'Sustainability' has been a real buzzword within the fashion industry over the last decade, but it's only been over the last couple of years that the every day consumer has really sat up and taken notice.
But while the root causes and unsustainable practices undoubtedly need to be acknowledged and tackled at the source by the brands creating and selling these items, it is of course a combined approach - from both producer and buyer - that will create the best results.
While we may all be desperate to make more thoughtful choices, the wealth of information from some angles combined with the dearth of transparency from others can make the task feel almost impossible.
In a bid to make it a little simpler, we've picked out the six most effective - and doable - tweaks that you can make to your regular shopping habits to clear your conscience.
1. Learn the facts
Let's face it, shopping sustainably is by no means an easy transition. It can be confusing, even contradictory, and often very expensive. But with fashion now widely-recognised as the world's second most-polluting industry after oil, it's become more than just a fad. It's a very real problem that's finally being acknowledged by both brands and shoppers alike.
According to the University of Queensland, we now globally consume about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year - 400% more than we were just two decades ago.
Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world's polyester - the most commonly used fibre in our clothing that, according to Forbes, takes more than 200 years to decompose.
And what about your everyday jeans and 'harmless' cotton tees? It takes 20,000 litres of water to produce just one killogram. That's one pair of jeans and a tee. That's, probably, what you're wearing right now. It's also the approximate amount of water one individual drinks in fifteen years.
2. Research brands
While very few brands are 100% sustainable, a number are taking important steps forward in that direction. Leading the charge is Stella McCartney, whose label has proven since its launch in 2001 that its possible to create sustainable, ethical, trend-led collections without damaging our planet. "We challenge and push boundaries to make luxurious products in a way that is fit for the world we live in today and the future", McCartney's website reads, "No compromises."
On the high street, H&M has its Conscious Exclusive collection, while Zara has a 'Join Life' initiative and Levi's Waste<Less collection is made up of 20% post-consumer waste.
Visit our Sustainable Fashion Brands round-up to read about other labels championing the notion.
3. Shop online
According to a study, 22% of a garment's environmental impact comes from the process of a consumer driving to and from stores. And while walking or using public transport is an obvious answer to this, shopping online is an unexpectedly proactive solution. It's like public transport for your clothing, no?
While receiving your pieces in plastic wrapping may feel entirely the opposite of sustainable, acknowledge that the items you see hanging on rails in your bricks-and-mortar stores also probably arrived in a plastic bag. You just didn't see it.
Shopping online also give you the opportunity to be more thoughtful, researching the ethics behind different brands or even just glancing quickly at a website's 'About' section to see if there's any information on how their items are made. Chances are, if it is done sustainably and ethically, it'll say so.
4. Create a capsule wardrobe
This one speaks for itself really... Buy. Less. Be realistic about the difference between what you *want* and what you *need*. Because no-one *needs* six different white t-shirts.
Start by clearing out your wardrobe - crucially be sure to recycle or donate your pieces. Binning them would render the entire exercise very problematic. Try and leave yourself with approx. 30-50% of your original wardrobe, and see how you get on living with less clothing. If you make it through a month and there are still pieces you haven't worn, cull those too.
While not everyone has a wardrobe bursting full of designer gear, many of us have one or two high-end pieces that were once entirely beloved but have since taken up more space in our wardrobe than they do our hearts.
One of the big pulls of designer fashion is its value retention, but you only truly see that value when you bite the bullet and decide to ship your pieces off to a new loving home. But how - and more importantly where - do you even begin to sell it? Carboots and the local market are no places to be flogging Burberry, dah-ling.
According to global fashion search platform Lyst, online traffic to luxury resale products has increased 329% over recent years, with resale partners confirming that there is a 50% YoY increase in customers uploading pre-owned products.
But with a number of popular re-sale sites, it can be difficult to know which to head to. So for those of you who are still reading, and are therefore perhaps totally new to this, we recommend Cudoni.
The UK's leading premium luxury fashion and goods resale service, they treat every client as a VIP and make the entire process a breeze - from complimentary collection from a location of your choice, to opening up a discourse with you about data-driven valuation, photographing the product and going on to sell it. When your personal account manager that you were assigned at the start of the process alerts you that it's sold, there's no sweeter feeling.
They also achieve a sales price that is on average 30% higher than if you were to sell the same item independently, so it's a no-brainer really...
This was originally published on Glamour UK.