How To Create A More Sustainable & Eco Friendly Wardrobe.
Over the 8 years or so, I have seen many a wardrobe and witnessed a diversity of clothing habits but it has become increasingly evident to me, that on the whole, we really don't buy our garments very mindfully and nor do we realise how easily we can have a more sustainable closet.
We've all been partial to a bargain or an on-trend purchase that we simply couldn't resist or felt powerless to deny ourselves for, only to then leave them unworn and hanging in the deepest, darkest part of our closet.
All the effort that has gone into producing that one item now seems pointless. For me, this is the biggest waste of any resource, let alone the effect it has on a bigger scale, like the planet and the people who produced it. A mahoosive guilt trip here I know... but maybe it's needed to give us some clarity and reduce our blatant misuse.
Now, I'm no angel. Let's be clear here, I've succumbed to a bit of fast fashion and impulsivity on the high street, as well as online, as much as anyone, in the past, but it wasn't until I started taking in more of the global distress messages and documentaries being transmitted of late,that I finally stopped to take it all in.
For me, it was The Blue Planet series that frankly gave me the willies and then seeing all that plastic in the oceans made me sob for days but up until then, I hadn't really felt that deep 'aha' connection to my own sense of contribution on the larger scale.
Yes, I had always known that it is down to us as individuals to do something collectively but sometimes one giant 'Shiiitttt, what a mess' moment can form the lightbulb to take action, no matter how small.
Facts I found that made me gip...
85% of the plastic pollution in the sea is due to micro-fibres from synthetic clothing and manufacture...eg Polyester.
By 2050, if the rate of this type of pollution continues, there will be more plastic than fish.
7000 litres of water is needed to produce one pair of jeans. That's the same amount as one person drinks in 5-6 years.
Of the 40 million garment workers in the world, approximately 85% are women and are also some of the lowest paid on a global scale.
"Planned Obsolescence" is an actual clothing design strategy which some 'fast fashion' companies use to keep us buying new clothes. The garments are designed to become unfashionable, wear out, lose shape or fall to pieces easily. WTF?
These are just a few I found relative to clothing, but there are loads more facts out there that will make your butt cheeks squeeze together even more tightly, trust me. Maybe you know one?
Like me, you probably recycle the best you can, never litter and try to buy from the little guy or the more local but, if we could actively promote being more practical with our clothes and think about them as beautiful friends and energetic pieces, maybe the wastage would reduce and the habits tweaked? I think so...
Ok, soap box bit over... Let's get stuck in and start looking at how and what we can do now.
1) BUY LESS
Even the greenest of garments still uses resources for both production and transport so the key here is to not be excessive or random in what we actually buy.
Do you actually need another bag? Yes, it's on trend and yes, clear plastic will show your fashionista vibe, but do you need to show everybody your purse or spare pants?
Or maybe that fifth pair of jeans that resembles all the other jeans you already wear.. or don't but hey they are designer and in the sale?
My motto is always... "If you can't think of at least 3 things it will go with, put it back".
I read somewhere, that we buy 10 of everything in a lifetime, whilst our grandmothers bought just 2. We are in a disposable generation whilst they were more make do and mend. Food for thought indeed.
The trick is to make the most of what you do have in your wardrobe because the more of it you wear, love and empower, the more your closet is being environmentally sustainable. Mahoosive brownie points in the eco-conscience arena.
To clarify, for anyone who remembers "The Good Life", you can dress like Margo but think like Barbera, it gives for the right kinda balance I reckon.
2) CHOOSE BETTER
I always say quality over quantity any day of the week and it's really important to bear in mind "cost per wear" when you do invest. The more you wear it the more "bang for your buck" and the less waste you create, so for an item that you are going to wear a lot, like a coat, pair of shoes or suit, it's worth the investment because they'll last a damn site longer.
The term "you get what you pay for" is true, for the most part, because of the use of higher quality materials, fair trade, skilled craftmanship, brand ethos and so on. However, it's imperative to work within your means here because you can't live on Gucci and effort is required to keep them looking pristine. Also, faults occur in everything unless individually quality hand checked or hand crafted.
On the flipside, think about where your new potential bargain bombshell of a dress is coming from before you buy.
Image ref: Droll Feed
Ooh the image is beautiful and the woman looks so gorgeous in it, plus, it's only a few quid, what a complete bargain. Add to basket!
Beware the appeal of the low cost garment, with free shipping and slow 14 days+ delivery, they're all clues to potential disappointment. Chances are it might be a little disappointing on arrival and think about how many modes of transport it took to get here? Carbon footprint anyone?
Many of these examples are mass produced items from global wholesale factories which denotes the cheap price and is usually deemed as 'Fast Fashion'. See "Planned Obsolescence" gip facts.
Living in a 'disposable' world means we've learned to give things less value and care because they are so cheap, meaning we just chuck and buy new again and again. Maybe if we stop investing in poorer quality goods they'll have to improve them?
Weigh it up and decide what sits with you best. No judgement, just thought!
Here are a few Quality Checks you can look for in your garments too for a good chance of survival:-
Check the stitching - the pull test will show you if the fabric retains it's shape and/or holds in the seams.
Thicker material generally tends to be better quality. Check the opacity by holding to the light.
Metal zippers usually indicate a better quality garment as they are stronger. YKK zippers are considered best quality. Check buttons and holes are adequately fixed and shaped too.
If the garment comes with a spare button, thread etc, it's a good sign.
Check your seams line up with the pattern where necessary.
3) CLOTHING CARE
Do you take note of your washing instructions for the majority of your garments? Maybe like me you do the delicates and whites, but stick everything in together for the rest of the time.
Well, how you treat them not only affects their longevity but also the environment. Washing clothes uses both energy and water so obviously taking more care here makes less of an impact especially when most modern machines come with preset efficient and ecological settings and programs using colder temperature settings.
So definitely go for these options and put on a full load using greener detergents and softeners such as Ecover, Method, Ecozone and Botanical Origin to name but a few. Oh and wash jeans, coloured garments or printed t'shirts inside out.
Also, if it's a lovely day and time allows, hang out your laundry and line dry as much as you can as opposed to chucking them in the dryer, as this natural process is better for your clothes and their fibres, thus extending their lives.
Whilst we're on the subject of natural, keep dry cleaning minimal or even better, not at all. The chemicals used are not the most environmentally friendly and nor is the hit on your pocket.
Garment care is equally important after the clean because how you store, hang, fold or box them extends their lives further, so invest in anti moth gadgets, decent hangers (no wired ones), covers on delicates and embellished items, dust bags and even a halved pool noodle (put into your leather knee boots) will give them the prolonged love they deserve.
4) PASS IT ON
If you have to throw out clothes because they're damaged, well worn or not suitable for dishcloths or other household uses, then we are often tempted to just chuck in the normal bin which goes off to the landfill. Remember though to check if it's a synthetic material such as polyester because it doesn't bio degrade well and produces those nasty micro fibres.
Instead find out where your local textile recycling bin or bank is or check out the local tip or shopping centre. You can find out yours here www.recyclenow.com
If you've had a clear out and found items that you no longer like, don't fit or surplus to requirements then consider passing on the love as a charity shop donation or see if friends or family would happily receive them.
You can even make some money out of them by listing on Ebay, Vinted and Shpock or by visiting a local pre loved or vintage boutique and get them to sell them for you.
It's also good to hear that some high street brands are taking back their own garments when you've outgrown them and will donate, recycle or dispose of them in a more environmentally friendly way. New Look, M&S and H&M are some current examples at the time of writing this post.
In the past, I've also suggested to clients that they can get their beloved items repaired professionally and even repurposed , especially for those items that have meaning and are hard to let go of despite no longer fitting. A sequin skirt becomes a purse/clutch or maybe a silk print dress becomes a collection of scarves.
5) DITCH THE SNOBBERY
For years charity shops have been sniffed at by many as a place of musty rags and below par quality, but let me tell you that is no longer true. They are havens for vintage luxe and quality staples provided you check them over with an eagle eye and then give them a good clean at home. Mary Portas "Queen of Shops" showed the remaining sceptics their value, in a fabulous TV series, thank god.
I personally love them and have found some right gems in the past for literally a few quid.
Another alternative to having clothes without the cost and resource drain is by renting them. You can now hire a designer outfit or blingy lovely for a special occasion or life event (maternity) on a short term basis without wasting money or never wearing them again. Here are but a few
One more suggestion to share the clothing love is to attend or run a SWISH PARTY. It's basically an event in which you bring along your used lovelies and swap them for other people's used lovelies that are more fitting for you. Just add nibbles and drinks or you can even do it as a ticketed event to raise money for charity. WIN WIN.
6) SUSTAINABLE BRANDS
Thankfully, there are a growing number of eco-conscious brands out there that are looking to do their bit on all matters of sustainability and/or the social impact on their production.
It's slow but it's a start and many women are becoming more drawn to these kinds of responsible brands and are quite happy to absorb the higher prices of the garments to influence the movement of change. At least we know our money is doing good and where it is being invested and why.
As consumers we have the power to guide this demand and ensure that all the bigger brands toe the line and do their bit too, offering more sustainable choices. If we can do it for booming the organic food game, we can do it for the fashion industry too. and steer away from Fast Fashio
I did a little search for clothing brands with a conscience and checked out their mission statements to understand their ethos too.
Here are a handful of lovely finds
So, there we have it, a few easy ways to make better choices with our clothes and wardrobe and even give back to the planet and the people in it.
There are some great resources out there too to help guide your way
If you have any other brands, suggestions or comments regarding this topic, please feel free to comment below. Every little helps.
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