There are several ways to give your wardrobe a green boost. You can make a commitment to fill your underwear drawer with items made from organic cotton, you can seek out pants — and skirts and shirts — made from planet-friendly materials like hemp and bamboo, or you can keep warm with fleece vests and jackets made from recycled plastic bottles (PET).
These environmentally friendly clothing options may be more and more accessible, but that doesn’t mean they are cheap. In fact, garments constructed in an earth-conscious manner are usually more expensive than their conventional counterparts. You can chalk it up to the price of looking good while doing good, but that doesn’t make it any easier for those on a budget to dress green.
But today there are options for frugal fashionistas who put Mother Earth first. Exciting options. Eco-advocates with a limited fashion allowance can now infuse consciousness into their closets without spending a dime. That’s right — you can remain trendy and eco-aware with nothing more than some determination and a sharp eye.
I think of it this way: Most people seek out new clothing not because they truly need another pair of dark blue skinny jeans or an emerald-green wrap dress or a pair of shiny red boots, but because they are suffering from a severe case of wardrobe fatigue. When you open your closet and feel incredibly uninspired, it’s natural to seek relief in the form of retail therapy.
But this process is not only hard on your wallet, it’s tough on the earth. Buying more new stuff — from appliances and CDs to books and clothes — means that more things will eventually end up clogging landfills that are already overflowing. The solution? By working together, through innovative swapping organizations and high-quality vintage outlets, we can tap into the hundreds of millions of articles of clothing that are sitting in drawers and closets across the country, unused and unloved. One person’s reject can become another’s treasure. Here’s how:
Swap it out You may be bored with your charcoal-gray cowl-neck sweater, but it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. I don’t fit into my pinstriped white pants anymore, but you do. This is the cooperative thinking that fuels the clothing swap: a gathering of women centered around a big pile — or, if organized, many separate, categorized piles — of clothing that is there to be dug into enthusiastically.
The clothing swap is nothing new, but it has taken on modern features that are decidedly contemporary. Historically, a swap has not only been a chance to find a gem, but also an excuse to throw a party. But for those who don’t live in a swap-friendly town or who are too busy to commute to the occasional gathering, the Internet has once again come to your rescue. Technological advancements now make it possible to swap online. Visit Swapstyle.com for access to clothing and accessories from around the world. A quick registration will lead you to a seemingly endless supply of fashion finds that can be accessed for free. You gain credits by listing items to swap that can in turn be used to score the ultimate pair of jeans or dreamy pair of shoes.
Go vintage We’ve entered a new era of vintage clothing. The musty, cluttered, often unpleasant used-clothing experience has been replaced by clean, pleasant shops that feature the best of gently used garments. This makes it easier to do right by the planet. When you choose clothing that once belonged to somebody else, you’re helping to keep older clothes out of landfills. You also get extra eco-points for choosing not to purchase new items that are often manufactured irresponsibly.
Plus, going vintage is more fun than it’s ever been. Many stores weed through their inventory to offer shoppers only the best clothing and shoes, so the excitement of the search is still there, but so is the chance that you’ll actually find something you like. You can find fabulous vintage stores in most big cities in the country. San Francisco and my hometown of New York have always been my favorite places to hunt for treasures, but quality vintage is not limited to the coasts. Check out Sprig.com and Jargol.com for guides to the best vintage shops in the country.
Borrow it One of the highlights of seeing the “Sex and the City” movie last week (late, I know. It’s tough to get out with a new baby) was when Jennifer Hudson’s character, Louise, gives the Web site bagborroworsteal.com the biggest shout-out it could ever have hoped for. What a fabulous, eco-friendly concept. Instead of shelling out ridiculous amounts of cash for a new luxurious accessory that you’ll most likely become bored with anyway, why not rent it? For a reasonable fee — members pay less — you can be the proud borrower of handbags, jewelry or sunglasses from an A-list of major designers for a week or several months. Good for you, good for the earth — a stylish win-win.
Marisa Belger is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience covering health and wellness. She was a founding editor of Lime.com, a multiplatform media company specializing in health, wellness and sustainable living. Marisa also collaborated with Josh Dorfman on “The Lazy Environmentalist” (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang), a comprehensive guide to easy, stylish green living.
Please note: Neither Marisa Belger nor TODAYshow.com has been compensated by the manufacturers or their representatives for her comments or selection of products reviewed in this column.