The fashion industry has a significant impact on the planet.

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From the chemicals used for growing cotton to the unethical labour practices of many popular clothing companies, fashion does take a toll on the earth. Improve the environment, your own health and the well-being of others by vowing to green your wardrobe, just in time for Earth Day.

1. Opt for organic.

Growing conventional cotton involves pesticides and fertilizers that threaten the health of people, wildlife and the environment. A disturbing paradox: Conventionally grown cotton occupies only three per cent of the world’s farmland, but uses 25 per cent of the world’s pesticides. And, according to the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S., half of the pesticides used to grow cotton are “known human carcinogens,” which absorb into air, soil, water and eventually our bodies. But organic cotton represents a shift back to more sustainable practices. A bonus: People with allergies and chemical sensitivities may especially benefit from organic cotton clothing because cotton has been proven to retain harmful toxic residues.

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2. Be a vintage vixen.

Especially if you are after high-fashion brands and timeless quality, hunting down pre-loved clothing could change your life. Shop online or hunt down vintage boutiques, such as Magwood (magwood.ca) in Toronto, Mintage Vintage (mintagevintage.com) in Vancouver, and Gypsy & Company (gypsyandcompany.ca) in Ottawa. Some designers, like Preloved (preloved.ca) and Paper People Clothing (paperpeopleclothing.com) use repurposed clothing to create funky new styles—a must for those looking to be gorgeously green and absolutely original.

 

3. Knock off the knock-offs.

Knock-off products—and especially handbags—are generally unregulated, meaning the chances that they were made by an exploited and possibly underage worker are high. Not quite ready to save up for the real thing? Borrow it instead! Check out sites like got2haveithandbags.com in Toronto and jennyfleur.com in Winnipeg, which provide high-fashion accessories and clothes without the financial commitment.

 

4. Mend it!

It might seem rather old-fashioned, but learning to sew and mend could turn into an exciting new hobby—or, at the very least, mean that when the zipper goes on your favourite dress, you don’t need to pay someone else to fix it or get rid of it. The Sew Be It Studio (sewbeitstudio.com) offers sewing classes in Toronto.

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5. Love it or leave it.

Let’s face it: That lime green miniskirt you bought while poking through the fast fashion racks with your coworkers during lunch probably isn’t going to get much wear. Save money and develop a quality wardrobe filled with classic pieces that will stand the test of time by putting more thought into your purchases. Don’t just buy something because it’s on sale —it’s destined to either languish in your closet and end up as landfill or make you feel less than fashionable when you force yourself to wear it!

6. Clean the green way.

Dry-cleaning chemicals are notoriously toxic, and one in particular—tetrachloroethylene—has been banned altogether. But that doesn’t mean it’s not used. In fact, Environment Canada performs routine inspections of dry-cleaning businesses and has reported that keeping the chemical in check is a daunting challenge. Ensure that you and your clothing aren’t coming into contact with banned chemicals by seeking out dry cleaners that use environmentally friendly practices. Also, avoid buying clothing labelled “dry clean only” whenever possible.

7. Be fair.

Fair trade isn’t just a catchphrase; it’s an integral part of the fight against the conditions that led to the collapse of a clothing factory in Bangladesh in 2013 (a tragic event that prompted fast-fashion magnate Joe Fresh to take steps to ensure their manufacturing processes were improved). Look for clothing labelled “fair trade” and do research online before buying. Clothing companies should be transparent about the way they make their garments. If they’re not, find a new brand. Making responsible choices also means seeking out new designers and unique ways of buying and sourcing clothing and accessories. This will set you apart from the crowd when it comes to your savvy style!

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8. Take action.

If the world of eco-friendly fashion interests you, find out how to get involved by supporting and staying up to date with groups like Fashion Takes Action (fashiontakesaction.com), an organization dedicated to educating consumers about the realities of the fashion world’s impact on the planet. And every April, the Green Living Show (greenlivingonline.com) comes to Toronto and provides an informative showcase of the latest purveyors of environmentally responsible (and gorgeous!) fashion, in addition to a plethora of other eco-related displays and events.