Sustainability: how to help your pocket and the environment when you are clothes shopping

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December 2020 News

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What do you consider when you are buying clothes?

We are all concerned about the environment, and we want to do our bit. But there’s one area that is a major contributor to landfill and pollution that you might not have considered - fast fashion.

In my last blog I briefly mentioned this impact. Here’s how we can help.

Clothing and its impact on our environment

The environment might not be the first thing you consider when buying clothes. But, did you know that every piece of clothing is only worn 7 times on average? Surprised?

When you next look in your wardrobe, consider which clothes you wear the least. Next time you go clothes shopping, keep this fact in mind and only buy what you will wear repeatedly. It might even save you money too!

Here are a few more facts that explore how clothing manufacture and sales impact the environment.

A few facts about the clothing industry

1.       The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, just after the oil industry

2.       The average person in the UK purchases 26.7kg of new clothing per year (about the size of a large suitcase).  This is the highest in Europe.

3.       An estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.

4.       Global textile production produces 1.2bn tonnes of carbon emissions a year – this is more than international flights and maritime shipping.

These are such large figures that they can feel very overwhelming. There is a lot more information available on this topic, if you want to do your own research, but one thing is clear: fast fashion is having a major impact on our environment and is contributing to the destruction of our planet.

Reducing the impact of fast fashion and making fashion sustainable requires the cooperation of governments, major clothing manufacturers and retailers. They would need to create a system which reduces the human impact on the environment while supporting socially responsible employment.

This is no mean feat and all very overwhelming to us as individuals, but as current or potential consumers of fast fashion we can still do our bit.  The bottom line is: if we don’t buy it, they won’t make it!

Repair, recycle, repurpose

There is plenty that you can do to change your shopping behaviour, and what better place to start than in your own wardrobe! If you use what you already have, or purchase preloved items, you are preventing them ending up in landfill.

  • ·         Look at what you already have – if you don’t wear it and are never likely to, pass it on. If you don’t love it, someone else may. Sell on eBay or other clothing sites, or pass on to your local charity shop.
  • ·         Is something damaged or looking old or weary? Then repair it. Get out your needle and sew up that tear, or that hem. Buy some new buttons or applique or embroidery to lift your garment and change it up a little. Get it dry cleaned or steam cleaned to freshen it up. If you can do none of these things to improve it, then it is too tired to be revived. Send it to a clothing bank for shredding or repurposing. Try to keep it out of landfill.
  • ·         Buy second hand from clothes agencies, eBay and other clothes sites- and get them tailored to fit if the item isn’t quite right.
  • ·         Make friends with your local seamstress to alter existing garments in your wardrobe or any that you buy. This will pay dividends as you will get a bespoke and unique piece that fits you properly!
  • ·         Buy ethically (as far as you can discover when you research the supply chain) and make sure that you don’t buy cheap fabrics which will neither last nor disintegrate naturally. This will not only support the environment but also the workers who often work long hours in dangerous conditions for little pay.
  • ·         Buy less but buy better, then you are far more likely to have an item which will last, will wash and hang better and that you can love for many years to come.
  • ·         Remember that second-hand is not second-best! You can support local charities while buying fabulous ‘new’ items for your wardrobe and saving money into the bargain. Everyone is a winner.

What have I done this year?

I have bought little new clothing apart from a pair of green cord fit and flare jeans and a fabulous pair of grey wide-leg trousers to bring my look on trend, a gorgeous satin, ivory shirt to wear with them, and a cashmere cardigan which is lovely and warm. Oh, and underwear – I’d not expect anyone to wear second-hand undergarments!  

Otherwise, I have added some fun items: a fabulous pair of blue suede boots, a slinky bronze midi pleated skirt and a fluffy fur jacket. All bought from buy and sell or fashion exchange groups, so either unsuitable for the seller, or being moved on for the price of the postage only. A bargain! And a fab new look for me – Job done!

A new slogan for our times

In the 1940s, especially during the second world war years, there was a ‘make do and mend’ mentality. We could certainly adopt and adapt this same slogan for our times, for the sake of the planet. I’d like to change that message to: ‘Take care, and mend’. More on that in my next blog…

Happy shopping!

Linda Clark. Linda.clark@houseofcolour.co.uk Website: www.houseofcolour.co.uk/lindaclark Instagram: lindaclark_yourpersonalstylist