The fashion world is changing at lightning speed and almost every week there is something new in the shop window. We buy about 400% more clothes than we did 20 years ago and, of course, this is not good for the environment. The garment industry is the second biggest polluter after the oil industry. 

It’s also important to consider the appalling working conditions in many garment factories.  

But there is also different way of shopping, where you can avoid pollution and exploitation. Here are five ways that you can make your wardrobe better for people and the planet.

1. Buy more consciously (and therefore buy fewer clothes) 

How often do you actually wear that purple jumper? Chances are it has been gathering dust in your wardrobe for months. A survey by environmental group WRAP found that a quarter of the clothes in our wardrobes haven't been worn in a year. So before buying something, think about how likely you are to actually wear it. 

Get inspired by the capsule wardrobe trend: curating a collection of a few really beautiful, quality pieces of clothing which will last throughout the year. 

Ask yourself questions and be mindful when you're buying and sorting through clothes:

  • Will you actually wear that comedy t-shirt or high heels? If you feel scared to wear them or they're uncomfortable, perhaps it's time to get rid of them.
  • Do you have items of clothing that buy and then never wear because they don't match with anything else in your wardrobe?
  • Are you buying that dress because it is an absolute bargain or because you really like it?

2. Buy from sustainable clothing shops 

If you want to make sure you buy fair, sustainable and certified new clothes, then there are plenty of online shops where you can buy responsible clothing.  

Ethical Consumer offers a whole range of guides on clothing – from shoes to sportswear, and jeans to underwear. And there are a number of retailers who have attained B Corp status – including Finisterre, Allbirds and Patagonia – demonstrating that they meet high standards of accountability and transparency.

3. Buy second-hand clothes 

Imagine a beautiful coat that no-one else owns, bought at a bargain price. With its sustainability and fashion credentials, it’s no wonder that vintage is so popular.  

Scour markets and shops for that one fashion item you want to give a new home to. You'll save on raw materials, water and energy in one go. 

4. Recycle your shirts and trousers 

Each year, we throw away an average of 40 items of clothing per person – just imagine that clothing waste mountain. But if recycled properly, raw materials from clothing can be reused, and that mountain gets a little smaller. 

To save your clothes from landfill, you can also take them to a charity shop, throw a swap party or take things to a clothing swap event. 

5. Borrow or hire clothes 

Why not hire or borrow clothes that you only wear once, such as a dinner jacket or outfit for a dress party? It's better for the environment and your wallet.  

More and more fashion entrepreneurs are also coming up with sustainable initiatives to combat overflowing wardrobes and contribute to a circular fashion industry. MUD Jeans introduced ‘lease a jeans’, for example, which allows you to rent rather than buy a pair of jeans. MUD retains ownership of the raw materials, allowing the jeans to eventually be fully recycled.