How to Shop Sustainably

Did you know that on average 300,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year!

Also, around 5% of the UK’s carbon emissions come from the clothing and textiles!

If you made your clothes last 3 years or more you can reduce it’s carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30%!

Wardrobe Confessions

So, before I start I have a confession.

I like to buy clothes and I am a sucker for a sale bargain… I’ve got lots of clothes from Primark, New Look, ASOS, H&M and Zara in my wardrobe.

I am trying to change my habits, but it’s a hard one to crack.

I know I should steer clear of those high street shops to stop supporting fast fashion and poor working conditions. But I’m a magpie to a pretty dress or some jazzy new shoes.

I know how bad fast fashion is for the environment and I know I shouldn’t be supporting fast fashion stores, yet I still click on the New Look sale adverts that pop up on my phone and am tempted into high street shops by the pretty clothes and cheap price tags…

I’m trying really hard to break my habit with buying fast fashion and shop more sustainably, but it’s a slow change for me.

So, I’ve been aiming to buy much less new and shop more sustainably.

Here’s my guide on how to try and shop more sustainably

So, what does shopping sustainably actually mean?

Sustainable shopping is your chance to support what is important to you and avoid products and services that do not align with your beliefs.

It’s a confusing one, because you can shop sustainably in a few different ways. I’ll list some of them below.

Buying New

  • Organic, Fairtrade and Soil Association approved
  • Ethically made
  • Locally made

I struggle with this type of sustainable clothes shopping the most. I usually find them too expensive, not to my style and hard to come by when out shopping.

However, I have found some amazing items I know that I will love for many years like these hand knitted socks from Swaledale Woolens I bought last week.


They are knitted by people in the village, using the wool from local farmers sheep!

They are beautiful and I love them.

But generally, I don’t find that my style quite fits the most of the sustainable clothing brands that I have found so far.

I’m hoping as it becomes more main stream, their styles will broaden and it will become more affordable.

Fingers crossed.

Buying Second Hand

Now this, is my bread and butter!

  • Charity Shops
  • Vintage Clothing shops
  • Hand-me-downs
  • eBay, Re-Fashion and other online used clothing markets

I LOVE rifling through a charity shop and finding a lovely item for a bargain. I always pop into charity shops when visiting a new town or area. It’s amazing what you’ll find!

I also love to trawl eBay for clothing and brands that I could usually not afford. A habit inherited from my mother.

I’ve recently started buying my shoes from eBay and I’m amazed at how many people sell shoes that have barely been worn!

I most recently bought a pair of Nike trainers for £15 including postage! And I actually ran the Bath Half Marathon in a pair of running shoes I bought on eBay for £5.

For a place to buy good quality second hand clothing, Re-fashion is a great new site that only sells clothes that are a good quality.

They check all of the items that come in for stains / damage and price them accordingly.

They also accept returns – game changer.

Renting Clothes

  • Affordable online rental stores like Hire Street UK
  • Borrowing clothes from a friend / family

When I was at university I lived with 3 girls and we were always shopping in each other’s wardrobes for clothes to wear on a night out. Luckily they all had great taste so it was always a winner!

This is something I’d like to start doing again with friends, it’s a great way to avoid buying new clothes and still have a great new outfit for a night out!

Since I can’t go shopping in my husband’s wardrobe for a new dress, I’ve been looking into online clothing rental stores.

This is an area that I am only just scratching the surface of and I’m loving what I’ve found so far. 

I’ve found an online rental store that doesn’t only rent stuffy, super expensive ball gowns – yaaas!!

Hire Street UK are amazing!

They are reasonably priced, have current styles that you can rent for 10 days at a time and you don’t even have to wash the clothes. How great is that! 

I’m going to use them for my usually very wasteful “holiday shop” where I feel the need to buy all new summer dresses to go away on holiday.

It will probably cost me the same as buying the clothes new from cheap shops like Primark. I pretty much never end up taking the dresses on holiday again, so renting them is a much more sustainable alternative and shouldn’t cost me or the earth!

What I used to do is so wasteful and I want to come up with a sustainable alternative but still have nice clothes to wear on holiday.

I’m hoping this will be it!

4 Rules to Follow when Shopping Second Hand

So, being a dab hand at shopping in charity shops (if I don’t say so myself), there are a few rules that I follow to make sure I don’t end up buying something I won’t wear or that looks like I’ve bought it from a charity shop if you know what I mean?

Rule 1

Look at the brands and labels

If it’s a brand I know is good then I already know the item is of high quality and usually made to last. 

I like to buy items made of good quality materials like wool or cotton. Have a look on the inside label to see if that lovely wool jumper is actually wool rather than a cheap polyester knockoff. 

Rule 2

Is it in good condition?

Give it a good once over for stains / damage. Including the armpits. 

Check to see if the zips work and the buttons are all accounted for. Also see if the spare button is attached on the inside label – that’s always a winner! 

Make sure there are no holes or damage to the item and check the hems to make sure there’s no fraying. 

Rule 3

Does it actually suit you?

Don’t veer too far out of what you would usually wear. Don’t get me wrong, the odd sequin jacket or snazzy jacket is great, but don’t just buy something random that won’t go with your usual style. If you do, you’re more likely not to wear it and end up chucking it out. 

Rule 4

Does it fit? 

As with shopping in a normal high street store, trying clothes on is super important!

This may seem self explanatory, but when was the last time you tried on an item of clothing in a charity shop? Or saw someone else trying something on?
It’s not as common as in high street stores, even though the principles are just the same! Why would you buy something without knowing if it fits you?

Most charity shops and second hand shops will have a fitting room.
If you can’t see it, don’t be afraid to ask for somewhere to try it on.

This way you can be sure this item is something that actually fits and suits you. You’re much more likely to only buy clothes that you will actually wear on a regular basis if you try them on first. 

I hope I’ve given you some new places to look for second hand clothes and inspired you to try and shop more sustainably.

It’s an ongoing journey for me, but it’s such an important one, it’s worth the hard work.

Let me know how you’re going to be shopping more sustainably in the future!

Emilie x

3 thoughts on “How to Shop Sustainably”

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