Getting Sustainable in Your Closet

A purple cable knit hat with pom and navy & bronze striped scarf laid against a light blue and lime green sweater.

With the New Year, many of us are making resolutions to do things more sustainably in 2022.  As a sustainable business, I love this!  My vision for Joining Yarns involves creating community with our neighbors and the whole Earth with ethical and sustainable choices. Today I’d like to share why handmade items matter to me and fit within that vision.

I’m sure you’ve felt the difference, holding a handmade gift in your hands. One of my favorites is a necklace, a simple wooden ring, hand carved by a friend. I’m sure hundreds of similar designs exist, but knowing this was made by hand over the course of days specifically for me changes everything.

By contrast, I have items from Target that I love, but they’re not special and certainly not irreplaceable. Solene Rauturier at Good on You defines fast fashion as “cheap, trendy clothing, that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed to meet consumer demand.” These garments typically fall apart after just a few wears, but that’s by design because fashion trends will have moved on after a few wears. Then those pieces are discarded and more are purchased. Fast fashion often employs workers from non-Western nations for cheaper wages, longer hours, and poorer conditions. Cheap dyes are toxic, not only to the workers handling them, but they seep into the water supplies in the communities where clothing is produced. The most common fabric is polyester, a derivative of fossil fuels which leaves microfibers of plastic in the water when washed.

I don’t believe that fast fashion is the most beautiful world we can create. There is a growing push towards slow fashion, in which garments are made from natural and non-toxic materials, in safe and healthy working conditions where workers have fair wages and use construction methods that last. Rather than meeting the latest trend, slow fashion pieces are designed to be classic and timeless.

It’s true that slow fashion typically costs more in money, but the costs on our Earth are far less. And I know that most of us can’t afford to go out and buy a new ethical wardrobe (really, it’s better to let the clothes you have last as long as they can anyway).  Here a few ideas to consider:

1.  Which items are staples?

Build your wardrobe around a few pieces that go with everything and work for most everyday situations. Anything you can layer is versatile for a number of outfits. From there, pick a few fun pieces to mix it up.

2.  Is it made with natural materials?

Natural materials include wool, cotton, hemp, bamboo, and linen. Natural fibers are more sustainable, whereas most synthetic fibers (polyester, acrylic, nylon, rayon) include plastic. Plus, garments made from natural fibers can often be composted at the end of their life!  Shop natural fibers at Joining Yarns here.

Relevant posts:  Learn more about natural materials here!

3.  Where is it from?

Consider where the garment (and materials for it) came from. Can you tell if the workers who made the garment where treated and compensated well? Can you find it in a local boutique? Shopping local invests in your community, supporting the well-being of your neighbors! Even knowing where the old t shirt you’ve worn for years comes from is a way to build your awareness of all the connections made through our clothing.

Looking for more tips?  I've created a 10 step guide to help you get more sustainable in your closet!  Get it here.  (#4 is my favorite!)

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