Clothes Fashion

7 Sustainability Questions To Ask Yourself Before Shopping

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These 7 sustainability questions to ask yourself before shopping will reduce your eco footprint, and help save you from the madness of sales

By: Diana Youn 

If you’re reading this post, there’s a good chance you want to learn how to buy with intention as you strive to lessen your eco footprint. But alas, sometimes promotions from your favorite apparel brands tug at your heart (and pocket) strings in ways that get you to pull out your wallet and purchase a blouse or shorts or something that you only end up wearing a few times before it gets sent to the charity box.

But I’m here to offer you some practical solutions to help you become a more conscious shopper. I’ll help you champion a curated closet filled with pieces you’ll love and will want to wear over and over again, all the while achieving a smaller eco-footprint. All you have to do is use these 7 questions to ask yourself before you shop. Here they are, below.

7 Sustainability Questions To Ask Yourself Before Shopping

1. Is this a piece I truly need, or can I do without it?

This is the most basic of all the sustainability questions to ask yourself. We all know that feeling. When you’re shopping for clothing and stumble upon a trendy top, and instantly feel like you must have it. But do you really need it? Will it still be chic in three or four months. What about three years? Strive to make each purchase an intentional one, with long term use in mind. Remember that each piece of clothing you buy impacts the planet in some way. Don’t buy on impulse! If you really love something, think about it awhile before committing. If you’re afraid it’s going to sell out, or if it’s only one item, ask the retailer to put it on hold for 24 hours while you have a think.

2. Does this really fit me properly?

In the fashion world, one brand’s ‘small’ could really be an XS, or even another brand’s ‘medium’ Take a peek at the true measurements of the garment before buying, and compare it to your exact body measurements. A piece that doesn’t fit correctly isn’t a worthwhile purchase, and if you’re ordering several sizes from an online shopping site, remember that there is indeed an ecological footprint to every return.

Sure, you may think to yourself: ‘I’ll lose weight and fit into this later’, or ‘it’s a bit big, but I can get it taken in’. Will you really, though? Chances are are more than likely that you’re going to take it home, stand in front of the mirror, and realize it won’t actually work. And then what happens? That garment becomes waste.

Avoid buyer’s remorse, or a trip back to the store to make a return, and stick to clothing that fits you perfectly. 

3. Does this match my other stuff?

Sure, those purple knee-high boots looked great in the shop, and they are the perfect size. But come on – do you really have anything you’re going to actually wear those with? If you buy something that’s out of synch with the rest of your wardrobe, chances are it’s going to gather dust in the back of your closet until you finally decide to get rid of it. When you shop, think in terms of building a wardrobe: everything you purchase should have something to do with at least a few other items in your closet.

4. Is it sustainable and ethically made?

Is the new shirt you’re clutching made at an ethical factory that pays its garment workers a living wage? And is it made in an eco-friendly way, from sustainable materials? Knowing the answers to such questions can be difficult, but if you are shopping at a retailer that’s known to have good ethics, you can rest assured the brands they carry are ok. Click here to see a list of great shops you can trust! Otherwise, check out this list of brands that are the most notorious for using sweatshop labour, and be sure to avoid them.

5. Are the materials easy to deal with?

In other words, will this last through multiple washes and wears? When looking at a garment’s label, take a close look at the care instructions and the fabric and materials used. Is the fabric both low-impact and made of durable fibers? Is the brand itself known to construct high-quality clothing pieces? Will you have to spend a lot of time hand washing this, or worse, dry cleaning it? Keep in mind even some of the most sustainable fibers, such as silk or linen, can be a pain in the butt to care for, as you’ll have to hand wash and iron them a lot.

6. Does this really fit my lifestyle?

One of the most important sustainability questions to ask yourself is this one, but it’s the question we’re least likely to pose to ourselves, as we get caught up in the beauty of the garment, rather than its practicality. Sure, that sparkly dress is beautiful, and fits you like a glove. It’s perfect for New Year’s Eve, but will it realistically fit into your everyday attire? If you know the chances of wearing a piece more than a few times a year are slim to none, consider shopping your friend’s closet or even renting an item on a site like this.

7. How much do I love it?

Keep in mind – it’s not about justifying cheap purchases; It’s about whether you love the item enough that you’ll end up wearing it over and over again. Shopping out of convenience can be a risky game to play – for your wallet and the environment. Really ask yourself, “Do I absolutely love this item?” Perhaps even leave the store (or your laptop if you’re shopping online), then see how you feel about it a week from now.

If you’ve answered “yes” to the questions above and know for a fact that you absolutely love the item, then you’re well on your way to making an intentional purchase while minimizing your eco-footprint. 

Conscious shopping starts with a desire to make better decisions. When first starting out, you may feel a bit frustrated as you ponder whether or not you should really make a purchase. As you dive further into the world of conscious shopping, your decisions will get a lot easier. My best advice is to do your research and enjoy the process, while keeping these sustainability questions to ask yourself in your ethically-made back pocket. 

Diana Youn is the sustainable fashion blogger behind The Chic Diary, and the founder of Unspun Narrative – a modern apparel line for the conscious, petite woman. All images courtesy The Chic Diary.

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