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Three Ways to Dress Fashionably with Minimal Impact on the Planet

April 22 means Earth Day. While climate change can't be solved by paying attention to the issue for just one day, it is a good occasion to put the spotlight on it and remind ourselves what each of us can do. When it comes to reducing humanity's impact on planet Earth, ever tiny bit actually does matter. The decisions you make matter. Also when it comes to the clothes and shoes that you wear. Here are three ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your (shoe) closet, while still looking like a fashion queen or king.

1. Buy less of better quality.

This year's theme for Earth Day is 'Invest in Our Planet' - and the same is true for your closet: invest in good clothes and shoes. One way to reduce the environmental impact of what you wear, is to wear it for longer. National Geographic estimated that one cotton T-shirt uses 2700 liters of water - that is equivalent to the water you drink in 2,5 years. For one T-shirt. And cotton isn't even the worst material when it comes to climate impact. If you have five T-shirts that you wear thirty times or more, you closet has a much lower impact on the planet than if you buy fifteen T-shirts that you wear only ten times. Of course, the clothing that you buy needs to survive being worn multiple times for a longer time, which is simply not the case for most clothing and shoes produced today. To minimize cost and increase sales, many brands design and manufacture garments to fall apart after ten to fifteen wears or six months - right on time for their new collection to launch. When you buy something that is good quality it will last much longer. It will likely also fit better - and as a consequence look better on you.

For shoes, fit is even more important since poorly made shoes will not only fall apart quickly - it can result in actual foot problems. It is better to invest in one or two pairs of good heels that provide your feet support in the right places, than ten pairs of low-quality heels that cause blisters and painful feet.

It may require some training to develop an eye for what is quality and what isn't. To go back to the T-shirt example: f you want to spend the same budget, you can actually afford to spend three times as much on those five well-made T-shirts. However, be careful! We often think the price is an indication for quality, but that is not always the case. A quick trick - Other than pricing, look at the brand. Small or niche brands usually offer the best quality for pricing.

2. Rent instead of buy

Can't bring yourself to have less variety in your closet? Renting clothes instead of buying them is becoming mainstream. In Belgium, rental platform Dressr allows you to pay a small fee to wear beautiful, quality items from local brands for several weeks and then ship them back to replace them with new items. Same budget as buying fast fashion, but you can wear designer labels - and help the environment in the process. You can find a selection of Elegnano shoes on Dressr's platform!

3. Know what you buy

This requires a bit more effort and research. The first - and easiest - thing you can do is to always check the label on the inside of what you want to buy: what is it made of? From a perspective of recycling, it is best to go for natural materials and to avoid blends of a lot of different materials.

Unfortunately, beyond that fashion brands are not making it very easy for consumers. A recent report stated that 60% of sustainability claims by big fashion labels qualify as greenwashing, are inaccurate, and/or misleading according to the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) guidelines. If you buy online, do some research on the website - do they mention the environment at all? If they do, can you get information on their design process? Where their materials come from? Where the products are made? If you buy in a store - ask the shop assistant about it. If the brand doesn't even bother to educate their staff or retailers about their environmental policies, it is unlikely they actually care.

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