A few simple ideas to help you make sustainable choices without breaking the bank
If there is one thing that lockdown has not affected, it is our dedication to shopping. According to 'online Retail Results for January reveal that UK online sales grew 74% year-on-year in January 2021'. In short: we are shopping more than ever. We can all agree that the excitement of receiving that big bag of clothes you ordered is one of the small joys of lockdown. That perfectly packed parcel connects us to the outside world and reminds us how great we can look when we are not in pyjamas and fluffy slippers all day.
However, it is vital to be aware of the environmental impacts each package can have. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world- second to the oil industry and each item of clothing we purchase is attached to a string of environmental hazards.

Clothes are difficult to recycle and since 2000 we have been buying 60% more garments. This consumption is projected to rise by 63 per cent, to 102 million tons in 2030.

Making clothes is incredibly water intensive. Did you know that 2,700 litres of water are needed to make 1 cotton t-shirt? In addition, each year, we use 2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools of water to dye our clothes.

Not to mention the amount of plastic that makes up our clothes: on average, 60% of the composition is plastic. This plastic is then shed as microfibres every time they are washed. And where does this plastic go? Into our oceans.

So, textile waste, water, and plastic. Anything else? Just one more thing. When we think of greenhouse gas emissions we tend to think of cars, planes, and electricity. While these do have a huge effect on our carbon footprint, fashion does as well. 10% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the fashion industry. This equates to 1.2 billion tonnes of gases per year.

But all is not lost if we become more aware of sustainability.
Upcycled clothing by Yekaterina Ivankova, sustainable fashion brand
Photography by Yekaterina Ivankova
Upcycled jackets and shirts
That being said, it can be daunting for those on tighter budgets to shop sustainably. Some eco-conscious brands tend to charge a little (and sometimes a lot) more due to the cost of quality materials and paying fair wages to garment workers. Nevertheless, there are still a multitude of sustainable fashion options for those with less spending money, you just need to know where to look.

For those new to sustainable shopping, or those unsure of how to start, here a few tips to help you make conscious choices without breaking the bank.
Ignore the stigma surrounding charity shops. Despite what people may say, charity shops are not full of dusty old clothes your gran would wear. In fact, you can find some great unique pieces- and occasionally a vintage designer piece for a great price or a brand new item with tag, sold at less than retail price. The trick is to be open-minded: just because it is not featured in Vogue or #gifted to an influencer does not mean it will not look amazing on. Buying from a charity shop rather than a fast fashion store will almost certainly help you find your own unique style.

Find pre-loved clothing. These options are great for browsing on your mobile device. Thousands of sellers use these services to sell unwanted clothing, from vintage items to 'new with tags' options. You can search by size and price to filter your results further, making the experience super simple. Just try to avoid certain sellers/stores that sell fast fashion using these apps as a cover (don't worry, they're usually very easy to spot). These platforms are great for everyone as they have options for every kind of budget and you will be supporting regular people, instead of putting more money into the pockets of big brands.
Sustainable fashion, moda sostenibile
Photography by Ahmed Carter
Mend and Up-cycle. There is simple logic behind this one: if we fix our clothes, they are going to last longer. Although, it's not an ideal option for everyone, given that people's sewing skills vary. Personally, mine leave much to be desired. However giving what you already own a little TLC can give you the fashion re-fresh you desire. If you are feeling fancy, you could fix and upcycle at the same time by adding details to give your garment a new look with paints, beads, buttons, patches and fabric off-cuts. If you have a little more money you could contact a tailor or cobbler (they still exist) or send your items to a local up-cycling service. This might work out cheaper than buying a brand-new item. Plus, it definitely reduces waste.

Rent. So, you've heard of renting a house, now you've heard of renting clothes! People actually do that?! Yes.

Clothes-renting websites are popping up everywhere (Rotaro, Hurr Collective, Onloan, Girl Meets Dress) and a lot of them stock high-end brands which means you can rent a designer dress from £20 for a few days and then return it. You still get to feel like a hundred, or thousand, dollars without coughing up the cash.

It makes sense as well because the clothes we buy for formal occasions tend to be the ones that only get one or two wears. Instead of buying something new that will hang in our closets unused, we have the chance to seek out items that have already been given a first life by someone and bless it with a second. We can then keep the process going, giving these special items a full life.
Cut out impulse buying. Occasionally you stumble across something you really love and want to own, however, instead of impulse buying it, it's good to also think if you 'need' it. Obviously, you have earned your money, you should be allowed to spend it how you wish, however, will buying another jacket fill a hole in your wardrobe if you already own three? So why not sit on the thought of the item for a while? Bookmark the page and come back to it in a week. Then, see if you still love it as much as when you first saw it or if you have even thought about it at all. You may even forget to revisit the page. Problem solved!

You can also regulate how much you buy by asking yourself some questions like: how many times do I envisage wearing this? What else could I spend this money on? And if you are sustainability aware, you might ask yourself who has made this item? Have they been fairly paid? Will this item end up in the landfill if I no longer want it? Is it made from a damaging material?

Arrange and attend clothes swaps. When we are finally allowed to meet outside of our households, clothes swaps are a fab chance to exchange items with other attendees for either no or a very small cost. If clothes swaps are not regularly organised in your area, why not host one yourself? You can start small, inviting friends and family to bring items they no longer want. If you are keen on hosting, you can even take it to a larger scale- for example a community hall. As they say, one person's trash is another's treasure.
Article by Ashleigh Burr and Catherine McAteer
Main photograph by Gervyn Louis