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18 Oct

5 Tips to Shop Online Sustainably and Reduce Your Impact

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With thousands of styles and trendy pieces a few clicks away, shopping online has never been easier—or more popular! In fact, Forrester estimated that a quarter of our fashion spending already occurs online and is still rapidly growing, with e-commerce predicted to account for 36% of global fashion sales by 2022.

Online shopping sure has its benefits, like being able to avoid crowds, finding discounts, and comparing styles. An MIT study from 2013 even suggested online shopping can have a smaller carbon footprint.

Although more recent studies seem to prove the contrary, and we’re all for supporting local businesses, when it comes to finding sustainable fashion pieces, sometimes shopping online is the most convenient (and even the only) option.

So, how can we shop online a bit more sustainably? Here are our 5 top tips to reduce your environmental impact next time you buy online.

1. Check the brand’s impact with Good On You

Let’s start with the good stuff. This may seem obvious, but the first step in shopping online more sustainably and ethically is to make sure you’re buying from the right brands. Use the Good On You app and directory to check how a brand impacts on people, the planet, and animals. Stay away from those nasty fast fashion brands, and opt for more transparent and respectful companies. To help you on your journey, we’ve compiled a list of your fellow sustainable fashion enthusiasts’ favourite brands, have a look!

2. Remember “new” is not the only answer

While the Good On You app and directory list some awesome ethical and sustainable fashion brands, buying new is not always the answer. Did you know that some companies now make it even easier to purchase second-hand pieces online? Vestiaire Collective or Farfetch’s Pre-Owned collection are amazing platforms if you’re on the hunt for unique designer pieces. For more vintage options, why not have a look at mobile apps, like Depop! More and more second-hand and vintage shops are also starting to upload their curated collections on their websites or Instagram pages. And if you’re looking for some vintage inspo, there are some fantastic Instagram accounts dedicated to helping you switch from fast fashion to vintage.

3. Do your research

Whether you’re buying new or pre-owned, it’s essential to do your research well to avoid having to return items. E-commerce returns have spiked by 95% in the last five years, and according to Optoro, annual returns in the US alone create the equivalent of the amount of trash produced by 5 million people in a year!

Since one downside of online shopping is that you can’t try the items on and to make sure your order is exactly what you wanted, check the details of the clothes carefully by reading the description, which often includes helpful info like model height, measurements, and whether to size up or down depending on the fit. It’s also a good idea to have a look at the reviews online or email the brand to ask questions if you’re unsure about something.

You could also investigate how your items will be packaged. We all know by now that single-use plastics are a big no-no, and if you’ve been making efforts to reduce plastic in your life, it would be a shame to end up with a bunch of plastic bags on your hands. LANIUS, a Good On You staff favourite, for example, offers the possibility to choose an already used carton as a shipping option for your order. All packaging materials they use, from cardboard to stickers, are also carefully selected. Finally, the clothes are packed in a compostable and biodegradable Eco-Polybag—that’s what we like to see!

Some brands also ship carbon neutral, meaning they offset the harmful CO2 emissions from the shipping by investing in positive carbon initiatives worldwide. While this is not the ultimate solution to reduce your environmental footprint when buying online, it is still a positive first step in the right direction.

4. Do your best to buy local

Often, the best way to reduce your impact is to buy locally. This way, your items won’t travel as far, plus you’ll be supporting smaller ethical businesses in your home country. You can check where a company is based on the brand’s page on the Good On You app and directory. Like anything, there are pros and cons to buying locally. If you want to learn more, have a look at our article.

5. Reduce and reflect

You might be aware of the 4 R’s of fashion by now: reduce, reuse, repair and recycle. While “reduce” traditionally applies to your existing wardrobe, it can also be applied to your shopping cart. Try to avoid frantically adding items to your cart, and instead save them as favourites and wait a bit before committing. This way, you won’t buy as many things and will avoid returning that one dress that looked cool online but is horrible in real life (been there, done that). Another benefit of waiting before purchasing is that you’ll have one larger order instead of several small ones that will need separate packaging and shipping!

There you have it, our 5 tips to shop online more sustainably and reduce your environmental impact. But remember, sustainable fashion starts in your wardrobe, so have a look at what you already have in there before investing in new pieces!

Editor's note

feature image via Unsplash. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet and animals. We love to recommend some of the best sustainable brands, rated ‘Good’ or ‘Great’. We also encourage shopping pre-owned as another great way to reduce the impact of our fashion choices. Use our Directory to search thousands of rated brands.

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