Have you ever watched Confessions of a Shopaholic?
I am ashamed to say a decade ago I could probably have given Isla Fisher’s character a run for her money. I had a lot of disposable income and time (oh my goodness I wish I had that time again!) and I filled it with shopping. Mainly clothes. A new outfit a week. A different dress for every occasion. Weekends spent aimlessly shopping, laden with bags of clothes that I’m embarrassed to say I probably didn’t wear most of and that were given to charity shops with the tags still in (yes, I was that person!).
However, when we had the babies, I saw how much life there was in clothing (especially for kids) that was second (or even third, fifth or seventh!) hand. It really made me think and started a cog whirring and over the past three years, our family’s attitude to fashion has done a U-turn. Now I take pride in showing off charity shop bargains, picking up freebies from friends, going to swap shops and bragging about my bargains. And do you know what; not only is our environmental impact smaller, but our bank balance has benefited too!
Much like the woes of single-use plastic, I think we are all now increasingly aware of the dark side of the fashion industry. But it may surprise you to learn that the fashion industry globally produces more carbon emissions than aviation and shipping combined. Try to imagine that!
The things we can do to combat this are so simple; buy secondhand, buy quality when buying new so you know it will last, capsule wardrobing, ‘swishing’ (a social event where people bring and swap unwanted clothing), or even have a go at handmade by creating, repairing or repurposing clothes!
This doesn’t just apply to fashion but did you know that online returns aren’t always resold; in the US online returns create $5 billion dollars of landfill waste every year, so if you do shop online, please shop mindfully and try to think about the carbon footprint of your purchases.
When it comes to clothes you don’t want anymore, the first question to ask yourself is ‘Are they in good condition?’ If no, recycle; you can take bags of clothes to charity shops and what they can sell they will use or donate for rags. At the moment H&M also have a scheme whereby if you take a bag of old clothes to a store they will give you a £5 voucher to spend in-store in return. They don’t have to be in good condition so it’s perfect for all your old socks, baby vests etc.
If the clothes are still in style/season, you could try selling them; either online via social media sites or online auction sites, or at a car boot sale. If you don’t want that hassle you could donate, to a charity shop or online ‘freebies’ site or swap with friends/family or even attend an organised swap-shop. Did you know by buying a pair of jeans secondhand you save the equivalent gases of driving a car for more than 129km?
And don’t even get me started on T-shirts! There is so much resource that goes into making one garment; the amount of water it takes to make 1 cotton t-shirt is enough for the average person to drink for 2 and half years…yes, seriously! Imagine if you swapped, or donated, or bought secondhand the impact that could have!
In fact, if 1 million people bought their next item of clothing secondhand instead of new, we would save 6 million kg of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere and if everyone in the UK just stopped buying new clothing for ONE DAY, the emissions saved would be equivalent to driving a car around the world 8640 times.
But if you are determined to buy new (although I hope you wouldn’t be by this point of reading!!), please buy better and make it last; by buying better quality or simply doubling the amount of time we wear our clothing from one year to two, we reduce its emissions by 24%! It goes against the throwaway culture of fast fashion but by buying clothes you can see yourself wearing and loving for a long time, and repairing them when they break, will make a massive difference to the environment. It sounds a lot, but given that the average piece of clothing will only be worn 7 times before it’s thrown away, it is definitely achievable to at least double its lifespan!
Sadly I am not (yet) crafty or skilled at any kind of knitting/sewing etc. so I have not attempted to make my own clothes; I can just about repair a tear or sew a button back on so I'm getting there! I am (or more specifically my children) are blessed with a mother who knits the most beautiful things and if you can make or repair your clothes I would definitely recommend it. There is so much beauty in an item that is made with care and love; I tend to think we probably treat it better than some of our shop-bought items as a result!
If you're struggling for ideas, or simply want some more info or support, there are some amazing 'slow fashion' accounts on Instagram with a really cool community of like-minded people who are rejecting fast-fashion and tons of interesting fashion challenges you can get involved with if you're looking for inspiration. My personal faves are KnickersModelsOwn, Notbuyingnew and thenewfashioninitiative.
We also need to take better care of the clothes we have by the way we clean; check out my blog on Laundry Hacks for ideas of how to love your laundry!