Fashion & Zero Waste

Here at Be Zero we're happy to share the stories and positive work of our Ambassadors in their own words. Our Be Zero Ambassadors bring life to the Be Zero Mission by sharing and inspiring ways to live simple and low-waste lifestyles.  This post is from our San Diego Ambassador Abbey, she shares her personal story about simplicity, fashion, and the circular lifestyle. Enjoy!

It's amazing to me how becoming more cognizant of your trash footprint opens doors to so many other aspects of living consciously.  

Take fashion, for example. I had always been vaguely aware of the garment industry's role in the mistreatment of people, but the term 'sweatshop' just seemed so far removed from me and my lifestyle.  Unfortunately, it wasn't until I read about fast fashion and its implications on the environment that something hit home. 

I know that sounds horrible! She doesn't care about people!  Just know that I was the kind of person that would tell the cashier “no” when she asks if I want to donate to breast cancer, but would donate to cancer research for pets in a heartbeat. Like, take all of my money.  

Fortunately, my feelings on the earth coming before people is changing. I'm beginning to see how all of these complex and separate facets - people, animals, economy - aren't so separate after all. They are inextricably linked to the wellbeing of our planet. 

So, when the human side of fashion finally caught up with my heartache about the environmental side, I decided to experiment and pare down my wardrobe. I had been toying with the idea of a capsule wardrobe for about a year and my newfound concerns were the tipping point. This fall, I went into the season with 28 pieces, including shoes. 28 is a pretty random number, based on my favorite pieces and what I usually wear this time of year. If you're going for a tiny wardrobe, set your own standard of tiny. There are no hard and fast rules!

This is my first go at a tiny wardrobe, so it certainly isn't perfect.  I already had all of these items in my closet, though most of them are not of the quality I'd prefer. Only two items are of completely natural fibers and most are fast fashion brands. But start with what you have, right? And yes, flip flops and a wool coat are both necessary in a San Diego fall wardrobe! 

These are some of the challenges I faced:

One week in, I decided to add a fifth pair of shoes. It was silly of me not to include my black ballet flats. This brings the item total up to 29. (See? No rules!)

One month later, I had to take my black boots in for repair. I'd had them for years, but they weren't exactly made to last. Utilizing them in a capsule wardrobe meant they were getting used far more frequently, so they quite literally fell apart as I was putting them on one day. A trip to the cobbler has them back in action!

Two weeks later, Enzo made my cream flats into a chew toy. Back to the cobbler!

Two months in, I decided to switch out the blue dress for a more versatile black skirt. I hadn't worn the dress as part of the experiment yet, so this doesn't really count, right? 

I also bought a secondhand black long sleeved tee to replace the one that was originally part of the experiment. Like the black boots, the shirt was of a fast fashion brand and starting to unravel in my hands. The ‘new’ tee is 100% cotton, and much more substantial.

Despite these issues, at almost three months in, I'm pretty darn pleased with myself. The simplicity that stems from a small wardrobe is so freeing. Between my husband and I, we only do four to five loads of laundry a month. All of our clothes can air dry on a little bamboo drying rack, saving us money and another trip to the laundry room. Additionally, I've donated upwards of 20% of my entire clothing inventory. I finally feel comfortable letting these items go. Having a smaller wardrobe and shopping secondhand means I can get pieces of far higher quality for much cheaper, so I'm not worried about hoarding what I have. And freeing up the physical space these clothes were taking up lends me more mental space!

I'm looking forward to removing the cheap plastic-laden pieces and slowly curating a wardrobe that is wholly sustainable, both environmentally and socially. It will take time, but good things often do. 

How has becoming trash light affected your wardrobe?