Author: Lucielle Salomon
There’s a certain level of excitement that comes from shopping. But with that giddiness comes a level of responsibility that not many consumers think about.
The fashion industry has been deemed one of the biggest polluting industries, requiring a significant amount of water, energy, and crops. Barely any clothes you buy today are produced without materials that don’t contaminate our soil, waterways, and oceans. And hardly any garments are made without an energy-intensive supply chain. Just like brands have a responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint, so do customers.
But first, what is a carbon footprint?
A carbon footprint is the result of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, or product. It’s measured by how many tons of carbon dioxide is emitted per year, including all other toxic greenhouse gases like methane. Thankfully, today there are tools available that help you estimate your own carbon footprint considering all your lifestyle choices and activities. The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental non-profit, offers a tool summing up your personal environmental impact. And ThredUp, an online consignment store, allows you to calculate your fashion carbon footprint, specifically.
Indeed, it takes time and effort to lower your closet’s carbon footprint. But significant lifestyle changes are often needed to make an impactful change on the planet. So here are some small actions that you can take to improve your relationship with your closet in a positive way.
1. Love your garments and extend their life.
For the past few years, consumers have been conditioned to buy clothes at a very low price. They are often buying a trendy item and disposing of it after just a couple of uses, resulting in an ongoing wasteful loop. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a UK-based Foundation accelerating the transition to a circular economy, says “the average number of times a garment is worn before it ceases to be used – has decreased by 36% compared to 15 years ago.” Some garments are estimated to be discarded after just seven to ten wears. Therefore, sometimes the best action is no action at all. Rewearing what’s already in your closet ends up being the most sustainable action you can take.
Of course, there will be a time when your clothes will no longer serve you. When that time comes, make sure you consider all your options before getting rid of the item. Throwing your garments in the trash is not an option that is recommended, as most clothes are made from synthetic, non-biodegradable fibers that end up piling up in the landfill. Instead, consider repairing or redesigning them. You can also gift the item to a loved one or take part in a swap party.
While donating sounds like a selfless action, it’s a big misconception that the clothes we send to charities end up being worn by people in need. Thanks to the fast fashion phenomena, charities are forced to process larger amounts of garments in less time. They are often sorted and resold in bulk to rag traders overseas, leading to a global problem.
2. Buy less and invest in long-term multi-function pieces
Most people have more clothes than they need. But not buying anything is very unrealistic. So, when you do add a new item to your closet, make sure it’s an intentional purchase. Invest in quality, long-term, and multi-function pieces that allow you to style them in different ways and be used for an extended period of time. This conscious mindset helps reduce the production of new items and the number of garments that end up in the landfill, as they can sit there for 200-plus years.
Next time you go shopping, ask yourself if it’s an impulse buy or not. Check if you foresee yourself wearing that item for years to come or if you are just giving into another trend.
3. Shop second-hand
Shopping second-hand has become an integral part of many people’s lives, as it comes with a unique thrill of discovery and the added environmental benefit. This way of shopping is known for decreasing the demand for new retail goods and keeping unwanted clothes out of landfills, resulting in less finite resources needed. Another great incentive is that used goods typically cost less than new ones, making it a better alternative not only for the planet but for your wallet as well.
4. Shop from sustainable and ethical brands
As consumers become more aware of the fashion industry’s negative environmental impact, there has been an increase in sustainable brand options. But with that surge comes confusion and false claims. Therefore, make sure the brands you favor are transparent with their sustainability efforts. A great resource is the ethical fashion app, Good on You, which offers sustainability ratings for fashion. It’s a beneficial way to verify if their sustainability claims are actually accurate.
5. Think twice about your fabric choices
It’s been known that certain fabrics are better for the environment than others. Therefore, next time you go shopping, pay attention to the clothing label. Consider organic materials over conventional ones. Or, shop for innovative fabrics made with sustainable ingredients such as ECONYL® regenerated nylon, a synthetic fiber made from recycled industrial plastic, waste fabric, and fishing nets coming from the ocean and the aquaculture industry.
6. Consider renting garments
With the known benefits of the shareable and circular economy, opportunities to rent garments have increased. This alternative has become one of the easiest ways to experiment with new styles with little cost and guilt. Rent The Runway and Wardrobe are great sites to consider when you would like to spice up your wardrobe without the long-term commitment.
7. Keep an eye on your washing
Most people don’t realize it, but they are most likely washing their clothes more than they need. Many fashion experts have shared that your clothes will last longer when you limit chemicals found in detergents and high heat exposure. Therefore, when possible, consider air-drying your garments. Not only will you be reducing your energy consumption, but also extending the wear and fit of your garments. Read also How To Look After Your Clothes To Save The Planet to find out more on this issue.