Sustainable Shopping: How to Look Great and Not Break the Planet (Or the Bank)

By now, we all know that traditional fast fashion takes a toll on the planet and the environment.

The fashion industry accounts for 10% of the world’s CO2 emissions, making the industry the second largest polluter in the world only surpassed by the oil industry. Fabric production also consumes a lot of water – as in “1.5 trillion litres of fresh clean water only to dye fabric” a lot. A single kilogram of cotton, the most common fabric used in clothing, requires 20.000 litres of water to grow. This is pretty mind-blowing numbers when considering that 1 in 10 people on this planet does not have access to drinkable water. Add to this the extreme water pollution and waste accumulation created on account of next season’s trends and it becomes pretty clear why we seriously need to reconsider our consumption of fast fashion.

But shopping sustainably can be a maze to navigate. Luckily, Brighton is a haven for environmentally friendly shopping and to make the process a little easier we have created a guide on how to do your part for the planet while still getting your fashion fix.

Second Hand

Buying second-hand clothes can be the most obvious way to shop sustainably: the clothes are already produced and circulating so you save the carbon cost of production, and you are not supporting a mass-producing fashion giant by buying clothes from one of the many charity and second-hand shops in Brighton. As a bonus, this option does not include buying less and often especially charity shops will have clothes available for next to nothing.

Clothes Swap

Swapping or borrowing clothes from a friend is a great way to get new clothes while not actually spending any money or negatively impacting the environment. Instead of buying a new top for that big night out or a new dress for the spring wedding, try borrowing from a friend instead. You get the buzz of getting to wear something different than what is already in your own wardrobe and the environment does not suffer one bit from it. For more permanent clothes swapping, there is organised clothes swaps happening pretty frequently in Brighton: Rags Revival host clothes swaps almost every other month and just by browsing Facebook events you can easily find the next swapping event happening.

Slow Fashion

Slow fashion might be the most impactful change in your shopping habits and can seriously improve your carbon footprint. Slow fashion entails simply buying fewer clothes and being mindful about the clothes you do buy: Is it good quality? Will it last long? Is it timeless? Will I want to wear this in a year? In 5 years? While this approach can be quite expensive, to begin with, you will save money in the long run: instead of having to replace a £30 pair of boots every winter, the ones you buy for £100 might last you 10 years if you take good care of them.

Buy environment-friendly clothes

Making certain choices when buying new clothes can also improve the impact your clothes has on the environment:

  • Buying 100% materials means your clothes can be recycled when it has run its course, unlike mixed materials which cannot be recycled
  • Buying vegan products saves the impact animal production has on the environment
  • Buying pieces made from recycled materials (for example H&M Conscious) saves the carbon impact of fabric production
  • Buying Fair Fashion means your clothes are ethically produced by workers with fair wages


Finally, contributing to the cycle of upcycled and recycled clothes can help the wheel of the sustainable fashion industry turning. Donate clothes in good condition to either charity shops or second-hand shops, sell on Depop or eBay, and recycle clothes that are damaged to a point where it can no longer be mended.

Happy Shopping!

Ida Hansen

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