[This week I am kicking off Plastic Free July with a series of posts to show how I am trying to reduce waste in general and plastic in particular throughout my house. Have a rummage through my bathroom here.]
First, I have to state that I hate shopping for clothes with a fiery passion. I can think of so many things I would rather be doing than trying to find something in the style that I like and a size that flatters. I feel that many shops and brands try to force constantly changing trends on consumers: you WILL like animal prints/jeggings/jumpsuits whether it suits your body or not. I am now old enough that I am seeing things come back into fashion that I thought were hideous the first time around, so I will freely admit that there may be a bit of bias in this post.
Indeed, “classic” and “timeless” are the words that I try to use to guide my shopping. This isn’t to say I dress like Audrey Hepburn; a t-shirt and jeans are pretty timeless, right? But with these as a framework, it means I avoid fast fashion—clothes that are purchased for a few pounds to be worn just once or twice and then binned.
The problem with fast fashion in general has dominated the news recently, and the textile industry is considered the most polluting after oil: approximately 70 pounds (5 stone) of clothing per person is being added to landfill each year; cotton uses vast amounts of water and insecticide; 20% of all global wastewater comes from the fashion industry. Added to all this, more and more clothing is made from synthetics materials, i.e. plastics. The massive problem with clothing shedding microfibres in the wash is just now getting to make headlines, and it is likely to be yet another unintended consequence of this material.
Then there is the human side of it: how can a product be made so cheaply? Who is making these cheap clothes and in what conditions? With all of these questions swirling around, it makes sense to do what we can to stop feeding the constant clothing cycle and reduce our reliance on brand new items.
I’ve always been a fan of charity shops: they have a great selection and fantastic prices. What’s not to like? I am also starting to shop with my eye on the tag: is the product made out of natural material? And, perhaps most important to avoid wasting resources and cold, hard cash, I am asking myself whether I really need to buy another shirt/jumper/pair of jeans. I don’t know about you, but I find myself wearing the same handful of clothing on a regular basis despite having a well-stocked wardrobe. It makes sense to cut back on just buying things because it *might* get worn. Indeed, according to research, we in the UK have approximately £40 BILLION in unworn clothing sitting in our wardrobes
I spoke with Sue Cassell from the group MAD about Waste and she shared her tips for improving our relationship to our wardrobe:
- Shop smarter and buy less: Shop your wardrobe—there’s bound to be great items lurking in there that you may have forgotten or that simply need “pepping up” (repairing, altering or given a fresh look by teaming with something else in your wardrobe).
- Say “yes” to second-hand: As well as bagging a bargain, there’s history, choice and magic there – decades of fashion to choose from, not just the latest trend. People and the planet benefit when you donate and/or shop at charity shops. Gift-aiding can add an extra 25 per cent to the value of your donations, helping a myriad of good causes.
- If you do decide to buy new, seek out ethical and environmentally conscious brands: I’m impressed by TeeMill. They claim to be carbon neutral, they use recycled textiles, and their factory in India adheres to strict environmental and ethical standards. Other ethical brands include People Tree and Patagonia.
- Love your clothes: Actually wear what you own! If you don’t love them, then donate them, or swap them with friends and family (swishing parties can be great fun). Wash your clothes only when they need it and at a low temperature. Avoid using a tumble dryer, if you possibly can.
- Be really careful about synthetic fibres: They shed microplastics when washed. As microplastics are too small to be caught by washing machine filters and the sewage system, they end up in the sea and can be ingested by aquatic life, posing a health risk to them and entering our food chain.
Locally, Sue is working in Chippenham to host a pilot project, “Re:fashion My Town”, which is running workshops on upcycling clothing and encouraging a new generation of menders and zero waste outfit designers. Check out the Re:fashion My Town Facebook page for more details about the forthcoming “Re:fashion Show”.
I also have a Facebook group for the forthcoming Reduce Your Wasteline blog; it’s currently private and you can join here. I ask a few questions at the start so I can better understand the types of things people are interested in, but you can skip these if you’re pressed for time.
I intend it to be a place for people to share their favourite eco-friendly products and tips for how to build habits about around eco-friendly products (this seems to be half the battle!), and a platform for people to link up to reuse, whether it be swishing parties for clothes, toy swaps for little ones, or anything in between. We’re all on this planet together, we may as well do what we can to make things a little better!