Wearing vintage clothing is one of the best ways to reduce the environmental impact of your fashion choices—short of walking around naked.
Step 1: Read labels Check labels when you shop. Look for natural fabrics such as wool, cotton, cashmere, bamboo, hemp, and linen.
Step 2: Avoid synthetics Avoid new synthetic fabrics made with petrochemicals, such as acrylic, polyester, rayon, nylon, or anything labeled stain-proof or wrinkle resistant. Many such fabrics are treated with chemicals that not only impact the environment, but also may be absorbed or inhaled directly.
Step 3: Look for natural dyes Look for white or naturally colored fabrics made with no chemical dyes. Botanically dyed or color-grown cotton provides natural variety.
TIP: Conventional cotton is among the world's most chemically treated crops—buy organic cotton instead.
Step 4: Think classic not trendy Try not to load up on trendy items that you will throw away after one season. Be willing to pay a bit more for a high-quality classic that will last for years.
Step 5: Buy vintage When shopping for clothes, accessories, and jewelry, check your local consignment or thrift store for vintage items.
Step 6: Make over old clothes Don't but new clothes unless you have to. Extend the life of what you already own with a stylish makeover—such as new buttons or trim.
Step 7: Donate used items When finished with an item of clothing, instead of discarding it, hand it down to a friend or charity, or donate it to a resale shop.
Step 8: Use a green dry cleaner Many natural fabrics wash beautifully in cold water by hand, but if you must dry-clean something, look for an environmentally conscious dry cleaner.
TIP: Avoid dry cleaners that use the chemical Perc, a known cancer-causing agent.
Step 9: Use nontoxic detergent Launder your clothes with a nontoxic detergent that is free of dyes and artificial fragrances. Powdered detergent is easiest on the environment.
Step 10: Use a clothesline Consider air-drying at least some of your clothes on a clothesline, to save on electricity and the carbon emissions that go with it.
FACT: Forty million plastic bottles are tossed daily in the US, but—luckily—plastic bottles can be recycled into durable polyester and fleece.