesing and avoid sources that use it. And if you really want to get down with the cause, join the movement to ban it.
It’s easy to write this off as corny and fake flexing, but renting is the way to go if you’re unlikely to get a lot of use out of an item. Renting formalwear has long been a socially acceptable practice, and Rent the Runway has successfully made the market for it online. Companies like Higher Studio, HURR, By Rotation and The Nu Wardrobe allow users to rent highly covetable pieces and swap them out regularly. This will keep your wardrobe fresh and prevent your purchases from sitting in your closet underutilized. If you’re the type to make impulse buys and/or get tired of clothes easily, renting will save you (and the planet) from yourself.
How many sneakers do you really need? A lot of the “must-have” sneakers will fall out of favor quickly and fall out of your rotation. Instead of chasing every hyped release, consider focusing on the classic silhouettes, taking good care of them, and wearing them as much as possible. This doesn’t mean you have to rock beaters only, but it should mean only purchasing kicks that you truly love and won’t sit on your shelf. You can still be a sneakerhead, just be a more thoughtful one. And when you’re done with a pair, look into recycling programs like Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe.
Take that sneaker mindset and apply it to your entire wardrobe. How many jackets can one person have? How many shirts do you actually wear? How much of your wardrobe will truly last? After years of accumulating piece after piece, I try to ask myself two questions before buying anything new: is this unlike anything else I own, and do I have a deep connection to it? We the consumers are the elephant in the room when it comes to sustainability.
More and more brands are repurposing old materials, and it’s fascinating to see what they can do. adidas has lead the way with its Parley line made from ocean plastic, and the brand has pledged to use only recycled plastic by 2024. Their Futurecraft sneaker is also a game changer, as it’s made entirely of upcycled materials, and you can return it to adidas for it to be made into yet another sneaker.
Elsewhere, Noah is making tees from recycled cotton, Heron Preston is making luxury goods out of parachutes, Prada is getting down with recycled nylon, and The North Face is turning tents into totes. One of the most innovative and exciting designers right now is Nicole McLaughlin, who’s gone from making repurposed pieces go viral to releasing a full collection for Reebok. There has never been more options for upcycled goods, and they’ve never been this cool.
If you’re ready to take things to the extreme, commit to not buying any new clothes or shoes for an entire year. That’s what Alec Leach, former Highsnobiety style editor and founder of Future Dust, is doing. Doing so will give you time to enjoy what you have more and reconsider your “needs.” After lasting a year, it’d be shocking if you ever went back to your old shopping habits.
Have other methods of curbing your clothing and sneaker consumption habits? Let us know them in the comments below.