It is easy to imagine that the buying and wearing of clothes is way down the list of things to worry about when it comes to sustainability, climate change and plastic pollution. It turns out this is not the case. Here are some interesting facts…
- The fashion industry as a whole is contributing more to climate change than the aeronautical and shipping industry combined
- The average number of time a garment is worn before it ceases to be used has decreased by 36% in 15 years
- A truckload of clothing is wasted every second across the world
- £35 billion is spent on Christmas party clothing and 8 million of those items will be worn just once
- Less than 1% of the material used to produce clothing globally is recycled into new clothing, with 12% recycled into other products such as insulation or mattress stuffing
- In 2018, a third of consumers bought clothing once a month, down from 37% in 2016, while those buying every two or three months or less rose from 64% to 67%, according to the market research firm Mintel
- Nearly half of consumers say they prefer to buy clothing from companies trying to reduce their impact on the environment, and that rises to 60% among under-24s.
- The company WornAgain is working on the development of a new technology to separate and recapture polyester and cotton from textiles to be reintroduced back into the supply chain as new, raw materials
Take THIS QUIZ to see how you fare in fast fashion.
Half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres are released per year from washed clothes – 16 times more than plastic microbeads from cosmetics – contributing to ocean pollution. Where possible, stick to natural fibres like cotton, wool, linen, hemp etc… and consider using something like a Guppyfriend to wash your synthetic items in. Don’t always assume something marketed as green is always a good choice…this article highlights some of the concerns about bamboo fabrics for instance…
Make do and mend
Some of you might have some sewing skills and already mend your clothes but many people don’t have the confidence to do this. YouTube (and the internet in general) is your friend here. You don’t have to jump in and make complicated alterations but fixing a tear, sewing on a button, adding a popper, repairing a fallen hem are all tasks that most people can have a go at. And in the end – what have you got to lose if you were going to throw it away anyway?
We get it! Buying new clothes is convenient but the SINGLE BEST THING WE CAN DO is to reuse clothes that other people no longer require. This might mean spending a little time rummaging through a charity shop/op shop/thrift store. Or maybe look online – this could be eBay, Facebook marketplace groups, local buy and sell groups (e.g.Gumtree/Craigslist) – or even better, local buy nothing groups. Perhaps you could organise a clothes swap with your friends or community group?
Buy quality clothes
If you are going to buy new clothes then buy with care. We all love a bargain but does a dress or a shirt for under £5/€5/$6 really represent value for money? It probably doesn’t for the environment, not to mention it can throw up concerns about the welfare and wages of those who are making these ‘bargains’. Of course, most of us don’t have unlimited funds to spend on clothes but buying less often (or once) and buying the best quality you can afford is a Wise Choice!
When it comes to climate change and plastic pollution the size of the challenge can appear to be overwhelming but making small lifestyle changes can make a big difference to the health of our oceans if enough of us do them. It can help us inspire others to make Wise Choices as well as help drive policy changes in both business and government.