How to shrink your wardrobe’s footprint for the climate
Fashion is a humongous source of CO2e emissions. The good news? You don’t have to become a nudist to cut your carbon footprint.
You know the story: You walk into a shop to “have a look around” and suddenly notice a badass-looking jumper. It feels like a magnet is forcing you closer and the next thing you know, oops, you leave the shop with a new sweater. But after all, it was quite cheap, and you didn’t have anything that color yet. Tadaaa, that’s Fast Fashion: An infallible recipe for selling clothes, but a disaster for our climate and environment.
Today, the fashion industry produces around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, taking into account materials, manufacturing, and transportation. What’s more, the industry is the largest consumer of the world’s water supply after agriculture and is a major contributor to microplastic pollution and landfill waste. Yes, this is mind-boggling stuff. The good news? You can still dress to impress and keep your carbon footprint to a minimum.
How to green up your wardrobe
Buy less. That’s the golden rule if you’re aiming for a smaller footprint. The average American throws away about 37kg of clothes every year, so it’s safe to assume that consumers often buy clothes they will barely wear. Why? Because nowadays, clothes are incredibly cheap. So, before tossing another piece of clothing in your cart, think twice: Do I need this? Isn’t it way better to have a small collection of high quality, timeless pieces of clothing, than a heap of synthetic clothes you’ll get bored of within a year?
Learn the basics of hand sewing. Roll up your sleeves and get a needle and thread to fix a small hole or rip, or even hem your pants. Up for a new challenge? Take a sewing class and learn how to use a sewing machine. Honestly, you may love it — it’s such a fun way to get creative and give a new life to your old clothes.
Support sustainable clothing brands. From the materials you pick — such as natural fibers like hemp or innovative textiles like Piñatex — to supporting brands that provide decent wages to garment makers or use sustainable dyeing techniques to minimize environmental pollution, there are plenty of ways you can shrink your fashion footprint. And let’s not forget renewable energy: It’s estimated that the fashion industry could cut an estimated 45% of emissions if production happened through clean power.
Upcycle old fabrics. Just because you can no longer wear a ripped or tight piece of clothing, that doesn’t mean you can’t give it a new life! Use old fabrics to create colorful pouches and tote bags, beeswax reusable food wraps, headbands, or simple cleaning cloths. Or why not turn that old long skirt into a crop top? There are no limits to your creativity here, just pick whatever you fancy. Imagine how many Christmas gifts you could make yourself!
Shop second hand. We will never get tired of saying this. Buying hand-me-down clothes is a great way to extend the lifespan of those 80-150 billion garments produced and sold each year which could end up in a landfill. Plus, old is gold: hit your local thrift store or flea market and you’re sure to come across some funky finds.
Donate or swap. Hand your clothes to a local charity, swap them with your friends, or sell them at a flea market. This is another great way to promote a circular economy where goods are reused and exchanged for as long as they are usable instead of being landfilled. Some charities will even schedule a home pickup for you!
The bigger picture
Fashion is a carbon-intensive and polluting industry, and the more we shop, the more we fuel the take-make-dispose mindset behind it. Most of us like getting ourselves a new piece of clothing now and then, and that’s okay. What matters is to buy little, buy high-quality, and always think twice before you go to the checkout counter. Make sure you can wear your new purchase for many years to come, and pass it down or transform it into something unique once it runs its course. Regardless of your style — funky or sober, casual or sophisticated — there are plenty of ways you can unlock your creative genius to green up your wardrobe.