How to Reduce Your Closet’s Carbon Footprint



Capsule wardrobes reduce the size of your wardrobe while increasing your number of outfits. Local experts help you understand the eco-friendly (and style) trend.

The fashion industry is responsible for approximately 10% of greenhouse gas emissions and 11.3 million tons of textile waste in the United States each year. So what’s a drying rack to do? Not be fabulous? Capsule wardrobes — a trend touting the benefits of mixing and matching fewer pieces to form countless outfits — are gaining attention as ethical routes to versatile style. Even if you don’t want to limit yourself to just one pair of jeans, you can use these local experts’ tips to reduce your wardrobe’s carbon footprint.

1. A good capsule wardrobe only contains pieces that you wear, says Sandi Mele, personal stylist in Denver. To find them, sort your clothes into three piles: Keep, Throw away, and Not sure. The guards return to your closet. Also not sure to stay (for now). Throw your head in the thrift store.

2. Examine the clothes in your Keep pile to identify your personal style. Are you drawn to neutral or bright colors? Preppy shirts? Light chiffon? Noticing these trends will help you differentiate between the styles you live in and the ones you only like in theory, says Mele.

3. Welcome to the fun part: “Shop your closet”, says Reanne Chase, the co-founder of Denver fashion label Gyidah, which puts its own spin on vintage items. Chase suggests spending an afternoon finding new ways to wear and accessorize the clothes you keep.

4. Take into account the gaps in your clothing assembly—are you missing a nice pair of pants or a versatile little black dress?—but don’t lose sight of your lifestyle. Mele says a blazer might not be a good investment if you work from home and spend your free time on the slopes.

How to get even more with less

Hang out: Put your Not Safe stack back in the closet with the hangers the wrong way round, and only return one the right way round if you’re wearing the item. After a few months, any leftover back hangers will highlight things you can throw away, Mele says.

At capacity: Once you know what you like, you might be tempted to add more. Denverite Caroline Burnett, owner of online thrift store Viola Lee Vintage, recommends following the one-for-one rule. “If I want to buy something,” she says, “I have to get rid of a piece that I already own.”

Multiple personalities: Don’t save your evening dress for special occasions, says Meçlâ Soyer-Kaplan, owner of Denver brand Meçlâ. Add accessories, like white sneakers or high-tops, to make fancy dresses casual.

Ball Belt: Long live the belt, one of Burnett’s favorite accessories. “Tucking in a loose sweater with a belt dramatically changes her look,” she says. “Or you can use it to cinch in a loose dress or top, or even throw it over a blazer.”

New for you: Try to get used items, says Dacy Luneberg, co-founder of Gyidah, at Goodwill or Arc Thrift Stores. Or simply replace the doom-scrolling with browsing online resale shops, such as London-based Depop, one of the world’s largest peer-to-peer fashion websites.

This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of 5280.

Angela Ufheil

Angela Ufheil

Angela Ufheil co-creates the Compass section of 5280 and writes for


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