Love your clothes, love the planet: 5 simple tips
Before our clothes hit the shop floor they’ve already built up an environmental footprint; the size of which will depend on various factors including the material that’s been used to make the garment, how that material was grown and processed, how much textile waste was produced during the cutting and sewing phase, the effect of chemicals dyes on water sources, how the garment was transported and how far it's travelled…to name a few! With many brands lacking in meaningful transparency in their supply chains, as consumers we can’t always find the information we need to decide whether an item has been made with due care for the environment.
However, the good news is that a huge amount of the environmental impact of our clothes happens after we buy them, which means that there are loads of things we can do to limit the impact of our wardrobe on the planet.
Here’s 5 tips to get you started:
#1 WASH ON LOW, SKIP THE TUMBLE & DITCH THE IRON
No, this is not the name of an elaborate barn dance move (though it totally should be). Check the care labels on your clothes and wash on the lowest possible setting, avoid tumble-drying if you can and skip the ironing unless it’s really necessary. UK-based charity WRAP recently found that since their last report was produced in 2012, there's been a reduction in the environmental impact from clothing as consumers have changed the way they care for their clothes. So embrace the cold wash, say hello to the air-dry and wave goodbye to the iron. Lower energy bills = good things for the planet and more cash in your wallet.
#2 DO LESS LAUNDRY
Sometimes its easier to scoop up all the clothes on the floor and stick them in the laundry basket instead of sorting through the pile to see which ones actually need a wash, AMIRIGHT? (No? Just me?). Items like denim jeans don’t need regular washing and for other items (undies and sweaty gym gear excluded) a quick airing or spot clean could do the same job as a wash, while being lot more energy efficient. Also: less housework. You're welcome.
#3 LOVE WHAT YOU HAVE
(AND WEAR IT FOR LONGER)
It's estimated that we only wear 1/3 of what's in our wardrobes and some of us wear an item only a handful of times before we move on to something new. Wearing our clothes for longer is an easy and effective way to reduce their impact, *especially* if this is coupled with reducing the amount of clothes we buy. In fact, extending the life of your clothes by just 3 months could lead to a 5-10% reduction in carbon, water and waste footprints.
#4 GO SEW SLOW
It's amazing how many clothes are discarded just because they're missing a button. We used to be a lot better at the ol' make-do-and-mend thing when clothing prices were higher and the number of purchases we made each year was lower, but the rise of fast fashion has encouraged us to see our clothing as disposable and easily replaced. We're buying more clothes and wearing them less, and the planet is paying the price at both ends, from production to disposal. Repairing our clothes so we can wear them for longer is a great way to take a stand against the throwaway mindset of fast fashion (see Tip #3). So, next time your shirt needs a new button, take time to slow down and sew one on (here's how).
#5 time to say goodbye?
A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that worldwide, the equivalent to one garbage truck of textiles is burned or sent to landfill every second. If it's really time to say goodbye to an item of clothing, think about other ways you can extend its life by selling, swapping (aka swishing), sharing, recycling or repurposing.
For more tips and ideas on how to care for, repair and recycle your clothes, take a look at the brilliant Love Your Clothes website.