Collectively we use a whopping 80 billion pieces of clothing every year, a 400 per cent increase from two decades ago. As we purchase new clothing, we rapidly discard older garments, and the proliferation of ‘fast fashion’ brands also means we have begun to see clothing as highly disposable.
Fast fashion unfortunately means a high cost to the planet, with data from Oxfam showing that 10 per cent of global CO2 emissions are caused by the textile industry – more than international aviation and shipping combined. The fashion industry also produces 20 per cent of global wastewater.
The good news is, there are plenty of ways to shop for clothing more sustainably. And with the cost of living rising globally, you’ll be glad to know it’s easier on the wallet too.
1 - Organise your wardrobe
Clear out your wardrobe and organise what you already have. It’s easier to mix and match your outfits if your wardrobe is properly organised as you can see everything in it. You will then (hopefully!) be less likely to buy new items.
2 - Buy clothing that passes the ’30 wears test’
The 30 Wears Challenge was created by Eco Age co-founder Livia Firth and journalist Lucy Seigle in 2015, encouraging shoppers to ask themselves whether they’d wear a piece at least 30 times before buying. Even better, go beyond 30 wears and only buy pieces you’ll wear forever.
3 - Purchase second-hand or vintage clothing
Shopping for pre-loved clothing reduces the demand for new clothes and decreases the amount of textile waste in landfills. Try charity shops, online stores, eBay, retro markets or Facebook Marketplace.
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4 - Choose quality over quantity
Invest in well-made, timeless pieces that will last for years and avoid fast fashion trends. Buying just a few high-quality items a year, rather than lots of cheaper, less eco-friendly pieces, helps reduce your carbon footprint. When well-cared for, quality clothing should last several decades.
5 - Support sustainable and ethical brands
Look for brands that prioritise sustainable and ethical practices in their production processes, such as using organic or recycled materials, paying fair wages to workers and using eco-friendly packaging.
6 - Repair or upcycle your clothing
Extend the life of your clothes by repairing them when they need it, or by repurposing them into new items such as tote bags, pillows or cleaning rags.
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7 - Wash clothes sustainably
Wash your clothes in cold water and line dry them whenever possible, as it saves energy and reduces water usage. Cold water is also gentler on clothing, helping it to last longer.
8 - Avoid synthetic fabrics
Synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon are made from non-renewable resources and release microplastics into the environment. Choose natural fabrics like cotton, linen, wool or bamboo which are more sustainable.
9 - Donate or recycle clothing
When you are finished with clothes that you no longer wear, donate them to charity or recycle them through textile recycling programs. Global fashion giant H&M have been running a Garment Collecting program since 2013 whereby you can hand in a bag of old clothes at the cash desk and receive a voucher to use towards your next purchase.
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10 - Use the ‘one in, one out’ rule
Keep a basic capsule wardrobe, it makes getting ready in the mornings so much easier. Try the one-in, one-out policy – every time you buy an item, donate one too.
Wash denim inside out, try a steamer instead of an iron (much gentler on clothing) and invest in a lint roller and fabric shaver to keep knits fresh.