Going Green: How to Be a More Sustainable Fashion Consumer

Going Green: How to Be a More Sustainable Fashion Consumer

On Earth Day, model, actress, and environmental activist Calu Rivero demonstrates a few key steps you can take to reduce your fashion footprint.

On Earth Day, model, actress, and environmental activist Calu Rivero demonstrates a few key steps you can take to reduce your fashion footprint.

Photography: Robin Harper

Styling: SARAH SLUTSKY

Text: William Defebaugh

As one of the largest consumer industries, it's no secret that fashion plays a hefty role in the detriment of our planet. Firstly, there are the problems within the industry itself: fast fashion cycles, high output factories, and unsustainable clothing production practices. Not all of the blame can be shouldered by clothing brands and retailers, though; we as consumers and how we interact with clothing are equally responsible. How often and where we shop, and how we approach and care for our wardrobes are all important factors in our ecological footprint. The good news is, with a rapidly growing number of eco- and ethically-minded designers, changing our habits has never been easier. (For a handy list of sustainable luxury brands, click here.)

On Earth Day, we teamed up with Argentinian model, actress, and environmental activist Calu Rivero to illustrate some of the simplest measures you can take to reduce your fashion footprint. In the story, below, Rivero wears only eco-friendly designers (as chosen by sustainable styling pioneer Sarah Slutsky).

DRESS AND BELT LOEWE, SKIRT STELLA MCCARTNEY, SNEAKERS VEJA, GOLD RING K/LLER, RED AND GOLD RING LIZA ECHEVERRY

Declutter: Mindfulness is not something we typically associate with fashion, but that segregation is partly how we got to this level of irresponsible consumerism. Most of us shop with an individualistic mentality, only thinking about the item at hand. How often do you buy something and realize days, weeks, or months later that we already had something practically the same? A great first step to avoiding this is organizing your wardrobe. Take stock in what you have, and care for it. Your closet, like your home, is a direct reflection of your mental state.

DRESS SUMAJI, TURTLENECK EVERLANE, SHOES AGL, RINGS SUSAN FOSTER, VISOR STYLIST'S OWN

Shop Smart: Understanding what you're buying and who you're buying it from is the single most important change you can make as a fashion consumer. While fast fashion retailers are applaudable for making "high fashion" more accessible, this comes at a cost in both how the clothing is made and how well it will last. If a dress costs $20, chances are, something is wrong. Do your research online and find out what the company's practices are (if they don't make them readily available, that's also a sign that something is likely wrong). Consider this simple, age-old rule: quality over quantity. Spend a little more on a piece you know is well-made as opposed to a few garments that are bound to fall apart. It will result in less consuming overall.

DRESS NILI LOTAN, T-SHIRT RE/DONE, SNEAKERS VEJA, NECKLACE ANNDRA NEEN, ORANGE RING AND GREY RING MONIQUE PEAN, ROSE GOLD RING SUSAN FOSTER

Wash Responsibly: The typical washing machine uses 45 gallons per load of laundry (even high-efficiency ones use 15-30). For the average American, that amounts to half of our daily water usage. Consider alternate approaches to cleaning your clothes. Can it be hand-washed in the sink? It might be better for the garment anyway. When it comes to denim, consider skipping the wash altogether, and put your favorite pairs in the freezer overnight. It sounds crazy, but the cold kills the bacteria (which is what causes odor), and they don't lose their color or shape.

BODYSUIT MIAKODA, OVERALLS HACKWITH DESIGN HOUSE, BELTS STYLIST'S OWN, SANDALS SSEKO, VISOR STYLIST'S OWN, TOP ON CLOTHES LINE HEIDI MERRICK

Hang It Out to Dry: The same logic can be applied to how you dry your clothes. A clothes dryer accounts for 12% of energy used in a typical household. It's a little silly, considering we have an unending—not to mention free—energy source at all of our fingertips: the sun. Next time you go to do your laundry, think about stringing a clothes line (whether on your fire escape, in your living room, or backyard). In addition to saving energy, it will make your clothes last longer (how many times have you gotten a shirt back from the laundry in a completely different color or fit than the way you bought it?).

DRESS KAELEN, TOP EDUN, BOOTS AMELIE PICHARD, EARRINGS LIZA ECHEVERRY, CUFF AND RING K/LLER

Give Back: One of the simplest ways to influence our consumer habits is to remind ourselves what we're doing it for. Spend time outdoors. Go for a walk in the park or take a trip upstate. Experiment with gardening (planting trees is a great way to offset your footprint in its own right). All the ingredients that make up our clothing come from nature in some way, the question is always at what cost. The more time you spend appreciating the source, the more you'll be motivated to ask the question.

SKIRT SAMUJI, BODYSUIT MARA HOFFMAN, SHOES AMELIE PICHARD, NECKLACE ANNDRA NEEN, EARRINGS K/LLER

Be A Leader: When it comes to a topic as overwhelming as the environment, affecting change can seem impossible. The truth is, not all of us have the platform to influence policies or brands. But there is one platform we all share: our selves. The easiest measure we can take toward making change in how the world approaches sustainability is changing how we approach it: to set an example for others, and to make it our responsibility to educate those around us. It's what's known as the power of one. If one individual changes the minds of five around them, and each of those five people do the same, that's how real change occurs. All you have to do is start walking.

Going Green is a column about issues relating to the environment and sustainability written by Digital Editor William Defebaugh, who studied journalism, creative writing, and environmental sciences as the University of Michigan. Follow him on Twitter here: @willwrights.

Credits: MODEL CALU RIVERO (THE SOCIETY)  PRODUCTION HANNAH HUFFMAN  HAIR ROBERT MEFFORD (ATELIER)  MAKEUP LISET GARZA (THE WALL GROUP)  SET DESIGN COLIN LYTTON  LOCATION PIONEER WORKS  PRODUCTION ASSISTANT ADAIR SMITH

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