How to shop Affordable Sustainable Clothing (+ My Favorite ASOS Eco Edit)

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Let’s be honest, finding affordable sustainable clothing is not easy! Sustainable clothing often has a reputation to be more expensive. In the majority of these labels, they have a very good reason to be more pricey. After all, they should be paying the manufacturers a fair price for labor, they will invest more in finding sustainable production of the fabrics (aka not dumping toxic waste into the water stream) and they will try not to copy for other designers. This is a long list of things to pay attention to and this costs money. Therefore finding affordable ethical items is hard and finding 100% ethical and sustainable items on a budget is almost impossible. However, does that mean we should give up? Hell to the no!

How To Shop Affordable Sustainable Clothing (+ My Favorite ASOS Eco Edit)

How to shop for affordable and sustainable clothes?

So what should you do if you are on a budget and you want to make a sustainable choice? You try to make better choices. This might be a bit of a controversial opinion for people that care about the environment (which I consider myself to be), but there is no such thing as perfection. I strongly believe we can make a difference if we can all try to do our best. When it comes to fashion, finding the best choice can be very hard. The industry is notorious about being transparent. There are so many steps, it’s easy to hide less than desirable practices.

Think about it. The process starts by producing raw materials for fabric. The second step is transforming those raw materials into a piece of fabric. This part of the process alone can be very damaging to the workers and the environment. After that, the fabric is turned into a piece of clothing. This is the step we hear the most about as there are still A LOT of unethical practices in clothing manufacturing. Then I’m not even talking about the transport in between the farm, the factories, and the stores OR about the reality of stealing of designs to make the fast-fashion piece of clothing OR the amount of landfill that the fashion industry is creating! I’m sure you’re head is spinning already.

The Truth About Cheap Sustainable Clothing

The sad truth about cheap and sustainable clothes is that it does not exist. I apologize to any brands that are and please let me know as I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW ABOUT YOU! There are a few slightly more expensive that are really not that big a stretch of the budget and I would recommend discovering these brands. A good example of this is Everlane, who is more expensive all throughout, but offers a cheaper alternative with their “Choose What You Pay” system for selected items. In this way, you can plan ahead and wait until one of your favorite pieces gets priced down. More often than not, if you want to purchase a sustainable item, you will need to invest (which is not a bad thing!).

It’s important to realize that brands will have to cut corners to keep the price down. If you see a t-shirt in a fast-fashion chain that only costs $3, think about how they able to get it to that price. The cheaper you go, the more corners will be cut. It’s up to you as a consumer to decide which parts of the production part are most important to you and where you want to put your money towards. A customer has so much power with where they choose to put their money, so don’t think you don’t matter!

What Can You Do to Buy more Sustainably on a Budget?

There might not be such a thing as a cheap and 100% sustainable piece of clothing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference on a budget. Here are a few pointers that everyone can do, regardless of their budget:

  1. Think about why you are shopping: Buying less to no clothes was a big reason I saved enough for travel. Retail therapy is real, but it’s not the right way to feel better. Try a few other things to feel better first and if you still want to buy something, move on to the next steps.
  2. Clothes Swap with Friends: I’m not ashamed to say that I have a lot of clothes that were given to me by friends. Making friends with travelers (or staying in hostels) helps because they often move countries and have to get rid of a lot of things 😉
  3. Live a Minimalist life: Honestly, we don’t as much stuff as we think we need. Like I said in my first point, we often use shopping as a way of trying to make ourselves feel better (I know I do). You will find a lot of peace in having less stuff.
  4. Go second-hand shopping: Let’s face it, the most sustainable way to shop is to buy second-hand pieces. In this way, no resources were used to produce your new piece of clothing and you’re preventing an item going to landfill. By going to a charity shop, you are getting an awesome new piece and on top of that you know your money is going to a good cause.
  5. Go for timeless pieces: Are you shopping because you really need a new pair of pants or something similar, go for timeless pieces. Avoiding super trendy and badly made clothes will allow you to wear your clothes for longer and will be a good thing for your peace of mind and for your wallet.
  6. Look at the fabric and the seams: I have fast-fashion pieces that I’m still wearing years after purchasing them. Fast-fashion items are designed to be worn for a short period of time and then replaced. By looking at the fabric, you could be avoiding this and still buy a piece you will wear a long time.
  7. Still want to buy a trend? Buy an accessory first. The festival season always ignites my love for trends. But rather than buying a whole new wardrobe for a festival, I will always start off by buying a smaller accessory first. Two trends that I love this summer are neon and plaid. I’m not sure whether I will wear the neon trend in day-to-day life yet, but I did need a bum bag (aka the best festival accessory). Enter my new plaid bumbag which I have already worn so much! I realized that I freaking loved this trend and only then did I purchase a new plaid jacket that I’m now obsessed with.
  8. Do your own research on a brand: As I mentioned before, as a consumer you have power. Maybe not all the power, but in the end, it is up to you to choose what you put your money towards. Always do your own research on a brand and decide whether you are ok with it.

My Favorite ASOS Eco Edit

Now to the good stuff! While I shop a lot less than I used to, I still love to buy new items and will try to make the best possible decision when I do so. ASOS tends to be my go-to store for online window shopping. I used to spend a lot of time researching the brands, looking at the materials and deciding on whether this was something I wanted to wear for a long time. It took forever! What sparked this article though was a new filter that I noticed on the ASOS website: The Sustainable Edit. Could this make my search for affordable sustainable clothing easier? I started off apprehensive as greenwashing is very popular in marketing at the moment. I did a little digging:

Is ASOS Ethical?

ASOS is already known to make an effort on improving their brand when it comes to sustainable and ethical production. According to Good On You, a website that rates the ethical practices of fashion brands, ASOS gets a mixed review. They are pledging to be carbon neutral by 2020 and they have also pledged to become fully transparent in their supply chain. Within their own ASOS brand, they have put forward a few other pledges to show that they are listening to the higher demand for a sustainable product. To say that they are a sustainable brand, however, is not completely correct either. It’s also important to realize that this information is all regarding the actual own ASOS label and the conduct of the online retail store. ASOS is, however, still a major retailer, selling many different brands. And these brands all operate differently and I doubt that the above pledges extend to all the brands that ASOS carries.

The ASOS Sustainability Edit

So why am I including ASOS products in a post about affordable and sustainable clothes? Because a part of the ASOS collection is made in a (more) sustainable manner. To find these pieces easily, ASOS launched the Sustainable Edit. Here you can find both the more sustainably made pieces by ASOS and the more sustainable pieces by other brands such as Monki, Weekday, Selected Femme, my current favorite unisex brand COLLUSION and more. I know what you’re thinking: “these aren’t sustainable brands!”. And you’re 100% right, these brands are not fully sustainable or ethical. What they are doing is trying to include pieces in their collection that are made in a more sustainable manner and that are produced in an ethical way. It’s these pieces that you can find in the ASOS Sustainable edit. On the ASOS website, we can find that the Sustainable Edit is a collection of the pieces available on ASOS that are environmentally conscious. They will include pieces that use recycled fabrics, organic cotton or less plastic and waste.

Sydney to Broken Hill roadtrip Outback NSW

Each brand will do something different that will allow it to be included in this edit. For Monki this is sourcing 100% of their cotton in a sustainable manner. Weekday has really dove into the sustainable pool and decided to work improving its current 90% organic cotton benchmark, making their swimwear from recycled materials, eliminating plastic packaging by 2025, by doing all kinds of goodness for animal welfare and more. Read about their full plan on the Weekday Sustainability page. ASOS doesn’t say exactly what their benchmark is for including brands into the edit, so do keep in mind that this is all relative. What I’m saying is that these pieces and brand are not going to be 100% sustainable, but they are offering a better alternative to shopping mindlessly. It also gives us a good idea into which brands are trying to do better.

My favorite ASOS Eco Edit

Being more settled in Sydney, my need for an absolute minimal wardrobe has dwindled and I’ve given back into my love for fashion. Something that I’ve never forgotten but living in Sydney has definitely rekindled it. Discovering new music and getting ready for the festival season has sparked this even more. For the first time ever, I’m feeling drawn to neon colors (who this?). I’m obsessed with oversized garments and have been known to wander into the boy’s section to find the perfect oversized tee -why are boys’ shirts so much more fun?-. I’ve also been living that a checked blazer I purchased a few weeks ago and finally caved for a pair of mom jeans -way overdue-.

Browsing through the ASOS Sustainable edit I was very excited and wanted to shop my little heart out. I managed to control myself and went for the COLLUSION mom jeans for which I’ve already received so many compliments, a timeless pair of golden earrings and a very large COLLUSION hoodie -love!-. That last one is so big, I managed to layer about 4 layers underneath during a very cold camping trip. Below I have gathered these pieces and some other awesome pieces that almost ended up on my house!

Want to know more about ethical clothing?

I’ve briefly touched upon a subject that is very broad and very complicated. It so complex that I will always recommend you to do your own research. Please remember that everyone has different values and things that they find important. I’m repeating myself here, but there is no such thing as perfection. Trying your best is all you can do. There is SO much more to cover on this topic. I haven’t even said anything about ethical (and vegan) beauty and make-up brands!

Is this something you do want to know more about? Let me know in the comments below. I will do my best to find out everything you guys want to know.

In the meantime, you can always listen to these podcasts about ethical fashion which will teach you loads.

Want to keep track of these tips? Don’t forget to pin it!!

Finding affordable sustainable clothing is not easy. I've collected 8 tips that will help you shop sustainably on a budget. Also find the best looks on the ASOS Sustainable Edit!

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How to shop Affordable Sustainable Clothing (+ My Favorite ASOS Eco Edit)