It’s hard to dispute the consensus of the scientific community: Earth is literally becoming a hot mess. Much of the shift is likely owed to the impact of human industry, like agriculture and fast fashion. For anyone who’s conscious about the environment, consumption choices become somewhat a moral dilemma — especially in realms like food, fashion, and lifestyle.
In terms of fashion, how does one balance aesthetics while making ethical choices? Some eco-brands are prohibitively expensive. Some “greenwash” their practices. Other sustainable labels are occasionally too heavy-handed, whacking you over the head with earthy palettes and mandala patterns. Being both sustainable and stylish is not as taxing of a pursuit as you might think, though. Here are the basic steps you can take to look good as hell while also being good to the earth.
First things first: accessories. For eyewear, look for frames made of wood, bamboo, or recycled materials, which all have a lesser impact on the environment during production than metal or plastic. For leather accessories, like belts and wallets, look into bio-based alternatives, which are being developed with increased frequency. And in terms of wristwatches, you can’t go wrong with Seiko’s classic Coutura collection. Seiko Coutura watches convert kinetic movement into electrical energy, making them not only sleek and well-made, but also efficient.
You probably buy more clothing than you need (or really even want). Edit your wardrobe down to just the bare basics and favorites. The idea of a “uniform,” or a fixed daily outfit, has been especially popular this year, and for good reason: According to psychologists and stylists, having work uniform helps in projecting a personal identity that makes the wearer look and feel better. With that in mind, start thinking about the style that’s right for you, whether that’s business casual or health goth. Committing to a more minimal closet won’t just unburden you physically, it’ll also help you commit to the idea of living a cleaner lifestyle.
For the clothing that you decide to part ways with, avoid tossing it all in the dumpster and consigning it straight to the landfill. Donate the bulk to local charities, sell the higher-end stuff on apps like Grailed, and downgrade tattered t-shirts to household cleaning rags. As an added bonus to all that downsizing, moving, traveling, and doing laundry all become much easier.
Look into where your clothing was made, and with what. Often, brands and retailers will have a “Corporate Responsibility” report on their websites with detailed information. This may sound time-consuming to research, but doing your due diligence will result in longer-lasting and more ethical products.
A simple way to ease yourself into buying more sustainable fashion is to decide on several elements that are priorities for you. Is it supporting local designers? Buying organic or recycled materials? Knowing exactly where every single component of a product came from? Think about the things that you care the most about, and start by buying products that adhere to those principles.
Instead of trashing damaged clothing, accessories, and footwear, get them fixed up. Common repairs, like mending broken zippers and replacing worn-out shoe soles, often don’t cost much — and certainly less than buying new. Even better, minimize the likelihood of damage from the outset by washing your clothing with gentle detergents — and by laundering them less frequently overall. Some garments, like jeans (especially raw denim), rarely need to be washed at all.
Re-styling garments is another way to breathe life into old clothing. Going back to the idea of the uniform, there are countless ways to re-style just a few pieces of clothing. That v-neck that you’re thinking about getting rid of? Try it with a pair of chinos instead of your go-to jeans. The denim jacket with a hole in the sleeve? Try covering it up with an artist-designed patch. You could even commission a crafty friend or designer to create new, upcycled pieces out of the clothing you don’t want anymore. Your carbon footprint will thank you, before dwindling away.
Angela Wang is a Senior Writer for Studio@Gizmodo.