Less Waste Guide to “Sustainable Fashion”

Much like shopping at the grocery store the labels on products can get a little confusing. And like food, most people want to know what they are putting IN their bodies but also what they put ON their bodies. So here is my cheat sheet for understanding sustainable fashion labels and terms.

“Americans throw away about 70 lbs of clothing per person every year.”
Forbes, 2015

The gently used/secondhand or vintage clothing categories are the best for reducing your amount of waste. If you want to reduce your impact, this should be your first stop.

Gently Used or Secondhand

Worn a few times but still looks new and can be worn by someone else. Stores that accept gently used clothing generally are very picky about what they will accept but be sure to check over any clothing to make sure they didn’t miss any wear or tear unsuitable. If unsuitable and you wish to repair it ask if they will mark down the price further.

Shops to check out:
Buffalo Exchange

J. Crew Tunic | $37


Most gently used and secondhand shops will also include vintage in their inventory. Therefore there can be a lot of crossover in where to shop for vintage. Vintage means that the clothing is from a different era but be careful with this term some places will use it to reference the “style” of clothing, not that it truly is vintage. So if you are questioning it, ask the seller.

Shops to check out:
Beyond Retro
Nasty Gal

1950s Sarong
Style Dress | $160
How Sweet It Was Vintage

Slow Fashion vs. Fast Fashion

All of the categories below are in the “slow fashion” category, but you will hear the term Slow and Fast Fashion often when looking at any of these items so it is good to understand the difference.

Fast Fashion – cheap, quick, poor quality and lots of it. It is all about the latest trends and is designed with waste in mind. Fast Fashion is created to only last a few wears before falling apart, it also has a large carbon footprint. Since trends can change so quickly a lot of big companies and stores don’t see value in spending a lot of time and energy on fashion that will not last. Often these items are created in poor conditions and questionable practices.

Slow Fashion – quality, care, built to last. Slow fashion is all about sustainability. Often less items are created to keep the inventory down until the demand is needed, and because each item is made through ethical practices the process can be slower. This also cuts down on carbon emissions. All around better for the planet. You also pay the price for knowing it is well made, so if this is not something you can afford I recommend shopping used or vintage.

If gently used or vintage don’t work for you consider these options when looking to purchase clothing. A lot of these brands also have a recycle, buy back or repair programs so consider this when purchasing anything. You will find that a lot of the brands fall into many of these categories, if you want to see the full impact of these brands visit their sites. Happy shopping!


Clothing is made from materials that can be composted instead of dumped in a landfill. Some of those materials can include bamboo, hemp, silk and wool. Be sure to look closely when shopping depending on the process of how they were made can determine whether it truly is biodegradable.

Shops to check out:
Amour Vert

Women’s Moraine
Longsleeve Top | $59


Eco-Friendly clothing and accessories are ones that have minimal harm or disruption to the planet. From start to finish, these brands are looking to keep their footprint small while providing a quality product.

Shops to check out:
People Tree

Patagonia Women’s Reversible Extended Break One-Piece Swimsuit | $149


All people involved in the creation of this product were treated fairly and ethically. This can include working conditions, environmental concerns, fair trade (see below), etc.

Shops to check out:
Back Beat Co.
Los Angeles Apparel

Men’s Italian Wool
Suit Jacket | $198

Fair Trade

These clothing items are made by individuals that are making a fair living wage, the full supply chain is considered in how this product is made.

Shops to check out:
Fair Trade Brands
Fair Indigo

Child Everybody’s Friend Graphic Tee | $12


The materials used for organic clothing are grown in accordance to the organic agricultural standards. For example, something like pesticides or artificial fertilizers are not used in the growth of organic cotton.

Shops to check out:
Brooke There
Alternative Apparel

Heathered Ruched Mini | $57


Recycled clothing is made from recycled materials. This turns something like a single use plastic water bottle into a clothing item.

Shops to check out:
Girlfriend Collective
Mara Hoffman

Pansy Compressive High-Rise Legging | $68
Girlfriend Collective


Similar to recycled clothing, upcycled clothes are made into a higher quality product from fabric scraps or vintage items.

Shops to check out:
Christy Dawn
Riley Studio

Hestia Dress | $528


Vegan clothing is created cruelty-free. No animals are harmed during any part of creating the final garment.

Shops to check out:
In The Soulshine
Beyond Skin

Candle Climb Yellow
Organic T-shirt | $42

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My name is Kate and I'm a world traveler looking to make a positive impact by reducing my waste and single plastic use.

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