3 Sustainability Experts Weigh In on How to Be a Better Shopper

January is the month of New Year’s resolutions. Even if you don’t have a specific goal in mind for 2022, it’s a great time to think about how we can better ourselves for the year ahead. This should also apply to our fashion choices. Whether you’re gunning to experiment with a new look, or wanting to change how you spend and consume, we should be taking the opportune moment to have a critical look at our own wardrobes. Because what better way to reinvent ourselves than through style?

A goal that should be on all of our minds this year is vowing to be a more sustainable shopper. Currently, the fashion industry is one of the most polluting in the world, and plays a key role in accelerating global warming. A 2020 report by the Global Fashion Agenda found that the fashion industry’s emissions are set to rise to around 2.7 billion tons a year by 2030. That’s an alarming stat, and it can make shopping and contributing to the cycle feel dreadful. But there are easy steps one can take to take a more eco-minded approach to consuming when needed.


It can be overwhelming to know where to start, so below, Vogue asked three sustainability experts to weigh in on how to be a better—and smarter—shopper this year. Turns out, their easy tips range from shopping our own closets, to better researching the brands that we are buying from. And sure, it may be near impossible to cut our shopping down to zero, but you can still align your consumption habits with your core values. Read on for their guide to kicking off 2022 on a greener fashion note.

Elizabeth L. Cline, author of The Conscious Closet

Extended Reading : Elizabeth L. Cline, author of The Conscious Closet

1. Start the year with a fashion fast. If you don’t need anything new for work, school, or life, put your purchases on pause and take a few weeks or months to repair and restore what you already own, and rediscover pieces that maybe got shoved to the back of your closet. Being intentional about shopping and appreciating what you have is a great way to be a more mindful and sustainable consumer all year around. 

2. Secondhand is an easy and affordable way to be more sustainable. Reuse is much greener than recycling, and shopping secondhand is a great way to afford higher-quality clothes that last longer and have higher resale value, creating a virtuous circle of sustainability. If you want to make your thrifting habit even more sustainable, support your local thrift store where you can shop in person and try things on. Online shopping and shipping and returns can rack up CO2 emissions and packaging waste by contrast. 

3. Don’t leave out the human element in your environmental commitments. A sustainable society takes care of people, animals, and the planet in tandem. In other words, think beyond buying recycled or organic fibers or brands. Support brands that holistically take care of their employees and the people and places who make our clothes. 

Marielle Terhart, photographer, writer, and slow fashion expertMarielle Terhart, photographer, writer, and slow fashion expert

1. Learn how to properly care for the clothes you own. Sure, this isn't as exciting as buying something new, but the truth is the most sustainable wardrobe you can own is the one you already have—by actually wearing it! Extend the life of your garments by learning how to properly care for different fabrics, investing in tools to care for more delicate textiles like knitwear and silks (I love Steamery Stockholm), and washing your wardrobe less (in cold water, and air drying whenever possible). Embrace the lost art of learning stain removal tips and find a good tailor. Extending the lifespan of your clothing is such an important step in building a more sustainable closet.

2. Join the #30Wears club. One of the easiest ways I’ve curbed excessive shopping—and the equally tragic, beautiful garments that I never wear—is asking the simple question, “can I see myself wearing this 30 times?” Yes there are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part anything I'm adding to my wardrobe I need to pass that test. Can I envision them both with other pieces I already own, and equally important, will they actually fit the life I currently lead? Being honest with myself about how practical a garment is for my life has helped curb impulse purchases significantly and ensures the resources that go into making a pair of jeans or a cute blouse don't end up wasted.

3. Try finding it secondhand. Can’t afford the price tag of ethically made fashion? See if you can track down a vintage or reseller piece instead of shopping fast fashion. As a plus size person myself, I have been delighted to see more reseller spaces curated for plus size shoppers—including Shop Berriez and the Instagram account @SellTradePlus—gain traction over the last few years increasing ease of accessibility for secondhand shopping across a broader size range. Vintage styles can be a great way to jump on a trend or experiment in an aesthetic you're curious about, without adding to new clothing consumption. Plus, you have the added bonus of being able to say, "Thank you, it's vintage,” whenever anyone compliments your new-to-you piece. 

Cassandra Dittmer, sustainable stylist

Cassandra Dittmer, sustainable stylist 

1. Prioritize shopping your own closet. I do this seasonally, when I’m headed on a vacation or have the urge to purchase new pieces. Starting a new year is a great time to prioritize a clean-out or re-organize for your closet. This practice can help you gain a deeper connection to existing pieces in your wardrobe, or support clearing out anything that no longer sparks joy or fuels your evolving style journey. I have a “refresh system” I use with clients that works as an initial closet edit. These steps include separating clothing into piles, and re-trying on pieces to find what still works and what you’ve grown from, both literally and figuratively. The purpose of this exercise is to encourage my clients to re-evaluate their closets so they only purchase things they need, to complete or evolve their style in progressive way. 

2. Create your own set of values for how and why you’d like to become a more conscious shopper or consumer. Ask yourself, what sustainable or ethical attributes are most important to you? Your response should cater to core efforts supporting the people, the planet, and animals. An example of my personal values includes: Shopping only for independent brands and women or BIPOC-owned designers, vegan garments, or items with natural materials vs. synthetic. Harboring this mindset can allow you to integrate sustainability into your lifestyle in a way that’s gradual and doesn’t compromise your personal style goals. I encourage people to find their inspiration, save outfits you come across on Instagram/Pinterest that you love, or screenshot photos and create a wishlist album on your phone. Then google to search for sustainable or ethical alternatives!

3. Don’t shame yourself for any pieces you already own that are fast-fashion or not from sustainable brands. Sustainability is not about going out and completely replacing your closet, because that isn’t sustainable. Extending the life cycle of pieces you own is a great way to start. This could even mean mending an existing piece of clothing or fixing your go-to boots. The goal of being a sustainable shopper or consumer isn’t perfectionism! It’s leading with an intention and effort, and taking small steps that in turn, will help to create the change we need. 


Text: , VOGUE