How to be sustainable with clothing
The environmental impact of fashion can be overwhelming. At the moment, 73% of clothing ends up in landfill and as much as 95% of clothes that are thrown away could have been reworn, recycled or upcycled!
While it is clear the system of fashion and brands needs to change, we as individuals can do our best to make the right choices to be more sustainable when it comes to fashion. This isn’t always easy and changes will take some will power and getting used to but here are some tips for you to keep in mind.
It’s important to really think about what we buy as consumers. Vivienne Westwood said it best, ‘Buy less, choose well, make it last’. Investing in quality pieces and questioning what we buy can make a real difference.
When considering buying an item, ask yourself: ‘will I wear this at least 30 times?’ it’s important not to impulse buy; consider the environmental impact of each purchase as wearing clothing 50 times instead of 5 can reduce carbon emissions by 400%.
Think quality over quantity, buying better quality goes hand in hand with buying less. This will dramatically reduce carbon footprint as items that are made from better quality materials will stand the test of time. This may be hard as these items will most likely cost more but it is an investment and money will be saved in the long run.
A cheaper alternative is to not buy new at all and to investigate other ways to shop like charity, 2nd hand or vintage shops.
Charity shops are always my number 1, my favourite is Traid. Here you could find great quality clothing for a fraction of the cost and your money will be going to charity, it’s a win-win!
Second hand shops are also great for giving your unwanted clothes away. This is essential to being more sustainable, always give to charity or recycle your old clothing to give them a second life, that way it has the least chance of ending up in landfill.
When sorting through your clothes to give to charity or recycle, be mindful and pay attention to what items you are wanting to get rid of. Try not to make these same mistakes again. We’ve all bought things that we liked on the clothes hanger, taken it home and only worn a couple of times because we’ve decided we don’t like them. Take note of these and think back to them when you make your next purchase.
Alternatively, sort through your wardrobe with the goal of pulling out those pieces you haven't worn in a while and make it your goal to find a way to restyle them to give them new life.
Thinking about Fabric
To be more environmentally friendly while buying clothing, try to look out for natural plant fibres. This is because they are biodegradable, kind to your skin and can be grown and harvested sustainably and repeatedly. These include Organic Cotton, Linen and Hemp.
Also, be aware that buying fibres which have just one fibre type like ‘100% cotton’ means that at the end of its life it can easily be recycled. This is not the case for garments with a mixed fibre content, so these should be avoided.
Try to avoid synthetic fibres such as Polyester, Nylon, Acrylic and Rayon as these shed tiny threads of fabric when washed which end up in our oceans and are contributing to the micro-plastic crisis. For items which you already own that include these fibres try using a microfibre-catching bag, these reduce the amount released into the water.
Caring and repairing
When we spend more time and money on buying the perfect items we want them to last a long time; but occasionally life gets in the way of that goal. Whether it’s something you have damaged or broken or if it’s something you’ve worn to shreds, there are always creative solutions to save clothes from ending up in landfill.
Firstly, looking after clothing correctly makes it last a lot longer. Taking the time to read care labels and wash appropriately can make a big difference to the durability of your clothing.
Repair before you replace. When something rips or breaks, don't automatically throw it away. We are not all expert sewers but a needle and thread is inexpensive and simple repairs can easily be picked up by watching tutorial videos on Youtube. If it’s an item you have bought mindfully and is of good quality, think about getting it professionally fixed; this can often be more cost effective and better for the environment than replacing the item.
Caring and repairing is important because keeping clothes for just an extra 9 months will reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by a massive 20%-30%!
Trends and sustainability are often considered mutually exclusive but this doesn’t have to be the case. With items that are bought mindfully and considering all the factors discussed above, a cohesive capsule wardrobe can be made.
A capsule wardrobe is essentially an edited version of your wardrobe in which cohesive pieces can be mixed and matched and styled in multiple ways to create an arrangement of outfits. These are great as it challenges you to only wear a certain number of items and can be perfect to help you find your preferred style and discover what suits you while keeping your spending and waste to a minimum.
These items don’t need to be dull or boring to go together as long as your capsule wardrobe has a colour scheme it can be as bright or muted as you wish. And if you love lots of patterns like me, it’s a happy coincidence that pattern mixing is on trend!
Rental platforms for clothing are becoming increasingly popular and are great as they reduce the amount of clothing being produced and therefore reduce waste.
Brits will spend £800 million a year on outfits for a summer wedding they’ll only wear once. Renting your clothes for special occasions is a great alternative as you then don’t have to worry about occasionwear in your capsule wardrobe and you don’t have to break the 30 wear rule. It also works out a lot cheaper, saves wardrobe space and you can have a new outfit every time you want to dress up!
Clothing waste is a big issue for baby and children's clothes but Bundlee is a baby rental service which curates a capsule wardrobe for little ones that can be sent back and swapped when they have grown. This saves an enormous amount of waste as well as money and time.
Washing and caring
Research has shown that laundry accounts for 60%-80% of a garment’s total environmental impact so changing your habits and doing this right can have massive effects!
A simple solution is to wash less. Airing clothing between wears can increase its freshness and decrease the amount of washes it needs. When an item does need to be washed, wash at 30° and air dry where possible.
Using natural cleaning products can help the environment and they are often cheaper than conventional products. Here are some you can use:
- Soap nuts - these are a zero waste option as they release a natural soap when mixed with water in your machine and can be put in your compost after several uses.
- Washing egg/ball - Another zero waste option. These are filled with plant derived pellets that can be used hundreds of times.