Contact Us

Choose to Reuse Logo

Waste less, live better.

Back to home

7 Tips for creating your zero waste wardrobe

Are you someone who’s been shopping secondhand and buying used for a while now? Or maybe you’re new to the game and heard about something called zero waste and are interested to learn more? Regardless of what path you’ve been on, we’re here to help you take the necessary steps toward not only a zero waste wardrobe, but maybe even a zero waste lifestyle. But for now, let’s focus on the clothes!

What is zero waste?

First things, first. Let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what zero waste means. According to the EPA zero waste is the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to the land, water or air that threaten the environment or human health.

So for the purposes of this post, we’re going to apply that definition to your wardrobe and learn how to create a closet you can feel good about, both by how it looks and how it makes you feel when it comes to your zero waste efforts. Here are 7 tips for creating your zero waste wardrobe.

Tips for creating a zero waste wardrobe

1. Go through your current wardrobe

It all starts here, with your current wardrobe. If your goal is to have a zero waste wardrobe, you need to make sure what’s in your closet now isn't going to waste. But don’t worry, zero waste doesn’t have to mean zero fun. The goal is to create a wardrobe that contains both things you need and enjoy. Here are a few ideas toward achieving that goal:

  • Enlist a friend for help: Ask a friend who you know will be honest with you to give their opinion on clothes in your closet. How they fit, how they look, and if they’re worth keeping. With any luck, your friend will help you pare down your closet to only the items you really need and really love to wear.
  • Decide what you DON’T want: Once you have a trusty friend by your side, start assessing your clothes and decide what you don’t want, don’t wear and don’t need. Ask yourself:
    • Is it easy to wash?
    • Does it actually fit properly?
    • If it’s too small or too large to wear now, can I realistically expect it ever to fit me properly in the future?
    • When was the last time I wore this?
    • Can I wear this with multiple outfits?
    • Will someone else enjoy this item more than me?
    • Do I already have something similar to this in my closet?
  • Donate, sell or give away: Now that you’ve assessed your current closet and identified what you don’t want, be sure to get rid of the clothes properly. Whether that’s donating them, selling them or giving them away to someone, just be sure you’re not tossing items in the trash that likely still have a lot of life left in them.
  • Decide what you DO want: Once you’ve cleaned out your current closet, it’s time to figure out what you do want and need for your zero waste wardrobe. When you go grocery shopping you usually make a list, right? The same should be true for clothes shopping. This will help you have a plan and stick to it. The goal is to avoid buying things you don’t actually need, thus adding to the waste. Also, jot down items you tend to buy a lot of, so you know to avoid buying any more of them.

Tip: When donating, giving away, or selling your unwanted items, try to keep it local so you can avoid shipping and unnecessary packaging.

Related Reading: 7 Steps to Organize Your Donations While Staying At Home

zero waste wardrobe shopping

2. Don’t shop fast fashion

You likely know that it’s better to buy clothing that you’ll get a lot of use out of and can wear over and over again, versus buying what is called “fast fashion” that’s designed only to last a season or two (if you’re lucky). But do you know why? Well, not only will you get more use of the clothing for your money, but by avoiding buying fast fashion, you help the environment as well.

According to Business Insider, the fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping…combined. While fast fashion might make shopping for clothes more affordable, Business Insider notes that it comes at an environmental cost. In just 14 years’ time, from 2000 to 2014, people bought 60% more clothes, but only kept them half as long. More alarmingly, they found that the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second. Consider, too, all the natural resources used to manufacture, package, market and transport fast fashion.

zero waste wardrobe shopping vs fast fashion in the garbage

3. Only buy what you’ll wear

You’ve likely heard us advise on this before, but it’s an important step in reducing the amount of clothing that ends up in the trash. It’s also a key step in creating your zero waste wardrobe.

They say if you don’t love it in the store, you won’t love it when you get it home. So keep that in mind when you’re shopping. Make sure you’re being intentional with the pieces you purchase and only buy items you’ll actually wear. Otherwise, they will just sit in your closet, taking up space and could potentially end up being thrown away without ever being used. That kind of defeats the whole purpose of zero waste.

zero waste wardrobe shopping with friends

4. Don’t be tempted by sales

Make this your new mantra: “Just because something is on sale, doesn’t mean I have to buy it.” How many times have you purchased something just because it was marked down? It happens to the best of us. Even if it’s something we don’t really need, want or will wear, we can’t resist what seems like a bargain.

This goes back to tip #2: Only buy what you’ll wear. If you have to make excuses for the clothing item or try really hard to find a use for it, let it go. It’s not for you. Sure, maybe those brand new, designer jeans that are too big and are uncomfortable to wear are 75% off. But you could save 100% of your money by not buying them in the first place. A good question to ask yourself is, “Would I buy this if it weren’t on sale?” Better put, do you value the item enough to pay full price? If the answer is no, it’s not a real bargain because you won’t wear it and get your money’s worth.

zero waste wardrobe: it's not a sale if you don't need it

5. Shop secondhand

There are a number of benefits to shopping secondhand. Not only do you save money, but you’re giving a piece of clothing an extended life. By doing so, hopefully those items won’t end up in the trash. Plus, when you shop secondhand, you’re reducing the amount of new resources that need to be used to create new items. That means less negative impact on the environment, from depleting natural resources to creating pollution.

Buying used or secondhand clothing also means that there’s no packaging required. Especially when you shop for clothes online, there’s usually some sort of packaging associated with it like plastic and cardboard – materials that aren’t always recyclable or, if they are, don’t always get recycled. Lastly, by shopping secondhand in your local thrift, consignment, or vintage shop, you’re supporting local businesses.

6. Shop local

Another way to make strides towards a zero waste wardrobe is to purchase clothing closer to home. By shopping locally, not only are you supporting local businesses, like we mentioned above, but you’ll be able to pick up your clothes directly from the store or the person, as opposed to when you purchase through a national website. And if they do have to be shipped, the items you purchase won’t have as far to travel, thus reducing your carbon footprint.

7. Go natural with fiber choices

When it comes to apparel shopping, opt for clothing made from natural fibers, such as cotton, rayon or wool. Clothing made from synthetic fiber, such as polyester and nylon, is made from various types of plastic. Synthetic fibers are shed when washing and wearing, which contributes to microplastics in our water and air. Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic that pollute the environment. As an added bonus, natural fibers come from renewable resources. Keep that in mind the next time you’re out shopping!

So, there you have it, 7 tips on creating your zero waste wardrobe. As always, don’t feel like you have to go all or nothing when it comes to this endeavor. We’re not suggesting you walk to your closet right now, give away all your clothes and buy all organic, natural fiber clothing from secondhand stores (you sure can, but we don’t recommend starting there). Start where you are and at the level that makes you comfortable. Incorporate some of these tips into your current wardrobe practices, and on upcoming shopping trips try to be mindful of these things as you work your way toward a zero waste wardrobe.

zero waste wardrobe with natural fibers