Earth Action: Build a Capsule Wardrobe

This year, Earth911 is honoring Earth Day’s 52 years of inspiring action with 52 Actions for the Earth. Each week from Earth Day 2022 to Earth Day 2023, we will share one action you can take to save resources, reduce waste, and make your own life more sustainable. This week, you can invest in the earth by building a capsule wardrobe.

Action: Build a Capsule Wardrobe

Fashion Fix

Every aspect of making and selling clothing has a big environmental impact. Each garment takes a toll on workers, water, soils, energy, and transportation emissions, and it all adds up to a sizable environmental footprint. Fast fashion, which churns out inexpensive clothes to encourage consumers to buy a lot and buy often, exacerbates the problem. The fashion industry is responsible for more than 8% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Every year, 40 million tons of textiles are disposed of – many of them never worn.

The Pareto Principle

Many people can observe the Pareto Principle in their wardrobes. The Pareto Principle is “the law of the vital few” or the 80/20 rule. Like the bell curve, it’s a generalized pattern that appears in many aspects of life – even in people’s closets. Applied to personal wardrobes, it means that 20% of the clothes in our closet get 80% of the wear. Conversely, we only pull out the remaining 80% of our clothes about a fifth of the time.

Capsule Wardrobes

The idea of the capsule wardrobe is rooted in a minimalist philosophy and is meant to make getting dressed every day easier and more affordable. Because it requires a minimum number of essential garments, a capsule wardrobe is a smart step toward a more sustainable wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is made up only of items that are versatile enough to wear in a variety of situations and that can be mixed and matched together to make many outfits from very few pieces. The internet is littered with capsule wardrobe shopping lists and planning guides – Earth911 even has one of its own.

A Capsule of Your Own

Because people live in different climates and have different kinds of jobs and lifestyles, many of the items on these lists may be far from essential for you. (For example, they usually include a blazer – an item rarely seen in many communities.) And it’s probably not necessary to replace everything in your closet with color-coordinated classics anyway. Thanks to the Pareto Principle, you probably already wear a capsule wardrobe even if your closet is stuffed full of clothes.

If you’ve already completed the closet clean-out action, you may already be well on your way to creating a capsule. If not, pay attention to what you wear every day this week. You might find out that you are missing a few key pieces that would allow you to make use of more of the clothes you already own. But most of the time, the clothes you already wear are the only ones you need. From now on, instead of chasing trends with aspirational shopping, you can just replace them as they wear out.

This week, make peace with what you actually wear and plan your capsule wardrobe around your own most functional pieces. The time you spend eliminating waste from your clothing choices is a stylish investment.