A Guide to Sustainable Style- How to Shop for Eco-Friendly Fashion

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

A Guide to Sustainable Style- How to Shop for Eco-friendly Fashion


Eco-friendly fashion, and sustainable style—more than just trends, these are clothing and accessory movements that are gaining global traction.


With textile waste becoming a fast-growing problem, many are looking for alternatives to ‘fast fashion’.


Are you trying to make greener lifestyle choices? Inspired by the unique clothing, shoes, or handbags offered by ‘slow fashion’ shopping? Canadian small businesses can help you curate your closet with a clear conscience.


Read on to find out more about how you can become part of the sustainable style movement!


Fast Fashion, Fast-Growing Problem


Fast fashion is a term used to describe clothing or accessories bought in-store or online from large retail companies. The appeal of these clothing companies is understandable; they offer on-trend pieces for an affordable price. 


Updating their clothing collections at a rapid rate, many of these companies release new products on a weekly basis. And, while the production itself can cause pollution and water waste (it takes 2,700 liters of water to produce one t-shirt!), the fast turnover from our closets to the landfill or donation bins is where the most impactful problem of fast fashion is arising.



With the focus on rapid, constant production, the quality of fast fashion garments, shoes, and handbags is secondary. Many pieces are worn only a few times before they’re donated and most consumers have moved onto something new.


So what happens to ‘fast fashion’ pieces when they’re no longer wanted in our closets? Whether they end up in the landfill or the donation bin, they are part of the fastest-growing waste problem in North America.


And, to make matters worse, Canada’s problem with fast fashion has become a problem for developing countries. A 2021 report commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada revealed that Canada is sending textile waste to other countries, causing local pollution and harm to their environment.


Here are some stats to try on for size:


  • On average, Canadians purchase 70 new articles of clothing a year
  • In 2019, 63% of Canadians had textiles to dispose of with 21% heading to a depot or drop-off centre, 21% tossing textiles in the trash and 80% choosing the donation route. 
  • In 2018, 58,895 tonnes of textile waste were diverted from going to landfills and incinerators. Households accounted for 58,407 tonnes.


With these stats becoming difficult to ignore, many Canadians are looking for ways to feel better about their fashion choices.


Feel-Good Fashion


Have you heard about the newest fashion trends? 


 Circular and slow fashion are trends you can feel good about.


Closing the Loop


Circular fashion focuses on closing the loop of clothing and accessory production in a sustainable way. Within this system, the production of these items is as important as what happens to the item at the end of its ‘life’. The use of thoughtfully chosen materials, careful construction, and consideration of how the item can be repurposed when it’s fulfilled its intended purpose (i.e., it’s no longer wearable) are all part of circular fashion. 


The longevity of the item is the ultimate goal.


In contrast to the ‘linear’ models that most fashion companies use, the circular fashion movement helps to keep our textiles from becoming waste and pollution.


Slow Down


Similarly, slow fashion emphasizes the importance of ethically-sourced processes and materials being used in the production of clothing and accessories. By creating higher-quality items, they will be used longer and kept out of landfills and overwhelmed donation centres. 


The slow fashion movement also advocates for the fair treatment of people and the planet. 


Circular and slow fashion are similar movements, both offering a new way to think about the role each of us plays in the fashion world. 


Making different, thoughtful consumer choices is the best place to start. 


Here’s how:


Look Within


Your own closet is the best place to start. By looking at what you have with fresh eyes you can get a better idea of what you truly need and want for your wardrobe. 


A sweater can be given a new life with a fabric shaver. A missing button can easily be replaced. Steam-cleaning a jacket or sending some items to the dry cleaner can make them look and feel as good as new. 


By doing an inventory of your closet, it’s easier to make informed choices about what needs to go, what can be refreshed, and what you can invite into your wardrobe.


New to You


Is there a handbag you’ve seen your favourite influencer wearing? Wanting to add a dress with this season’s ‘it’ look to your wardrobe? 


Preloved, thrift, vintage, and second-hand sources are the trending fashion ‘go-to's’. 


From a thrift or consignment store in your neighbourhood to an online platform, a quick search might help you find exactly what you’re looking for –and often at a significantly reduced price.


Someone else’s change of heart can become your new treasured item. 


And, if something no longer feels new to you, it might be just what someone else is looking for! 


By buying and selling secondhand, you’re helping to contribute to a more sustainable fashion movement, keeping textiles out of landfills and overflowing donation bins—and having some fun too!


Shop Local


Many Canadian designers and small businesses are offering unique and innovative solutions to the problem of fast fashion.


By shopping locally, you’re not only making a more eco-friendly choice, but you’re also purchasing clothing and accessories that are handmade or produced in small batches, ensuring higher quality items that will stand the test of time.


And, finding something unique helps you create your own style statement, one that has more impact than simply following a current trend.


On a mission to create “beautiful fashion that's kind to both people and planet and creates a better future for both; all at fair prices”, BraveSoles is walking the walk when it comes to sustainable style.


Read this excerpt from BraveSole’s ‘About Us’ page to discover the inspiration behind the company:


As the founder of an international youth humanitarian organization, Christal Earle had been working and learning from a local community of garbage dump workers since 2005 on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Among everything else in that garbage dump, there was also an overwhelming amount of tires. They were a breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying deadly diseases and they were a toxic nightmare.


In early 2017, the idea struck for the first time. Why not use tires for soles on beautiful handmade shoes - and create a way to help the most vulnerable people in the process?


And, BraveSoles stepped up to this challenge.


Sourcing their textiles from responsible manufacturers, they use upcycled aircraft seats, furniture cutoffs, and overstock leather to create their beautiful shoes and accessories for women, men, and kids. The soles of the shoes are made with hand-cut, upcycled tire soles. All of their shoes are produced in small batches and are regularly restocked.


The result is high-quality, classic, and contemporary sandals—for under $100!


The company’s website describes its footwear like this:


“A pair of Brave Soles shoes is like a trusted best friend: they always know how to make you feel comfortable being who you are.” 


With their mission to create high-quality, ethically sourced shoes, BraveSoles helps you step effortlessly into sustainable style.



To learn more about Brave Soles, and other Canadian businesses making a positive difference in the fashion world, explore GoShopLocal’s site. We’re adding new and exciting vendors to our directory every week. You may just find your new go-to fashion source in your own community!


Sustainability is always in style


From slow to second-hand, circular to pre-loved, sustainable choices are always in style. 


By shopping local, you’re supporting Canadian small businesses that are striving to offer eco-friendly fashion alternatives to fast fashion.  


Rethinking your own shopping habits and looking at your own closet in a new way are simple, affordable ways to wear fashion you can feel good about. And that’s a good look on everyone!



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