Three Ways to Shop Sustainably, No Matter What Your Price Point Is

Alyssa Hiarker

By this point, most of us are at least somewhat aware of the impact that our shopping habits have on the environment. Despite the fact that a 2017 report from the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) found that 71% of climate change is caused by large corporations, the methods of change an individual has are not limited to just lobbying for institutional change. Choosing to shop sustainably can help you reduce your own carbon footprint and help you work towards a greener world within your own life. 

The Environmental Protection defines practicing sustainability as, “the effort to align economic development with environmental protection and human well-being.”  In essence, to determine whether or not a brand or action is sustainable requires an assessment of the environmental, social, political and economic impact it carries with it. In addition to the brands and methods listed here, Good On You is a resource that allows you to search for a brand and learn about their environmental impact, their relationship with nonrenewable resources and the way that the brand interacts with labor and human rights. 

The Reformation

Even if you’ve never shopped at any of The Reformation’s (most commonly known as just “Reformation”) in person stores or pursued the website, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the brand and the way they center sustainability within their company. There’s a reason for that. Reformation reshaped what shopping sustainably means for a lot of people with their easily understandable yearly sustainability reports that allow consumers to hold them accountable. 

The brand is proudly carbon neutral, utilizes renewable energy in its supply chain, and gives detailed explanations on what emissions you’re saving when you purchase an item from them rather than buying a similar item elsewhere. During production, Reformation focuses on reducing textile waste and having eco-friendly materials; post production, they fund programs to help replace the materials that they used. In addition, as of July 2020, they reached their goal of ensuring that every Reformation employee received a living wage, to ensure that anyone working for the brand was able to maintain a standard of living that exceeds just being able to afford the bare minimum. These employees don’t just include those at the main corporate office, but also those employed at Reformation’s self-owned factories. 

The price tag that comes along with Reformation’s clothing allows for the brand to meet its goals and shouldn’t serve as a hindrance for those who can afford shopping there. However, shopping with the brand is not a feasible option for everyone who wants to reduce their own carbon footprint. 

Thrifting

A growing trend to help combat the 11.2 million tons of textile waste that the Environmental Protection Agency reported had entered landfills in 2017 is shopping at and donating to local thrift stores. The process of thrifting gives clothes that the original owner may have outgrown or decided no longer fits with their style a second chance at life and allows those in need of new clothes the opportunity to make purchases that aren’t reliant on the production of new items. Thrifting’s sustainability is based on the well known three Rs of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle. It allows consumers to reduce the amount of new products that they purchase, gives items that would otherwise be thrown away the chance to become reused, and for the donator to recycle the items they no longer have a need for. 

Recently, as thrifting has surged in popularity, costs at thrift stores have begun to rise. Goodwill Industries, which releases a valuation guide for donors each year so they can assess how much each item will be sold for, shifted from having set prices for the items that the stores sell in 2010 to having a range of prices in 2020. For those that rely on thrifting to get clothes, this rise in prices is slowly making thrift stores inaccessible and unaffordable. In order to help combat this and make sure that your choice to shop sustainably doesn’t negatively impact someone else’s life, choose to thrift within your local community, rather than seeking out stores that have the lowest prices.

Zara’s “JOIN LIFE” Collection

As one of the giants in the world of fast fashion, Zara’s negative impact on the environment has made people who are looking to shop sustainably steer clear from purchasing anything from them. However, the brand released “JOIN LIFE”, a collection of clothing based in sustainability and, in July of 2019, announced a series of goals aimed at making the entirety of their store more sustainable. The heart of these goals focus on using renewable energy for 80% of their energy use and achieving 100% sustainably sourced cotton, linen, and polyester by 2025; as well as, stopping the dissemination of plastic to those who purchase items by removing all plastic in their shipping process and achieving 100% sustainably sourced cellulose fibers by 2023. 

Despite this, the brand still has a way to go. The information on how Zara manufactures its products and the way that factory employees are treated and compensated is lacking and doesn’t compare to other brands’ sustainable practices. 

In a world where sustainable clothing can be completely inaccessible for those who don’t have over $50 to spend on a single new top, Zara’s efforts to reform their impact and the release of “JOIN LIFE” serves as a way to bring environmentally friendly options to people who otherwise would not have access to it.