18 Earth-Friendly Tips for an Eco-Chic Wardrobe

by Natalie Bencivenga


July 21, 2021


Pittsburgh Fashion Week is fast approaching! Kicking off on September 22, the week will be jam-packed with great events, parties and plenty of people watching. To gear up for this highly-anticipated time, let’s green our wardrobes with these 18 tips to help us look our best for the big event, but also stay eco-friendly doing it. 

1 ]  Get Thrifty: Second-hand shops are a great way to freshen up your wardrobe on a budget, while finding one-of-a-kind pieces that you can style all your own.

2 ]  What’s Old is New Again: In addition to thrift shops, vintage clothing can be a great way to green your wardrobe while also connect you to stories and people from the past. Who wore it and why? You can daydream and create an entire style out of one vintage piece bringing the past back to life. 

3]  Swap for it: Have a few friends over — and a few glasses of wine — and swap clothes. It’s free, it’s fun and whatever pieces you don’t keep, you can donate. 

4 ]  Buy-Nothing Groups: The internet can be a wild place, but it can also be a place for great innovation! Buy-nothing groups have popped up online, in spaces like Facebook, where people can network with one another and give away their unwanted clothing items as gifts. Similarly, the FreeCycle network works in this way and you can check it out HERE.

5 ]  Shop eco-conscious designers: If you are in the market for something new, check out new and emerging design houses, local artists as well as designers, who are upcycling their fabrics among their practices. Support people who give a damn about the planet. Now that’s chic.

6 ]  Learn to sew: You may have checked out one of my newer column pieces where I share my desire to learn to sew, darn and repair clothing. If you can pick up any of these skills, you are not only extending the clothing that you love, but removing yourself from a cycle that believes that new is always best.

7 ]  Rewear it: Before you buy it, ask yourself, how many times will you wear it? Is it a statement piece that may only get a few showings out of the closet? Perhaps put it back. Instead, think of investing in versatile pieces that can be restyled and enjoyed over and over again.

8 ]  Educate yourself: What are pieces that you have to buy new? What are pieces that you can thrift or explore in a vintage shop? Leaf through your favorite magazines to pull fashion inspo before you go shopping so that you know what it is you want to buy. You are less likely to impulse-purchase and waste money as well as your wardrobe on pieces you don’t actually love. 

9 ]  Buy clothing that can be worn in multiple seasons: Love that sweater? Think of how you can style it in the spring and fall, too. Dying for those new boots? Can you wear them three seasons of the year? Want a maxi dress? Perfect for summer and then layer it up come fall. When shopping, think about what seasons you can wear the clothes and how they will fit into your wardrobe before taking them home.

10 ]  Walk away before you buy: Speaking of impulse purchases, sometimes you just need to take a step back before committing to a lavish splurge. If you are still obsessing about it days or weeks later, then consider buying it. But, if you wake up the next morning and forgot all about that neon-green mini dress, then you made the right call in showing a little patience before purchase.


11 ]  Donate your unwanted clothing: Outside of swapping pieces with friends, please don’t throw away your unwanted clothing. Either cut them up into rags for cleaning, or if they are gently-loved but still in good condition, consider donating them to Goodwill or another second-hand clothing shop. The less that ends up in landfills, the better! 

12 ]  Invest: Fast fashion may seem fun, but it wreaks havoc on the planet and on workers. Instead, buy less and invest more into your pieces that are eco-friendly and ethically created whenever possible. We may not be able to do everything, but we can all do something. 

13 ]  Stop shopping: Yes, you read that correctly. Take a season off. Rewear the things you already own. Get creative with the styling, or don’t and just wear the same black tank dress from Target all season long. Finding out what you really need as compared to just shopping to shop can really change your outlook and perspective on how we approach fashion and style.

14 ]  Clean out your closet: Before you buy anything new put one thing in your donation pile. I have used this rule for years and it prevents my closet from exploding. Whenever I want to buy something new, I always go through my closet and decide what I’m going to donate. This way, it’s a one-to-one ratio and prevents you from bringing home ten items and only removing two. If you want something new, what are you willing to give up?

15 ]  Consider renting your clothes: I love Rent the Runway for so many reasons, but I really appreciate it for black-tie or special events. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy dress I may only wear once when I can rent one far less? Sharing gently-loved clothing cuts down on waste and allows you to dress even more fabulously than you might otherwise be able to afford. It’s a win-win!

16 ]  Commit to natural fibers: Of course not always possible, but if you are given the ability to buy natural, organic materials, why not? 

17 ]  Shop local: You can also reduce your carbon footprint by buying from local artisans, designers and boutiques. Instead of ordering everything online which has to be produced and shipped from around the world before making its way to your door, shopping local can introduce you to new designs, eco-friendly manufacturers and supports local business owners.

18 ]   Check the care label: Following the care instructions on your clothing tags can extend the lifecycle of your purchase by 50-80%! Wash your clothing only as needed — not every time you wear it  — and try cold water instead of hot.


Natalie Bencivenga is a regular columnist with The Green Voice Weekly Newsletter and hosts Pittsburgh Earth Day's VEGED; Earth Inspired Eats