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Eco-Explainer: How to choose a Sustainable Wardrobe

Eco-Explainer: How to choose a Sustainable Wardrobe

How to shop more sustainably, wherever your budget is.

As many big-name brands incorporate sustainable materials into their clothing lines, it’s sustainable fashion is gaining momentum.

However, there are a few different ways you can define sustainability into your wardrobe, regardless of your budget, from thrifting to slow fashion and more. Here are a few basics to get started on wearing clothes that are easier on the earth.

Sustainable Materials in clothing

Sustainable fashion often refers to textiles and apparel made with eco-friendly fabrics that don’t harm the environment or the people that make them. Sustainable fabrics include natural fibers like cotton, linen, hemp, wool, silk and bamboo; plant-based fabrics such as tencel or modal. Recycled materials like denim scraps, old T-shirts turned into yarns or even plastic water bottles into new yoga pants are popping up on labels.

Organic and high-quality fabrics may have a higher price tag than conventional ones.

Local option: Founded in Philly by Brian Linton, United by Blue carries organic and recycled products.

Slow fashion

When you’re scrolling through Instagram and see a picture of a dress that’s just perfect. With a closer look, it looks like the dress was made overseas by a retailer with a questionable reputation. (There’s a reason why some estimates say that the fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of global emissions.)

Slow fashion is all about buying less, making sure clothes are made with high-quality materials and with an eye toward longevity. This means you don’t need to replace your wardrobe every year – instead, you choose a few staple pieces that will last for years. Because you’re investing in quality, you’ll lessen demand and create less waste.

It’s also a statement against the fast-fashion industry, which is known for producing cheap products with a short shelf life and instead can support small businesses making quality handmade goods.

Local option: Lobo Mau is rooted in slow-fashion values, as a zero-waste company with local productions. They produce pieces in local factories and silkscreens their original textiles in-house with careful consideration of its social and environmental impact on the world.


Thrifting is one of our favorite ways to find great pieces without breaking the bank. You can shop for a “new to you” wardrobe AND keep unwanted clothing out of landfills.

You never know what you might find in thrift stores or online resellers like Poshmark. Plus, you’re supporting local businesses and community members by shopping at a local thrift store near you. (Some of our favorite pieces have come from local thrift shops in Philadelphia!)

Local option: Greene Street prides itself on having a “passion for design, fashion, sustainability, and giving back to the community.” This shop has been around for the past 25 years and features a buy, sell, trade model for its clothing.

Buying local

The Philly area has many businesses that create clothing in-house or locally. Buying from these businesses has several benefits: fewer emissions since the clothing won’t be transported large distances, better working conditions for workers, and higher quality clothing. Plus, you’ll frequently find unique pieces you can’t find anywhere else.

Local option: Grant Blvd is a black-owned and woman-owned business that creates fantastic sustainable pieces by using recycled fabrics, including pieces originally from men’s clothing.

How do you shop sustainably? Tell us in the comments.

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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher
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