15 Ways To Shop Smarter
With the state of planet Earth at the forefront of the world's collective mind, many people find themselves wondering how they can possibly make a difference within such an enormous and often overwhelming crisis. Here at Nordstrom, we can relate.
Nordstrom has a vision for a more sustainable future, and we're focusing on three key impact areas to get there: decreasing our contribution to climate change, decreasing the environmental impact of our products and services, and increasing circularity. We are committed to leaving the world better than we found it, and we know our customers want the same thing.
As a company, we're setting new objectives to achieve this vision, and teams across the company are driving the change. Our goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our supply chain, recycling 100 tons of beauty packaging and contributing one million dollars to support innovations in textile recycling. You can find more information on these exciting new initiatives here.
We hope you'll join us in our ambition. No one person can do it all, but if we each do our part, no matter how small, we can make a big impact. Here are 15 ways to shop better—for yourself and for the environment—and whether you incorporate all of our tips into your daily life or just a few, every little bit counts when it comes to making a better tomorrow.
Brands are innovating more than ever to think of new ways to repurpose plastic waste. 2016 saw the launch of Girlfriend Collective, whose activewear is made from post-consumer water bottles, fishing nets and other ocean trash. Summersalt also uses recycled plastic materials for their swimsuits, which are five times more durable than regular suits and will last longer. In June 2020, Le Specs will release a new line made from recycled materials, including packaging, and designer brands Strathberry, Mulberry and GANNI are working toward launching sustainably sourced collections for fall 2020.
Finding hidden gems at a discounted price isn't the only great thing about thrift shopping. On one hand, you're keeping items from ending up in a landfill, and on the other, you're reducing demand for more new goods.
Factory production itself has a big impact on the environment due to water consumption. Denim is famously one of the highest users of water, with around 1,500 gallons needed to make just one pair of jeans, according to brand DL1961. With state-of-the-art technology, the denim label uses just eight gallons per pair. AG has installed special water filtration systems that save more than 100,000 gallons of water each day, and the brand now produces all of its garments using recycled water from its Los Angeles and Mexico facilities. Perhaps the biggest name in denim, Levi's has saved more than 3 billion liters of water and recycled more than 2 billion, and uses more than 20 water-saving finish techniques during the final stage of production.
When you find that special secondhand item you've been searching for but the fit is just a little bit off, consider buying it and then getting it tailored to fit you perfectly. Nordstrom offers alteration services such as hemming, tapering or even adding pockets.
If you find yourself with a rip in your jeans or a hem that's come undone, consider a visit to your tailor or read up on the brand's repair policies. Patagonia famously fixes their items for free so that you can keep adventuring in them for years to come. The brand not only helps you repair your most loved pieces, but also restores items you may no longer want so they can be resold or recycled into something new and kept out of landfills for as long as possible. Nordstrom also offers free basic fixes for Nordy Club members—find out more here.
Make your dollars go the extra mile by shopping with brands that donate to charitable causes. Patagonia gives 1% of sales to help the environment and has awarded over $89 million in cash and in-kind donations to grassroots groups since 1985. Summersalt donates any lightly damaged product to international humanitarian aid and disaster-relief organizations. Rodd & Gunn supports the Red Cross in Australia and New Zealand by donating new and used clothing and accessories, and Pura Vida has donated over two million dollars to more than 175 charity partners, including 1% for the Planet and the Oceanic Preservation Society.
Shoes take a lot of wear and tear on a daily basis, but you can extend the life of your favorite pairs by getting them resoled or repaired. Your local cobbler can shine, clean, deodorize and more. You should also consider waterproofing leather and suede to protect these finicky materials, which you can also get conditioned or recolored for an instant refresh. Plus, if you're in the Manhattan area, head to Nordstrom NYC for a variety of shoe repair services.
Reformation has been in the sustainability game since long before it went mainstream (it's been 100% carbon neutral since 2015). The company is extremely transparent about all their operations and, according to its website, uses an assessment tool called Refscale to calculate the CO2, water and waste footprints of its products, as well as comparable products in the U.S. fashion industry. All of these stats are available on every product page of its website to indicate the impact each piece has on the environment, so you can see exactly how your fashion choices affect the planet.
Pesticides and fertilizers used to grow traditional cotton can be harmful for farmers and the environment, making organic cotton a much better choice. Other toxic chemicals are often used to process raw materials like bamboo into viscose, or to tan and dye leather. By choosing products from brands that have strict standards for chemical use, you're protecting the environment and the workers who made your latest find. Faherty is known for using organic cotton and natural dyes derived from vegetables, and Levi's has also reduced its use of hazardous chemicals used to dye and treat its clothes.
Women make up the majority of garment workers in the global supply chain—68% according to HERproject.org—and many face job insecurity, power imbalances with male managers and even violence or sexual harassment. In 2007, Nordstrom Product Group (NPG) began partnering with nonprofit HERproject to bring empowerment programs to these women working in fashion factories, providing education in topics like finance and health and enabling them to progress in their careers and personal lives with greater autonomy.
Packaging used to send online orders is a problem, but some brands are moving toward recycled and recyclable materials for these items. Summersalt sends each of their swimsuits in a 100% recyclable polybag for freshness and sanitation, and according to its website, the brand is actively looking for a vendor that makes them out of completely recycled materials. Plus, their poly mailers, hang tags, accent labels, postcards and notecards are all made out of recycled materials. Beauty containers are also notoriously difficult to recycle, from caps and bottles to tubs and palettes. Skin care company Paula's Choice takes back their empty products and ensures that they are correctly disposed of for eventual recycling.
Subscription clothing services are a great way to shop without actually shopping, buying or eventually throwing items out only for them to end up in a landfill. Last year, Nordstrom partnered with Rent the Runway to add self-service kiosks in selected Nordstrom stores for quick and easy rental returns. This makes it easier for shoppers to try new items and trends on a monthly basis without committing or contributing to the supply-and-demand factor of fashion.
Many retailers now offer customers the option to return worn items for an incentive on future purchases. Madewell has taken back jeans of any brand for years, partnering with Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green™ program to turn the material into housing insulation, and rewarding shoppers with $20 off a new pair of denim. Similarly, Eileen Fisher's RENEW program takes their clothing back, which they resell or repurpose into new designs, and gives you a $5 rewards card for each piece.
One way to keep clothes looking their best is by hanging them to dry rather than using the dryer, which has a huge carbon footprint in terms of energy use. When it comes to washing, opt for cold water instead of hot. Both of these options are gentler on your clothes and will reduce the likelihood of shrinkage or fading—plus they're better for the environment, so it's a win-win.
It goes without saying that simply shopping with a reusable tote is a step in the right direction, and a very easy change to make in your daily life. Whether you're shopping for clothes or groceries, keep a couple of bags in your car or by the door so that you'll always remember them on your way out.