Scoring a sweet deal on an inexpensive shirt feels really good. But when you learn what happens when you're done with that cheap top, you'll feel anything but.

You know how the cycle goes: You buy a piece of clothing from an inexpensive chain retailer and wear the item a few times. But before you even realize, the shirt falls quickly out of your fashion rotation. Eventually, whether it takes months or years, you toss the top to make more room.

The act seems harmless -- after all, purging your drawers and spring cleaning is key -- but it has a serious effect on the planet and its people. Did you know Americans alone send 10 million tons of clothing to the dump each year? As Grist's video above details, fast fashion may not charge consumers much, but its cost is enormous on the environment and people who work under bad labor conditions or for less than appropriate wages. 

There are some really simple ways to break the unethical habit of consuming fast fashion. Buying fewer items that are more durable, timeless and made in fair conditions will actually save you money in the long run. It'll also reduce the stress we all feel when picking out an outfit: With fewer choices but more clothes that "spark joy," as organizing wizard Marie Kondo puts it, it's nearly guaranteed that you'll be wearing something you feel great in.


  1. Support Companies that give back

    Do your research and make purchases with companies that share your high moral standards. Find your socially responsible match with the help of corporate rankings like Goodness 500.

  2. Shop Fair Trade and Sweatshop-Free

    Shop more responsibly by withdrawing support from companies who exploit cheap labor and force their employees to work under unhealthy conditions. When in doubt, seek out fair trade certified labels on your items of interest. This not only ensures your new duds were made in a sustainable work environment, but it also certifies that whoever manufactured them was paid a living wage.

  3. Buy Secondhand

    Thrifting is an ethical style maven’s best-kept secret. Whether you’re looking for a chic overcoat or vintage handbag, thrift and consignment shops have a seemingly limitless inventory of stylish duds. While there’s no way to guarantee your recycled finds were made under ethical labor conditions, relish in the fact that you’re keeping unwanted clothes from ending up in a local landfill.

  4. Embrace Sustainable Fashion

    Support sustainable fashion by cherry-picking eco-friendly designers like Ryan Jude Novelline who embrace the environmental and social impact of their work. Research suggests that some of the leading clothing brands continue to use hormone-disrupting toxic chemicals to manufacture their textiles. Steer clear of clothing made from synthetic materials and opt for natural or recycled fabrics.

  5. Upcycle When You Can

    Revamp your wardrobe without breaking the bank by adding a crafty touch to some of your more outdated pieces. Try carving up a pair of old denim to make cutoff shorts or adding studs to an old jacket for a rocker edge.

  6. Donate, Donate, Donate

    Before you toss them in the trash, donate or (if you’re pressed for cash) sell your undamaged clothes and accessories to secondhand stores or local charities. To make the most of your gift, seek out organizations specifically in need of clothing to donate your unwanted goods.

  7. Don't Buy Unless You Need It

    Reduce your fashion carbon footprint by resisting the urge to buy on impulse. Avoid retail therapy at all cost, but if you absolutely must make a purchase, be sure to choose quality over quantity. Opt for a minimalist approach and build your wardrobe around timeless statement pieces that last.

  8. Shop Locally

    If you’re pressed for time and want to avoid the complicated process of decoding labels, try shopping at small local boutiques. Although their prices might be a little steep, at an independent shop, you’ll likely have better access to a shopowner who can give you details on how and under what conditions their pieces were made.

  9. Avoid Cosmetics with Unnecessary Additives

    Look for beauty products without unnecessary additives. When shopping for cosmetics, read labels carefully and seek out other alternatives. The Suave Professionals® Natural Infusion collection has formulas that are free of parabens and dyes, making it a perfect fit!

  10. Choose Faux Fur Over Real Fur

    You don’t have to forgo your love for animals in the name of fashion. Keep up with the coveted fur trend without skinning an animal and go faux.