First 5 Steps to Becoming a Sustainable Fashion (Mini) Expert

Why you should care

Because taking sustainable baby steps can feel empowering.


by Cindy J Lin


Kate Houser

Sooo, you just read our piece about the 730,000 microplastic fibers shed from the clothes we wear and wash each time, and you’re a bit freaked out?! Don’t fret, you are not alone. We get a little freaked out the more we dive into the impact of fashion on the environment too. But, we really believe every step we make differently will make a change, no matter how small! And as the Hey Social Good data analysts behind the scenes track the positive impacts of our shift to make a change, we can see and feel the difference by the simple steps we take at home and with our friends.

You might not think one minor change in the way you shop for clothes will make a difference, but imagine a small change made by every one of the 7 million people on this planet! We understand the journey to a fully sustainable closet isn’t easy, but let’s just start. Sometimes, that’s the most critical step. Here’s a few small tips that could have a huge impact.

Five (Baby) Sustainable Steps

So, what to do? It’s unlikely you’re going to throw away every piece of clothing you own immediately and go out and buy natural fiber clothing only. And even if you did, like us, you’ll start thinking about the fact that all used clothing (if not donated to be reused) will end up in a landfill nearby (see our piece on “What happens to clothes you donate”). To sustainably solve this problem, we have to work on this one step at a time because it’s an issue of cost, habit and practicality. Here’s our beginning steps to shift towards becoming a more sustainable shopping maven! 

#1 Read the Labels —  Be aware of the type of clothing you buy – always check the materials used to make the garment. Look for materials such as Tencel, hemp or organic cotton and stay away from polyester, which eventually becomes tiny pieces of plastic that pollutes our air, soil and water.

#2 Support Slow Fashion — — Buy from slow fashion companies who use natural fibers. The more you support brands who value quality over consumption, the less you will support fast fashion. Continuing to purchase from these types of brands, the bigger the impact it will have on places like Forever21 (did you hear how they’re going bankrupt?) and other fast fashion retailers to either close their doors or change their production methods. 

#3 Buy Used — First off, we absolutely LOVE a vintage find! Not only does buying used up your wardrobe game, it also is one of the easiest ways to decrease your carbon footprint! Fortunately, there are tons of awesome places you can buy used such as your local Goodwill, a trendy vintage shop, PoshMark, or lots of online stores now that will help source for you and give you easy access to shop used without having the dig through the racks (like, ThredUp and Swap Society!) 

#4 Buy Less — Yes, we agree, sometimes buying sustainable is a bit more expensive, but instead of buying three black dresses at $30/piece from a fast fashion retailer, invest $90 in a dress from somewhere like, Reformation, that has drastically less harmful impacts on the environment and will last you much longer. We fill our closets with more items of clothing than any other human in time and now is the time to change that. 

#5 BYOB — Don’t get too excited, the “B” here stands for “bag”, not beer (though we do love a cold one on a hot summer day). Bring your own bag when you go shopping to reduce the amount of plastic you’re consuming from all those shopping bags. If you’re more of an online shopper, look for brands who use recycled materials in their packaging, and if they don’t, don’t be afraid to email them, encouraging them to adopt better shipping practices.

Keywords: quick wins; sustainable steps; steps to sustainability; sustainable todo; natural fibers; donating clothes; read labels; labels; clothing labels; tencel; hemp; organic cotton; slow fashion; fast fashion; used; vintage; poshmark; buy less; consumption; reusable bags