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How to Cultivate a More Mindful Closet

Five tips to help you become a conscious consumer and reduce your impact.

“Today, both people and the environment suffer as a result of the way fashion is made, sourced and consumed,” Fashion Revolution explains on its website. “This needs to change.” We at Edwin are doing our part: Our denim is made in a LEED- and Fair Trade-certified facility, which employs processes that are gentle to the planet, utilizes clean alternative energy and recycles 98 percent of the water it uses. But sustainability can be approached at multiple levels, and you as the consumer have the power to effect change too. “We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change,” historian and activist Howard Zinn once wrote. “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” By becoming a conscious consumer, and altering the way you buy and care for your clothes, you can reduce the social and environmental impact. But just how do you do that? And where do you start? The below guide will walk you through how to build a more ethical and sustainable closet, with people and the planet in mind.

MAKE TIME FOR LEARNING

The first step to becoming an informed and empowered consumer is to learn as much as you can about why ethical and sustainable fashion is important. A good place to start is with The True Cost, an eye-opening documentary about the Rana Plaza collapse and the consequences of fast fashion. If you prefer to learn from a book, check out Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline. Or, if podcasts are your thing, our five favorites are listed here.

REDUCE & REUSE

Now that you’re more aware about fast fashion, you may be tempted to purge your closet, but please don’t. As The True Cost reported, the “average American generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year,” which “adds up to more than 11 million tons from the U.S. alone.” The most sustainable approach is to wear everything you already own for as long as you can. Slowing down your consumption habits also slows the social and environmental consequences.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR CLOTHES

In order to make your clothes last as long as possible, treat them like the precious possessions that they are (sure, that shirt might have only cost $15 in the store, but it took 713 gallons of water to make it). Read the care labels, wash your clothes less, air dry them and mend them when needed. To further protect the environment, opt for a natural laundry detergent and use a washing bag, which prevents the release of harmful microplastics into our oceans.

REPURPOSE & RECYCLE

You don’t have to keep every piece of clothing in your closet. But you should try to keep it in use and out of landfills for as long as possible. If you no longer need it and it’s in good condition, donate it to a non-profit organization like Dress for Success; trade it at a clothing swap with your friends; or sell if on apps like Poshmark or Depop. If it’s not in the best condition, recycle or repurpose it. For example, you can bring or send your jeans to Atelier & Repairs, an initiative that uses intentional design to rework and refresh them.

SHOP INTENTIONALLY

Finally, when you do need new clothes, shop with intention. Make a list of what you need and purchase from secondhand stores or transparent brands that respect the planet and the people who work for them (the Good on You app is an excellent resource). Then, ask yourself these questions: What is this made out of? Who made it? Do I really need it? Will I wear it years from now? And keep this quote from author and educator Anna Lappé in mind: “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”

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