How can we dress for the planet?

Article, Green Consumer, News

It has been well documented how much impact the fashion industry has on our climate but also on the lives of the people employed and their local communities.  The fashion industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and nearly 20% of wastewater.  Environmental Impacts of the Fashion Industry — SustainYourStyle

It is easy to make the connection between what we know as Fast Fashion, in shops such as Primark where a T-shirt can be bought for £4 and only worn once before being thrown away.  From considering how much of that £4 goes to the person making the garment, the quality of the product and the packaging and transportation, it is easy to see how mass production of clothing in this way has many consequences.  And it’s easy to make a personal choice to avoid these stores.  But it’s also easy for us to be blind to the impact of our own fashion choices, so we all need to question how confident we are that our shopping habits are low impact.

It’s not only the fast fashion retailers that are at fault.  We have a responsibility to examine all our choices.  It’s easy to see how products containing synthetic materials have an environmental impact, and opt for more natural fibres such as cotton. But cotton comes with its own issues.  You only need to research The Aral Sea to appreciate the complexity of this impact from water shortages to livelihoods and health.  This documentary from Stacey Dooley is a real eye opener.

Stacey Dooley Investigates: Are your clothes wrecking the planet? – BBC Three

Adding to this is the growing problem of how people dispose of their clothes when they no longer want them; a problem that has only worsened this year, with Charity shops closed during lockdown.

Why clothes are so hard to recycle – BBC Future

So we have a responsibility to ensure the source of our products from clothing, to bed linen (that sumptuous washed linen) are from a climate conscious company.  How much water has been used in the process?  Have the company looked at reducing water consumption? How Levi’s® is Saving Water – Levi Strauss & Co : Levi Strauss & Co   Is the product manufactured close to the source?  Or has the fabric been flown across the World to be manufactured, and back again to be packaged?  

How many chemicals have been used in the process from growing to dyeing and manufacturing? and how are the chemical byproducts managed?

If you don’t have the time to do all the research, there are many people doing it for you, such as Ethical Consumer.  Fashion and Clothing | Ethical Consumer

We have a responsibility to send our unwanted clothing on to a good place.

Charity shops, second hand sales, socks and underwear for ragging, bras to charity.

We also need to consider whether we need to buy that new jumper or pair of jeans.  And the ultimate argument to consumerism is just don’t consume.  But children grow, socks get holes in that just can’t be darned anymore, people lose weight and gain weight.  Sometimes it’s OK to buy a new shirt to make you feel good and it’s easy to do it without feeling guilty.  So here’s a few tips.

Buy second hand:

Charity shops are overflowing with clothing.  It’s good for the planet, you’re getting something new, for a bargain price and you’re giving to charity.  We have several charity shops on our high street and an abundance of choice in nearby Worthing and Brighton.  

Oxfam now has its own online shop:

Women’s Clothing | Oxfam Online Shop

Online second hand marketplaces from EBay, Vinted, Depop.  There are now many choices but they still require transportation. | Sell and buy clothes, shoes and accessories.

Depop – buy, sell, discover unique fashion

EBay allows you to set your location and find sellers near you or you can use local Facebook marketplace to reduce your transport costs.  

Tip: buying recognised good quality brands second hand means they retain their value for resale when you don’t want them anymore.  

Customise what you have:

Can you give an old favourite a new spin? Or do you have a friend who loves to sew?

Up-cycling can be a great stepping stone to making your own garments.

The internet has plenty of ideas for up-cycling your own existing clothes:

Refashion & upcycle | Love Your Clothes

Arrange a swap shop with your friends:

We all have items we’ve fallen out of love with because they’re too familiar.  But your friends may have always loved that top you wore and will happily give it a new lease of life.  It can make for a fun evening.  

Hand me downs:

Children’s clothing can be handed down to friends or bought/sold in bundles on local marketplaces.  The added bonus is this can save so much money when children grow so quickly. 

Second hand uniform sales:

School uniform, dress-up history days, superhero costumes, nativity plays.  There are so many opportunities for schools to earn a small amount of money through these sales.  And making uniform affordable for everyone.  If your school doesn’t have one, maybe you could help set one up?

Shop local:

Locally, our own high street fashion shops sell ethical brands.  Always ask the shop assistant for more information. As with any consumer choices,the more we ask for these things, the more choices will be offered to us.  

In Storrington, Abigail’s is a boutique specialising in Preloved designer clothing.  Opened by Abigail Chisman, as a showroom for Designer Jumble it is a real gem on our doorstep.

The Designer Jumble Sale

This paper from the British Fashion Council goes into greater detail on this issue if you want to read more.