7 Smart Strategies to Help You Become a Sustainable Shopper

Whether it’s food, fashion or travel, it’s time for all of us to start making more conscious choices. After all, our actions have a major impact on the planet (take our quiz to see how you fare!). In our November sustainability issue, we presented readers with some simple tips and solutions to lead a more environmentally-mindful life. And here, we’ve got strategies to help you become a smart(er) shopper too. It might require a bit more effort but do some research and look beyond fast fashion brands for your wardrobe. Bonus: the chances of you scoring one-of-a-kind or limited edition pieces are high, so you won’t end up twinning with the person next to you on the subway ever again.

1. Patronize the right brands
Want to support ethical brands but feel overwhelmed at the thought of picking and choosing? Keep an eye out for companies with a B Corp certification. It’s a quick and easy way to identify brands with a social or environmental mission built into their ethos—the upholding of which is as vital to them as the interests of their stakeholders and financial investors. Some B Corp-certified brands include Toronto-based Kotn, which exclusively uses Egyptian cotton sourced from local farmers for its t-shirts, utilizes local labour for production, and helps build schools across Egypt; San Francisco sneaker brand Allbirds, which crafts its shoes out of sustainable and eco-friendly materials like wool, eucalyptus tree fibres and even sugarcane; and Outland Denim, an Australian label that employs people who have been rescued from sexual exploitation or trafficking.

2. Do your own research
If you have the time, try to seek out brands that pride themselves on employing sustainable or responsible practices in their work, like Los Angeles-based Re/Done, which repurposes vintage Levi’s, thus cutting down on mindless waste; Canadian brand Matt & Nat, which uses only vegan leather and eco-friendly materials like recycled nylon, cork and rubber for its line of bags and shoes; and French sneaker brand Veja, which buys organic and eco-friendly materials from fair-trade family farms in Brazil and the Amazon, even documenting the entire transparent supply chain on its website.

3. Think beyond clothing
Extend that conscious line of thinking to your underwear too. Support ethical lingerie brands like Everlane (for its transparent supply chain), Naja (for its commitment to using fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles and to reducing water waste) and Lara Intimates (for its zero-waste business model that uses reclaimed luxury fabrics to create all its pieces).

4. Shop at vintage and consignment shops
There are excellent vintage and high-end consignment shops all over Canada: from VSP in Toronto to Fripe Fabrique in Montreal (where you can even learn how to repair your own clothing!) and Hey Jude in Vancouver. Prefer to shop online? Browse Etsy’s ‘Passport’ shop, which specializes in vintage denim; Vintage Frames for its massive collection of vintage eyewear; and sites like Vestiaire Collective and The Real Real for pre-loved designer goods.

5. Rent instead of buy
Special occasion coming up? Summer of nonstop weddings? Planning your honeymoon wardrobe? Head over to a luxury rental website to score designer threads you know you won’t wear more than once. Visit Toronto-based Rent Frock Repeat, which offers a mix of indie and high-end labels like Tibi, Greta Constantine and Christian Siriano. Rebag, a designer handbag resale site that carries all the bags of your dreams—from Alexander McQueen clutches to quilted Chanels—just launched its Rebag Infinity rental program. You can rent a handbag for up to six months, and then exchange it for store credit worth at least 70 percent of its original price. Montreal-based handbag rental site Love That Bag carries an impressive selection too, including Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci.

6. Peruse Instagram for one-of-a-kind purchases
Social media’s for more than stalking your favourite celebrities. Use it to score vintage finds via accounts like @naninvintage, where you can score ’90s era-Calvin Klein pullovers and Armani trousers, and @eliavintage, full of treasures like Dior and DKNY skirtsuits. In the market for some unique home décor finds? Look at accounts like @casa__shop for quirky vases, artworks and odds-and-ends, and be sure to seek out local accounts in your city too. (In Toronto, for example, accounts like @teak_geek_to and @furniture_1950 can be surprising sources for mid-century modern furniture.) So go ahead, slide into those DMs.

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Dior pullover ⭐️

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7. Download these fashion apps

Finery, an app developed by Brooklyn Decker and Whitney Casey, analyzes your wardrobe and offers fresh styling solutions to help you to look at your existing closet with fresh eyes. By encouraging people to reuse what they own instead of pushing them to make more “trendy” purchases, the app does its bit to deter our wasteful consumption habits. Trying to become a more informed consumer? Good On You provides ethical brand ratings for over 1000 fashion brands, from Abercrombie to Nike to Zara, that take into account things like worker conditions and environmental impact so you can know exactly what your money is going towards. Depop, a fashion resale app, allows you to scoop up pieces that were once owned by style influencers you admire, like Chiara Ferragni, Dita Von Teese and Leandra Medine. Hand-me-downs never looked so good.