So, do you need to donate everything to charity and start wearing hemp? No. Should you feel guilty about buying a couple of new pieces that you truly love? Never. And what does ‘sustainable fashion’ actually mean?
In short, it’s an umbrella term for clothes that are created and consumed in a way that can be, quite literally, sustained, while protecting both the environment and those producing garments. This involves, among other things, reducing pollution and waste, addressing overproduction, cutting CO2 emissions and ensuring that garment workers are paid fairly and treated with dignity.
Unfortunately, there are still far too few clothing brands out there currently tackling all these complex issues, and it’s certainly not as simple as shopping for items labelled as ‘sustainable’. Instead, it’s about adjusting your mindset so that you can get the most out of your clothes, while benefitting other people and the planet. Here are some ways to do this.
DO A WARDROBE EDIT
First things first, you need to take a cold hard look at what you already have in your wardrobe. And not just your ‘regular’ wardrobe, but the sneaky one in the spare room that’s rammed with all sorts of impulse buys that haven’t seen the light of day since Jesus was a child. Do you need another white, broderie anglaise top with a ¾ sleeve? Probably not. Be honest and be brutal when culling, but also be mindful. Throwing everything in a black garbage bag and making it someone else’s problem is not necessarily the right solution (see point four).
THE 30 WEARS TEST
Here are some sobering statistics: A staggering 100 BILLION garments are produced every year with 33% going to landfill within the first year of purchase. And the average item only gets worn a measly seven times before we discard it. To avoid this, commit to the 30 Wears Challenge when you buy something new. Started by Livia Firth, the founder of Eco-Age (a company that certifies brands for their sustainability), the campaign’s aim is to reduce impulse buys for good. “The biggest message is every time you buy something, always think, ‘Will I wear it a minimum of 30 times?’ If the answer is yes, then buy it. But you’d be surprised how many times you say no,” she explains.
WASH WITH CARE
If your washing machine is always on the go, consider this: washing and drying a load of clothing every two days creates around 440kg of CO2 a year – the equivalent of flying four people from London to Paris return. While we’re not suggesting you stop washing your underwear, do your jeans really need to be cleaned so frequently? Definitely not. Experts agree that unless they’re visibly dirty, you should wash jeans after every 10 wears. Yes, 10.
DONATE AS A LAST RESORT
Think you’re doing your bit by dumping bags of clothes at the charity bin outside your local church? You might want to reconsider. The sad truth is a lot of what we donate doesn’t actually get sold at second-hand stores – in some instances these items end up being shipped overseas to enter the second-hand garment trade, which impacts existing local textiles trade and businesses. Instead, consider taking items that no longer fit to the tailor, resell others you don’t wear to sites such as The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective and Depop, or gift them to a friend who’ll actually wear and love them. For worn-out pieces that can no longer be repaired for reuse, look for recycling schemes specifically for those items, where possible.
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