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It’s Easy Being Green: Buy Less, Wear More

A smart closet means taking care of what you have, not buying more.

A consignment shop owner in New York City holds up a Chanel jacket he is selling for $85. Consignment shops and thrift stores keep clothes in circulation and can offer great deals. (AP/Mark Lennihan)
A consignment shop owner in New York City holds up a Chanel jacket he is selling for $85. Consignment shops and thrift stores keep clothes in circulation and can offer great deals. (AP/Mark Lennihan)

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Making your wardrobe less wasteful doesn’t mean running out to buy the latest trend in (overpriced) purses made from reprocessed tires. In fact, it isn’t necessarily about buying at all. It’s about taking care of what you have and buying only what you will use.

Knowing what you own before you got shopping will save you the headache of buying clothes you don’t need. Before heading out for a day of shopping, take a few minutes to look through your closet and make some mental notes of what you already have. This will avoid buying that yellow polo shirt that looks eerily similar to the one you bought at last year’s end-of-season sale. You’ll also save money and keep dust off your closet shelves.

And just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you should buy it. Before rushing two armfuls of clothing to the register, consider when you are going to wear what you are buying. You might try going to another store before purchasing anything to decide if you really need it.

Or you could consider shopping at used and vintage apparel stories, which are a great way to prevent clothes from piling up at landfills. You can use Fashion Dig’s store locator to find consignment shops or vintage clothing stores in your area.

Taking care of the clothes you already own is another way to get the most out of your wardrobe. Make your clothes last by following care instruction labels, and only wash clothes that are dirty. Try to find a dry cleaner that doesn’t use perchloroethylene, a chemical that has been found to cause cancer and contaminate the air.

Wash your clothes in cold water when possible. It saves energy and your clothes won’t fade as quickly as in hot water. Air drying your clothes also saves energy and extends the life of your clothing, and the sun’s rays serve as a natural sterilizer if you have the space to hang your clothes outside. If you need to replace your washing machine, try to find a front loader that uses less energy and water than traditional washing machines. You can recycle your old washing machine, and the adventurous can attempt to turn theirs into a bread maker.

Paying special attention to leather garments and accessories will prevent you from having to replace them frequently. Keeping your leather shoes polished and treated to prevent water damage will help keep them in good repair. You can also give your shoes a second life by having them resoled for $20 to $40 instead of throwing them out.

Finally, see if you can find a new home for clothes you will never wear again before sticking them in the back of your closet. You can get money back for your clothes by taking them to a consignment shop or a vintage clothing store, but you can also donate them to a local charity. Chances are there’s still plenty of life left in them, especially if they’ve only been worn a few times.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

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