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How to Love Fashion, Sustainably

According to facts shared by Waste Reduction Week in Canada, North Americans alone send over 10 million tonnes of clothing to the landfill every year. A major contributor to this problem is fast fashion— cheaply made, low quality clothing that is cycled through stores quickly at low prices. Fast fashion’s prices can be tempting, but its disposable nature leads to more textile waste. 

Here are some ways to participate in a more sustainable fashion cycle:

Shopping Smart Not Fast

  • Decide if you really need a new item

If you are thinking about buying a new item specifically for a special occasion, you may often find that you already have a perfectly good outfit in your closet. Not everyone is able to achieve the minimalism of a capsule wardrobe (I certainly can’t), so items can get lost in your closet. Make sure you take stock of what you have before buying more. It helps to organize your closet regularly and separate items by season. Many pieces can also transition from one season to the next, or from day wear to formal wear with the help of layers and accessories. If you do end up shopping for a new piece, make sure it is versatile enough that you are going to be able to wear it for more than just one event or purpose. 

  • Shop second-hand

Second-hand clothes shopping is great for the environment and your budget. There are many thrifting options, from sifting through bins and racks, to shopping consignment boutiques, to scrolling through social media accounts dedicated to selling new-to-you clothes. Many items sold through these businesses can be found with the tags still on, often donated unworn, or purchased from stores that were getting rid of unsold stock otherwise destined for the trash. 

Second-hand clothing doesn’t use the same natural resources required to make new garments, and doesn’t put your money in the hands of the fast fashion industry. In addition to these benefits, thrifting is a great way to find unique pieces that no one else will be wearing. Thrifting can even be a social occasion in the case of clothing swaps, which are a great opportunity for people to get together and exchange items they no longer wear. You can organize your own clothing swap or attend one in the community. The Tare Shop has held several clothing swaps, which have also served the purpose of supporting local charities and shelters through monetary donations and the donation of the unclaimed clothing. 

  • Buy ethically-made

Fast fashion has other negative impacts including the unethical treatment of workers in the garment industry. Consider making a statement with your consumer dollars by purchasing clothing that is made sweat-shop-free and eco-consciously. There are numerous small shops that specialize in this type of clothing. You can also research ethical brands online to find out which ones make their products with the well-being of people and the environment in mind. Ethically-made clothing tends to cost more because the people who made have been paid a fair wage and the materials are higher quality. It can be more expensive, but a worthwhile investment for staple wardrobe pieces that you will own for a long time. Choosing to buy from small local businesses will also help keep your money in the local economy.

  • Choose quality over quantity 

If your budget allows you to pay a little more for higher quality clothing, this is always a better option than buying ultra cheap clothing from fast fashion lines. While new clothing with super low prices may seem appealing at the time, higher quality clothing is a better investment, and will save you money over time. Cheap clothing will soon need to be replaced, sending you back to the store and your clothes to a landfill. 


Katie Tanner is the Museum & Communications Coordinator at the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame. An English graduate from Dalhousie University, she was born and raised in the Annapolis Valley but has been a Haligonian for over a decade. She enjoys travelling and doing her part to take care of the planet. 

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