Sustainability is one of those buzz words that is seemingly everywhere these days. In business, we talk about sustainable business models, systems that are designed around economic, technological, political, legal, social and sometimes environmental considerations. And when successful, these models are designed to evolve with and withstand changes that arise in their surroundings, so that instead of falling apart, can become better suited for the challenges of the future. In environmental science, the idea of sustainability has the same core ideals: it requires the study and consideration of factors that may affect and potentially disrupt the operation of an ecosystem, an organism, etc. In other words, it is about finding balance.

This summer we are featuring a series of blog posts around sustainable living, in which we will discuss ways to find a balance between the three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social responsibility. For our first post of the series we will talk about something that is often considered an extension of ourselves: our clothes. Keep reading for our 5 tips on shopping in a more sustainable way!

1. Check the label

Just like with food, a key aspect of being a more responsible shopper is knowing what you buy. It’s not only about the materials in your clothes, but the companies making them. Their employees, their manufacturing, transportation and selling practices are important steps in the process of getting that t-shirt you’re about to purchase and a company that is not transparent about it might not even know where these clothes are coming from. Find companies who care about what you care about, and when in doubt, check the tag.

2. Do not fear vintage and secondhand

Going to a secondhand or vintage store the first time can be daunting and your head might be clouded with negative thoughts, but it can honestly be a ton of fun to browse around a second-hand store. It feels almost like a treasure hunt and is all the more rewarding to find a piece that is somehow just perfect and still in great condition (not to mention the $4 price tag). My advice is to not be afraid of buying vintage or secondhand garments, they can be equally stylish and after the first wash they’ll be ready to go! If you’re in Boston, you can visit Garment Districtor head to SoWa for vintage options.

3. Take advantage of technology

By now you probably know that technology is one of the biggest tools to a more sustainable life in more ways than one. ThredUp for example, is a company that makes secondhand shopping easier. They have a great selection of clothes at amazing prices and you can even sell your own garments. Similarly, the DoneGood Google extension and app will help you find companies with responsible practices, and their exclusive discounts will make it worth your time. And hey, don’t forget that by purchasing through the Soli app you can help reduce 2 pounds of CO2 per every dollar you spend!

5. Quality over quantity

There is a certain thrill on getting a new piece of clothing every few weeks or finding shoes that look like that very expensive pair you saw on Instagram, only way cheaper. However, those fast-fashion garments are hurting the environment and they will not last long. Instead, look at clothes as an investment, and take good care of them. According to the CareLabelProject, 67% of the clothes that are disposed could’ve been kept away from the trash if taken better care of (2017), so when investing in a good pair of shoes or a nice dress, re-consider your washing habits, they could be doing more harm than you think.

When in doubt, go back to the 3Rs

I still remember learning about “the three R’s” as a kid, and while the concept is simple, it can go a long way. Besides our purchasing habits, disposing of clothes we don’t want can create huge amounts of waste, but when faced with this dilemma there are many paths to take. Re-purposing clothes can be very fun and you might be surprised with what you can create, just find a sewing kit and a style you want to re-create or revive. If that’s not your thing, there are stores who will give you discounts for bringing back clothes you don’t want and Amazon allows you to use your old boxes to ship items you’d like to donate to a GoodWill in your area for free. In Boston, you can try The Garment District or 2nd time Around.

Remember that you have power as a consumer, so use it to purchase clothes that matter! Come back next week to read about how to eat in a more sustainable way.