This week is a big week in the world of sustainability. Not only did we celebrate Earth Day on the 22nd of April, but it's also Fashion Revolution Week, a movement that draws attention to the fashion industry and calls for improvement in sustainability and ethics.
There's no denying we need to change our habits when it comes to fashion. The fast fashion industry is responsible for 8% of carbon emissions and the average American throws away around 81 pounds of clothing yearly. To combat this issue and help you make more eco-friendly choices, we are giving your our top 10 tips to make your wardrobe more sustainable.
1. Hang dry your clothes
Ditch the dryer and start hang drying your clothes! Hang drying or air drying uses significantly less energy which will save you money and have less of an environmental impact. Additionally, it's actually better for your clothes and can extend their lifetime by reducing the wear and tear that can be caused by the dryer.
2. Buy timeless pieces / avoid buying into trends
It's tempting to buy what is currently in fashion. All the instagram models and TikTok influencers are wearing tie dye sweatsuits, so you just HAVE to have one, right? Wrong.. It's important to consider the longevity of a piece of clothing that your buy. Are you going to wear that sweatsuit for many years to come? Or are you only buying it to wear a few times before throwing it out when the fashion trend inevitably changes back to something else? In our opinion, timeless, classic fashion pieces are a much better investment. You'll be able to style them in more ways and get many more wears out of them in the long term. Think of a simple little black dress, a nice statement blazer or a comfortable pair of jeans.
3. Steer clear of fast fashion
Have you ever wondered where your clothing goes when you don't need it anymore? Many fast fashion companies have been seen throwing away or burning unsold stock or returned items instead of recycling or donating clothing.
As you are probably aware, the majority fast fashion production facilities are located in so-called emerging or developing countries. Most fast fashion factory workers are from Bangladesh, India, China, Indonesia, and other developing nations because of the cheaper workforce. Not only do these people have to work incredibly long hours, but the payment they get is far from fair.
The 2020 Fashion Transparency Index found that only 5 of the 250 large brands surveyed (2%) “publish a time-bound, measurable roadmap or strategy for how they will achieve a living wage for all workers across their supply chains”.
Think of these facts the next time your are tempted to buy that $5 t-shirt or $20 pair of shorts for the summer.
4. Prioritize quality clothing
Sure, buying high quality items usually means that you're paying a higher price for them up front. The thing that people tend to forget to take into account is the cost per wear. Let us explain with an example: you are looking to buy a pair of jeans and you are between buying them for $80 from a fast fashion store, or paying $200 for a higher quality pair at a different store. Let's say you wear your jeans two times a week, if you buy them from the fast fashion store, they might last you about 104 wears (1 year), whereas the higher quality pair can last up to 416 wears (4 years). To calculate the cost per wear you divide the price by the amount of wears:
Fast fashion jeans: $0.77
Higher quality jeans: $0.48
Conclusion: higher quality clothing will generally last you longer, thereby reducing their overall cost per wear. Think about this next time you're looking to buy any item of clothing.
5. Buy Eco-Friendly Clothing
Thankfully, there are more and more brands that offer sustainable clothing alternatives because they realize that the fast fashion industry is a huge issue and something needs to change. Eco-friendly garments can be made from the following materials:
- Organic cotton
- Organic linen
- Organic hemp
- Organic bamboo
- ECONYL (recycled nylon)
- RPET (recycled polyester)
- TENCEL™ lyocell
Look out for these materials in the labels of clothing you intend to buy.
6. Repair before replacing
Have a hole in your pants or your sweater? Try to repair it before throwing it away and replacing it. Repairing your clothing can be an easy, low-cost way of making your clothing last longer. You don't have to necessarily do it yourself, a tailor in your area should be able to help you with clothing repairs for a cheaper price than buying a whole new clothing item. A win for your wallet and our planet!
7. Read the labels
How often do you read the clothing label of an item before you buy it? We're guessing not often. The label can tell you so many things about your clothing. It will tell you where the item was manufactured, what it's made of (whether it's made of eco-friendly materials), how to care for and wash the item so it will last longer, and whether it has any sustainability certifications. Two examples of sustainability standards to look out for when purchasing eco-friendly clothing are:
- OEKO-TEX® ECO PASSPORT
- GOTS label
GOTS is the Global Organic Textile Standard label. This is the strictest certification for textiles made from organic fibres. GOTS tracks the entire chain of production from farm to factory: from harvesting of the cotton, weaving of fibres, assembly of items, to the final product before printing, and even the export of clothing.
It certifies that the cotton is:
- GMO free
- grown without the use of chemicals
- processed and dyed without using any banned toxic substances.
GOTS also ensures compliance with the labour standards of the International Labour Organisation throughout the chain of production which ensures decent working conditions and wages for farmers and factory employees.
8. Buy or Sell Second Hand
You don't always have to buy all of your clothing brand new. Second hand clothing has thankfully become more and more popular in the past few years. It's a great way to buy clothing at a discount, and also to prevent clothing from being thrown away. It's also a great way to sell clothing that you are wanting to get rid of. You can find second hand clothing online on websites such as Vinted or Thrifted, or you can make a visit to your local thrift store to find your new wardrobe.
9. Donate Unwanted Clothes
If you're not wanting or able to sell your clothing online, the next best option is to donate your unwanted clothes. You can donate clothing to your local homeless shelter, any charity donation bin or textile recycling location near you. It's not always a guarantee that your clothes will be reused, but it's better to at least give them a chance to be reused instead of just throwing them in the trash. The sad truth is a whopping 84 percent of donated clothing ends up in landfills and incinerators, according to the EPA. Honestly, the best way to avoid this is to simply buy fewer clothes.
10. Look after your clothes so they last longer
Make sure you read the care labels properly and know how to best wash and dry your clothing. It is also a good idea to consider how often you wash your clothing. Machine washing can cause damage to your clothing in the long term. A good rule of thumb is: unless they smell or are visibly dirty, you don’t need to wash your clothes after every wear. Another thing to consider when washing your clothes is that clothing tends to have a longer lifespan if it is washed at colder temperatures and air-dried instead of tumble-dried.
Storing your clothes properly can also extend their life. Make sure to store your clothes in a cool, dark and dry space. Folding your sweaters is a better way to keep them than hanging them on a hanger, since this prevents them from stretching out. For clothing that does need to be hung, wooden hangers tend to be best for your clothing, preventing them from being stretched out.
We hope these tips will help you to look more critically at the clothes you intend to buy and appreciate and care for the clothes you already have! If everyone takes a small step towards living more sustainably, it can have a huge impact.