Make Your Online Shopping Choices More Sustainable With This 5-Second Self-Check Exercise

When fashion is a passion point in your own personal world, the impact on the actual world skews concerning, to say the least. The fashion industry is responsible for nearly 10 percent of the world's total carbon emissions, which contribute to the imminent threat of climate change. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 16 million tons of textile waste came from the United States in 2017, with more than 11 million ending up in landfills rather than being recycled or reused. But, this doesn't mean expressing yourself through fashion is no longer attainable to do in a way that's safe for the planet; rather, it's just important to know how to buy clothes sustainably.

Experts In This Article
  • Alden Wicker, Alden Wicker is a freelance journalist and expert who writes deeply researched articles about the big issues and ideas concerning the fashion industry’s global impact on the environment and people. She splits her time between managing her internationally recognized website, with 1.4 million readers in 2019, and contributing to publications like The New York Times, Vogue, Vogue Business, InStyle, Harper’s Bazaar, The Cut, Glamour, Quartz, Vox, and Inc. Magazine. She’s made expert appearances on the BBC, Al Jazeera, NPR, CBC, and MSNBC, and has been cited by The New York Times, Teen Vogue, Complex, and Nylon as a leading voice in the movement. She has spoken at the Youth Summit at the United Nations, the Better Cotton Initiative Summit, and the Other Festival in Brooklyn, among many other events.

In the latest episode of the Well+Good web series Need To Knowhost and actress Sophia Bush chats with writer and sustainable fashion expert Alden Wicker about how to honor a love of fashion while still respecting the planet. Renting your clothes and buying secondhand are savvy, environmentally conscious moves, but simply being self-aware and strategic with purchases can also help to build a more sustainable wardrobe. "It just comes down to knowing what you love, and buying less, but buying better—buying things that you’ll keep for a long time, that you’ll wear a lot," says Wicker.

"It just comes down to knowing what you love, and buying less, but buying better—buying things that you’ll keep for a long time." —Alden Wicker, sustainable fashion expert

So how does self-aware shopping work? Well, let’s say during quarantine you treated yourself to some digital retail therapy and jumped aboard the tie-dye trend. But as summer rolled around, you realized the look simply wasn't "you," and you were ready to purge the colorful garments. Next time, Wicker suggests, ask yourself "is this something I'll want after the season?" as a five-second self-check exercise to protect you and your closet from unsustainable purchases.

On the flip side, if you’re aware that you’re more of an animal-prints person, investing in a quality all-purpose leopard piece is actually a smart long-term move. (Trust me, I’ve had the same leopard print midi skirt for seven years, and though it wavers in trendiness, it always looks good on me, you know?) Buying what you know (or at least strongly suspect) will look good on you is an ultimately kinder move for the environment, especially if you're shopping online. We can't try-before-we-buy as easily these days, and that can lead to a chain reaction of eco-destruction.

"Right now we’re not doing a lot of shopping in stores, and it’s even more important to understand all of these things so you don’t buy something and ship it back for returns," Wicker says. "Returns are so unsustainable. There’s the carbon emissions, there’s the packaging, there’s all the stuff that goes into shipping. So [it's about] really getting familiar with what you like, what looks good on you, and being just really thoughtful about that."

Watch the full video above to learn more about making sustainable fashion choices.

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