Clothes might not seem like the one of the more wasteful or unsustainable items we own. After all, we wear them (or some of them) for a decent amount of time before throwing them away. But there are more sustainable approaches to clothing, which involve less waste and more eco-friendly materials.
Buy Used Clothing
This might sound obvious, but there are still a lot of people who feel uncomfortable buying secondhand clothes. If that’s you, maybe it’s time to reconsider. Many people donate or re-sell items which have only been worn a few times and are still in as-new condition. Most charity shops and thrift stores quality-check what they sell and clean items before putting them on sale. You can also, of course, re-wash pieces at home before wearing them. Clothing manufacture is resource-heavy, so buying pre-loved items helps to redress the balance. And as with other thrifted goods, each item of used clothing you buy is one which doesn’t require new materials, manufacturing or long-distance transport. If you’re new to shopping secondhand, as well as searching more obvious places, such as eBay and your local thrift shops, check out apps like Vinted or Depop. You could also consider arranging a clothing swap party with your friends.
Rethink How You Wash Clothes
Caring for your wardrobe can help clothes last longer, and with a few simple changes, it’s more sustainable, too.
Don’t wash after every wear
Yep – you heard right. Modern fabrics and manufacturing processes are clever. For the most part, you don’t need to wash clothes every time you wear them, unless there’s a stain or something specific that needs cleaning.
Choose to line dry
Tumble dryers use a huge amount of energy and, unless you buy dryer sheets, they don’t always create the nicest smelling clothes. Where possible, hang your clothes out to line-dry and let the fresh air do the work for you; you’ll save power and money in the process. Our favourite tip is to use slightly less detergent in your wash so the clothes are well-rinsed before you hang them up to dry.
Avoid dry cleaning
While most clothes don’t need dry-cleaning, it’s always worth checking the label before you buy something new. If it says dry-clean only, think about how often you’re likely to wear it and maybe consider an alternative. Dry-cleaning uses a lot of harsh chemicals and extra resources. It’s also expensive, and generally more time-consuming than washing at home. If you do have items which are dry-clean only, you might be able to use a spot-treatment, or gentle hand-wash liquid, on any stains or marks as they occur.
Fabric And Ethical Production
Another area to consider is the fabric used to make your clothing. Some materials are more sustainable than others, and it’s worth considering the method of production, too.
How about hemp?
Hemp is among the most eco-friendly of natural fibres. It’s highly renewable, requires few pesticides to grow and no chemicals to process it into clothing. It makes a great alternative to linen or mid-weight cottons, and tops most lists of sustainable, environmentally-friendly fabrics.
Cotton is a natural, plant-based fibre, and one of the most commonly-used clothing materials in the world. It can be woven into all kinds of materials, from translucent voiles and lightweight shirt fabric, to heavy, luxurious velvets. But not all cottons are equal. When you’re buying clothes, check the label or the company website, and look out for ethically-sourced cotton which avoids using chemicals or pesticides in its production.
Seek out ethical clothing
Brands or shops which sell sustainable clothing can be more expensive, but if you’re able to afford just a few of their pieces – either new or secondhand – it’s a great step towards building a more environmentally-friendly wardrobe. Look out for companies describing their clothing as eco, vegan, organic or locally-produced, and check out their ethical credentials. Ideally, they should be sourcing materials responsibly, using organically-farmed fibres and avoiding animal testing, as well as paying workers fairly. Their clothing tends to be particularly well-made, which means it’s likely to last longer. So, while it may cost a little more upfront, it’s comparable with fast-fashion brands in the mid-to-longer term.
Hopefully, these ideas prove you can be stylish and sustainable at the same time. By combining eco-friendly fabrics, a smart shopping strategy and a few clever washing tips, your wardrobe can be as green as the rest of your home.