It can sometimes feel like a struggle to shop sustainably on a budget. Clothing that’s made responsibly tends to be more expensive and is often made by smaller brands who don’t have so many of the cost-saving benefits of bulk manufacture. Sustainable materials cost more, as does operating in a way that pays everybody in the supply chain fairly.
But there are still ways we can embrace sustainable fashion on a budget. There are a number of affordable sustainable brands, but it’s also possible to adjust our mindset towards clothes in order to minimise the impact of the choices we make. After all, sustainable fashion isn’t just about the clothing itself; it encompasses the whole clothing lifecycle, including usage and disposal. Targeting different these areas is a powerful way of maximising sustainability, within cost constraints.
One of the biggest problems with fast fashion is the disposability of clothes. The industry favours fast-moving trends and low prices over environmental and social responsibilities, in order to feed demand for change and newness. One of the best things we can do is to change our attitude towards the disposability of clothing, no matter how much it costs. The environmental impact of clothes reduces the more we wear them – extending their life by an extra none months of active use would reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by around 20-30% each [WRAP]. So if you’re buying clothes from fast-fashion retailers, make sure you’re going to get good use out of them!
Cost per wear
Clothes that are made well tend to last longer, so those more expensive items might be more affordable from a ‘cost per wear’ perspective. Slow fashion is an approach to clothing production that prioritises quality and good design over seasonality and encourages consumers to invest in clothes that will last longer. Seeing good quality, ethical clothes as an investment can help to justify a higher price. In the long term, buying fewer, good quality clothes will save you money. And these good-quality pieces are also more likely to retain their value if looked after well.
Alternatives to buying new
Buying second-hand is one of the most sustainable and affordable ways to shop. And buying isn’t the only option – it’s also possible to rent and exchange clothes! Check out our top tips on how to buy second-hand, from where to look, to how to find styles that will suit you.
Affordable sustainable fashion brandsHere’s a short list of some of our favourite affordable brands:
Rapanui: Great for staple items - they have organic cotton t-shirts from £12, and a range of sustainability policies including plastic-free packaging and renewable energy usage.
People Tree: Great for basics! And a pioneer in Fairtrade fashion.
Affordable sustainable fibres
When you’re shopping, look out for more sustainable fibres such as Tencel, hemp and linen, which also tend to be affordable! Organic cotton is also a good choice, although it can be more expensive. There are a range of organic certifications, and some (such as the Better Cotton Initiative) can be more affordable. Check out our guide on certifications to look out for!
Washing your clothes wellThere’s lots of things you can do to make the clothes you already own more sustainable, and at a very low cost! It all comes down to how you use and look after them.
Minimise energy usage and make your clothes last longer by washing them at lower temperatures and avoiding the dryer whenever possible! Check out our full guide to clothing care for more information.
If you have clothes made of synthetic fibres, invest in a Cora Ball or Guppy Bag to minimise microfibre shedding in the wash. Check out our list of other easy changes you can make to reduce microfibre shedding.