How to shop sustainably without losing your mind

First, take a deep breath. 

Yes, there are loads of problems in the world and about 10x more solutions for them. And yes, there are multiple ifs and buts about any course of action you may consider taking. And yes, there’s the unfortunate trend of greenwashing and the occasional corporate lip service towards eco-fashion among many other faults.

But there’s no reason to get overwhelmed or aim for extreme measures either. No need to crawl under a rock and forget things like ‘who wore what’, avocado toasts, summer collections and the like. Here are some small, simple ways in which you can turn things around in your life and therefore, for the planet too. 

From home care to body care and fashion, you’ll be surprised at the number of sustainable brands around you. Look for those whose stories resonate with you. If they can trace their resource use and the artisans who’ve made their pieces, they’re keepers for sure! Bonus points if they offer plastic-free packaging.

Buy local. All that atmanirbhar talk at Davos is fine but let’s start with textiles from home. The clothes, techniques, styles, designs and the artisans who make them – are all deeply connected to the land. By patronising them, you’re helping sustain an ancient tradition. The best part is that most of these are naturally eco-friendly.

What are your clothes made of? We’d say keep your polyester pieces to a minimum – it’s tough given the sheer number of such pieces that exist. As far as possible, opt for organic cotton, hemp fibres, linen and the like. If the brand you pick has certifications like Fair Trade, it’s worth checking out. 

Go for quality over quantity purchases. They’ll last longer, mean fewer trips to the mall, fewer clicks on ads and will ultimately be better for the planet. 

Upcycle! Ever had old clothes that are too good to be tossed away and yet, not something you’d wear anymore? Consider turning them into something different. From coasters to cushion covers to decorative wall hangings or table runners?

Heading to yet another family wedding and you’re done with all of this year’s social occasion outfits? Just borrow from a friend. 

There is such a thing as too much denim. Don’t get us wrong, they’re classics. Which is why there’s no need to hoard them. Besides, no denim style ever really goes out of fashion…for long. (We’re looking at you boyfriend jeans).

But if denim it is….consider organic options. Also, try opting for denims in their natural shade. Faded denims undergo more chemical treatments and are therefore more polluting to water sources. 

Launder smart. Washing clothes wastes enormous amounts of water. Not to mention all that energy usage and chemical filled detergents. While it may be difficult to do so in tropical countries, all of our clothes don’t need to be tossed into the washing machine every day or week. Also, once washed, consider line drying as the more energy efficient way to dry clothes.

Repair! We’re still a community that’s great at repair and reuse. So, the next time you have ripped jeans (not the type you actively wanted bought off the shelf), consider some funky fabric patches to cover it up. (Find a good local tailor too).

Donate. Don’t like something you got recently? Or you just happen to have a whole bunch of clothes that you don’t want anymore. Give them away instead of condemning them to join the never-ending pileup called our landfills. 

Shop less. With increased globalisation, we have super complicated supply chains that make it hard to look at the sustainability factor of fashion as a simple black and white matter. These complex linkages will take some more time to unravel but till then, we can consume smartly and more importantly, consume just enough of what we need. 

(As for that stray avocado that made its presence felt up above, all we’re saying is that, desi varieties are just as good as the imported ones. And lower on the price point. On the carbon footprint too).

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