How To Buy Clothes While Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

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It’s tax season baby! That means it’s the perfect time to splurge on all of the things you talk yourself out of buying during the rest of the year. Shopping on a budget is more stressful than fun, so it’s great that we all have one time of the year to go all out and drop some serious cash on whatever we most long to spend cash on. For some people that means investing sensibly in hobbies; for others, it’s about substantially changing how they eat; and for plenty of vagabonds, it means hitting the road and seeing the world.

Since you clicked this article, it’s clear that your big weakness is your wardrobe. But just because you want to level up your style game doesn’t mean you have to burn through all that cash at one. If you spend wisely, you’ll be able to update your wardrobe and keep yourself looking fly not just next season, but through the whole year. Here are all the tips you need to take your style game to the next level without going broke.

Stop turning your nose up at the clearance section

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If your first priority when walking into a store or shopping at your favorite retailer’s web store isn’t hitting up the clearance section, you simply aren’t shopping smart. The clearance section, contrary to popular belief, isn’t just populated with all the fits no one wanted. A paper published by the London Business School titled Clearance Pricing Optimization for a Fast-Fashion Retailers explains that “merchandise is often deliberately withdrawn from the store display area during the season in order to make room for more recent incoming articles.” Considering the average fast fashion retailer — your Zaras, H&Ms, and Uniqlos — has around 52 “micro seasons” according to The Good Trade, the clearance section is constantly being flushed with new products from the previous season to make way for current merchandise. You could make the argument that if it doesn’t get bought up it’s probably because the clothes are wack, but that’s far from the truth.

What will you find in reality? Clothes that are no longer weather appropriate, sizes that didn’t get bought up, returned items, and last season’s colors. But buying from the clearance section won’t just save you money, it’s also better for the environment. Vox reports that brands like Louis Vuitton, Nike, Urban Outfitters, Victoria’s Secret, and other retailers routinely destroy products to maintain the exclusivity of their brands. Saving some of those clothes from eventual destruction won’t make a significant dent in the overall waste that retailers produce, but you’ll be lessening your own personal impact on the environment, and that’s always a good thing.

Right now, clearance racks everywhere are full of winter fits that retailers need to move to make way for spring’s lighter layers and new products. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of the sales and buy your fits for next fall and winter. Keep an eye on big purchases like heavy coats and jackets to get the most bang for your buck.

Hit The Thrift Shops

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Try to make sure a majority of the clothes you buy each year come from second-hand stores. Not only will you be able to fill your wardrobe for a lot less money, you’ll be lessening your carbon footprint (see a theme?). According to an article shared by the Student Environmental Research Center at the University of California Berkeley, “The production process of making one pair of jeans also generate greenhouse gases equivalent to driving over 80 miles. Similar numbers apply to tee shirts, skirts, and other articles of clothing… through thrifting, you keep the resources invested in all of these clothing items from going to waste.”

The secret to unlocking the art of the thrift — we’re talking Macklemore levels of mastery — is to shop without expectations. When you need a shirt for a date, a job interview, or a wedding, you hit up the mall, but when you’re not looking for anything in particular, head to a thrift shop. Every time. While those in big cities luck out by having access to an abundance of great second-hand stores, all you really need is a Goodwill (which has over 2,800 stores across the country) to be able to stumble on surprisingly hard to find looks and sometimes even high-end pieces that would normally be out of your price range.

Pro-tip: if you want to find the best clothing your money can buy, hit up thrift stores in rich neighborhoods, you’re more likely to find high-end merchandise where people with high incomes live.

Sell Your Old Fits Second-Hand

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It’s never been easier to sell your own clothes online. Face it, you know you have a small collection of clothing in your closet or shoved in a drawer somewhere that you never intend on wearing ever again. Whether it doesn’t fit, doesn’t flatter, or it just isn’t you, there his absolutely no reason to keep it there. Sell it, and rake in some extra spending money in the process to invest in future fits.

There are several apps and sites online that can help you sell your clothes, it just depends on how involved you want to be. A good tip to keep in mind is to treat your seller profile with the care and curation you give something like your Instagram. Lighting, angles, details, yes sometimes even you modeling whatever you’re selling. Presentation is important when you’re selling something, put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.

Sites like Etsy, eBay, ASOS Marketplace, and Depop will let you essentially create your own virtual storefront to sell your old looks and only take a small commission out of your sale price. If you don’t have time for a side hustle, sites like thredUP, and The Real Real, will manage the entire process for you, including photography, and while they’ll take a bigger chunk out of your earnings, your stuff will also sell faster. It’s a give and take.

Make a habit of never throwing your clothes away. Either donate clothing or sell on the second-hand market. You should always try to make sure your clothes don’t end up in a landfill somewhere. Even torn and tattered clothing can find a new life wiping your car down or being used for some light dusting.

Buy Standards Not Trends/ Seek Quality Over Quantity

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A good portion of your wardrobe should be made up of standards, not current trends, and yes, quality fabrics over quantity. This of your clothing like an investment, in order for Zara to sell you that jacket for so cheap (and fast) they had to use lower-quality fabrics and the cheapest construction methods available, it’s no secret that lesser ingredients make for a lesser meal, so if you want to be an absolute snack, buy quality clothing.

Do you know what never goes out of style? A good pair of jeans. Yes, cuts and silhouettes go in and out of fashion, but a solid pair of Levi’s denim jeans — real denim, not stretchy material — won’t go out of style the same way your crossbodies, flat-billed caps, chokers, and body-harnesses’ will. Not convinced? Fashion websites published articles about denim making a comeback just this year, last year, the year before that, and the year before that — denim is always making a comeback because its a staple. Staples never die.

Everyone should own a high-quality bomber jacket, a pair of real denim jeans, a peacoat, and a fashionable pair of boots. Splurge when you buy staples and they’ll last you through entire eras of your life, not just the next season or year. HuffPost reports that a survey in 2016 that found that the average American throws away 81 pounds of clothing a year, which results in about 26 billion pounds of clothing in a landfill somewhere — that’s just unacceptable. We could do better and we’ll look better while doing it if we buy quality over quantity.

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