Tackling fast fashion, one shirt at a time

Small changes to make your wardrobe more sustainable

These small habits can help you reduce clothing waste.

Even if you’re not familiar with the term “fast fashion,” chances are, your closet’s full of it.

Fast fashion is the term used for the inexpensive clothing rapidly produced by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. Think Garage, H&M, and Zara.

Most fast fashion retailers are popular because they sell low-cost clothes, provide a wide range of designs, and constantly release new products. However, it’s been no secret for a while now that the negative social and environmental impacts of the industry are severe.

Approximately one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned every second because of the fast fashion industry, and many of these brands have become synonymous with sweatshops and questionable labour practices. In order to move toward a greener and more equitable world, we need to make more careful and conscious decisions regarding clothing.

There are a number of ways to approach fashion and clothing more sustainably, and it all starts with taking a moment to think before heading to the mall.   

Question your shopping habits

Before purchasing new clothes, take a few extra minutes to think about how often you’re going to wear the piece, how well it matches your other clothing, and how long you think it’ll last. Impulse shopping can be fun, but it’s important to avoid buying clothing you don’t need or won’t actually wear.

Be wary of clothing that’s cheap or on sale. An inexpensive item won’t be cost-effective in the long run if it’s an item you won’t ever actually wear, or if its low quality makes it unwearable after a few uses. Consider investing in good quality staple pieces, like a crisp white shirt or a heavy denim jacket. Pieces like these are timeless, and can be worn over and over again.

Be honest with yourself when making these decisions. In the end, it will result in less waste from unwearable clothing.

Recycle, repurpose, repair

If you do get tired of a clothing item or it’s unwearable in its current form, the best solutions are to recycle, repurpose, or repair it.

If an item becomes damaged, before throwing it away, check to see if it can be repaired. Sometimes damages we consider extreme, such as rips or missing buttons, can be fixed with simple sewing skills. Kingston has tailor shops that can alter or repair clothing for you, including Quick Sew in the downtown core and Sew Helpful. Sew Helpful also offers sewing and DIY technique classes so you can tackle future wears and tears yourself.

Clothing can also oftentimes be repurposed into something new. An unwanted pair of jeans can be turned into a cool new mini skirtor a trendy pair of shorts. An old t-shirt can be transformed into an environmentally-friendly produce bag.

If an item is only lightly used, consider donating it to a thrift store where it can be recycled for somebody else to enjoy and use.

Giving new life to old clothing, whether repurposing it or donating it, cuts down on the waste produced by fast fashion. It also helps others and can save you money.

Research the brands you purchase

Before buying a new piece of clothing, take time to research the brand that produces it, specifically their labour practices and environmental impact.

Try to only support brands that are transparent about who’s making their clothing, and where and how it’s being made. Actively search out brands that use environmentally-friendly dyes and fabrics as well as those that provide safe working conditions for employees.

There are many online resources that can provide you with insight into the environmental and social impacts of hundreds of brands such as Good on You and The Good Trade.

Choose second hand

Unfortunately, many brands that are sustainable are also very expensive. A cheap and fun solution to that problem is thrift shopping.

Thrift store shopping has rightly become very trendy in recent years. It can be lots of fun to scour through racks and piles of clothes to find the perfect thrifted gem. Thrifting is also one of the best ways to become a more sustainable shopper. Buying clothing that’s been previously loved and recycled doesn’t contribute to the trucks full of clothing thrown away every day.

You can shop at your classic thrift stores like Talize and Value Village, or check out an online thrift store like Depop, Poshmark, or Thredup for a larger selection.

Have a clothing swap with your friends

A fun way to incorporate sustainable fashion practices into everyday life is to host a clothing swap with some of your friends. Invite friends over and have each of them bring a couple of lightly-used, unwanted clothing pieces. Everyone can swap and leave with some new pieces without spending any money.


Take or leave as many of these tips as you want. Creating a sustainable wardrobe is a process that doesn’t just happen overnight. Choose what best suits your lifestyle and budget.

Hopefully, with the increasing number of people concerned with sustainable fashion, earth-friendly shopping will soon become as popular as it should be.

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