Reducing the environmental impact of your wardrobe

When we think of things that are damaging the environment, our minds immediately tend to go to things like cars, fossil fuels, and plastic waste. But did you know that fashion is one of the most polluting industries? The rise of fast fashion means that clothes are cheaper now than ever before, and we’re buying a lot of them – around £1700, per household, per year. A whopping 30% of those clothes are worn just once before being passed on, whether that’s being thrown out or donated to charity shops or placed in collection bins. Approximately 300,000 tonnes of clothing was thrown in the rubbish in the UK in 2016.

 

It isn’t just the end of a piece of clothing’s life that’s troublesome for the environment. Cotton probably seems like an eco-friendly choice for clothing – it’s natural, right? In actual fact, cotton crops account for 11% of the world’s insecticide usage and almost a quarter of the world’s pesticide use. Artificial materials aren’t much better though – some synthetic fibres, including acrylic, polyester and nylon, are made from petrochemicals, the production of which releases nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. These materials also shed microscopic plastic microfibres when washed. Textiles actually account for 85% of human-made material in the oceans.

 

So, how can we reduce the impact our fashion choices have on the environment?

 

Reduce

 

We buy 400% more clothing now than 20 years ago. Simply buying less clothing means that less of it will end up in landfill. Instead of retail therapy, try treating yourself in other ways – whether that’s going for a meal, trying a new activity, or putting the money you’d have otherwise spent towards a holiday or day trip.

 

The upkeep of clothing is also a big contributor to its environmental impact. Sometimes stains can’t be helped (spaghetti bolognese, anyone?), but try to spot-treat stains, mend tears or loose seams, wash in cold water where possible, and avoid using the tumble dryer. Did you know that doing 4 out of 5 loads of laundry on a cold as opposed to hot wash saves 32.5kg of CO2 emissions?

 

Reuse

 

Even if you’re tired of a piece of clothing, there’s certainly going to be someone else out there who will love it. You can donate unwanted clothes to Action 21’s Re-Useful Centre, as well as have a browse through what’s on offer. It doesn’t just have to be for your everyday wardrobe, too – you can definitely DIY a fancy dress or Halloween costume!

 

You can repurpose old clothing for other things, too. Cut up old stained old T-shirts as rags for doing DIY or gardening. Use back-to-front old shirts as kids’ painting aprons. DIY a dog cushion for your car boot with old blankets, with old socks and other softer clothes for stuffing.

 

Recycle

 

Don’t bin clothing! If you’re in Warwick or Leamington, the district council will take textiles (except duvets and pillows) in any condition; just put them in a suitable bag and leave with your recycling collection. Where possible, donate rather than recycle clothes still in good condition – you can drop any clothes off to Action21’s Re-Useful Centre. Some materials, like cotton, can only be recycled a limited number of times, because the process (cutting the material up and starting again) shortens the fibre to the point where it’s eventually unusable for textiles.

 

Even if you don’t think it’s wearable, clothing can still be recycled. Although a lot of clothing can only be recycled a limited number of times, there are many ways that clothing can be repurposed – into housing insulation, ball stuffing, or even a synthetic sports track!