As someone who loves style, clothing is constantly on my mind.

As someone who loves nature, the planet is constantly on my mind.

What’s a gal to do?

Consumerism

Consumerism is a two way road paved with the reflective qualities of a laptop screen and a credit card that need not even be swiped.

On one end, we’ve got the vapid, insatiable clothing mass producers like Shein, who not only add hundreds of new items per week, but 6.3 million tons of carbon dioxide to our atmosphere a year. On the other, we’ve got the consumer who is being constantly targeted to believe that their current clothing wardrobe is not good enough and that this next purchase they make will finally be the one to transform them into the person they’ve always wanted to be.

All that’s standing between them and that dream reality is this 100% polyester BLL-style dress.

Apparently the average woman bought 32 items of clothing in 2021. Compare that to the 1960’s, when the average woman only owned 40 pieces that could make about 25 outfits.

It’s a constant pull. Loving beautiful things is not a crime, and in fact, I believe it’s so integral to human nature that neglecting that side of us is creating a vacuum in society. Art has meaning and is human in its very creation. I’m unlikely to be a subscriber to a capsule wardrobe by any traditional definition any time soon. I simply love my creature comforts, my shiny little things too much.

All of that out of the way, the unconscious consumerism is exactly where I don’t want to go. I do not want to spend my hard earned dollars buying clothing that will fall apart from corporations who are polluting the environment and making no strides towards ethicality.

“In the U.S. each year, some 11.3 million tons of textile waste, or 85% of all textiles, are sent to landfills, according to Earth.org. It doesn’t help that the number of times a garment is worn has declined by nearly 40% since 2007.”
Source

Back to the original question, what’s a girl to do?

The Rule of 5

The Rule of 5 is a fairly simple framework for acquiring clothing: only buy 5 new items of clothing this year.

How? Buy one piece of clothing per season and an extra during the holiday season.

Why? The planet, that’s why!

There are some rules: undergarments, swapping/renting/mending/borrowing/making, and (some) secondhand shopping is allowed. Gifts and shoes all count towards this total. Accessories count towards the rule by some frameworks and not by others. I’ve included them in my “counts towards the 5” list, particularly because I’ve bent a lot of other rules.

Shopping Secondhand

According to a study by ThredUp, an online thrift store, everyone buying one secondhand clothing item instead of new this year would save 2 billion pounds of CO2 (the equivalent of taking 76 million cars off the road for a day) and 23B gallons of water. What if everyone bought 5 of their clothing items secondhand? Or 50%, like is my plan for the year?

Now, there are some caveats which aren’t fully accounted for in that study, namely that online thrift shopping still requires dependence on shipping, which of course, has an environmental cost.

My particular framework has been to keep it 2 pieces per month of secondhand shopping, including jewelry, shoes, accessories, and gifts, but not including athletic wear (which I’ve since put myself on a no buy of as I’ve bought enough for the purposes I was originally attempting to fill).

Pursuing Better

All of this is to say that while there’s no perfection to be had here (as it would likely require a complete no-buy), we can always pursue improvement. Here’s to pursuing more of the late and great Vivienne Westwood’s philosophy:

Buy less, choose well, and make it last.”