The world of fashion is a fickle craze; no sooner has one trend gathered momentum than another disappeared into the fashion graveyard. Keeping up with the latest styles is not only an expensive hobby, it’s also apparent that this conspicuous consumption is dramatically affecting the environment.
Unfortunately, the major players in this multi-billion dollar industry aren’t renowned for possessing a credible conscience, but there are however ways that we, as the consumers, can try to eliminate as much waste as possible whilst saving ourselves money and most importantly, not compromising on style or quality.
As a nation, we dispose of 30kg of clothes, with purchases accounting for 1,000 kg of the CO2 emission, a large source of methane. In addition, a hefty 90% of garments are now internationally sourced and produced, adding further to the carbon footprint with longer lead times and more packaging. When you calculate how many plastic bags and hangers are required for each individual product, the environmental impact really adds up.
However, despite the ignorance that some retailers have towards current ecological issues, there are competitors who are becoming more eco-aware, and in some instances even encouraging others to adopt new attitudes. High street giant Marks and Spencer have launched their ‘Plan A’ campaign, resulting in the British company subsequently been recognised as the most ethical retailer on our high street. Following in their green footsteps are the supermarkets Tesco and Sainsburys who only source their garments from ethical suppliers, and high street giants such as Topshop incorporating ‘Topshop Fair Trade denim’ into their ranges.
The more knowledge we have about the ethical status of the companies we buy from the better, however there are a few tips we can follow to improve our carbon footprint when buying our clothes:
1. Buy Fewer Items of Clothing
High-end department store Selfridges have reported that their footfall is less, but when customers do visit they buy more expensive items. More ethically produced clothing often has a higher price-tag, but if you choose to buy a responsibly sourced item of clothing that you get more use out of rather than 5 poor quality tops that don’t last, you could end up with a smaller shopping bill and carbon footprint.
You can pick up any fashion glossy and find how popular the vintage trend is, with emphasis on one-off finds and bargains. In addition, you’re helping to recycle old items of clothing, some of which may still even have the labels on, and help charities raise vital funds for their work at the same time! Find out more about how much you could save becoming charity shop chic.
3. Buy British
As previously mentioned, buying locally manufactured goods means that there are less miles involved when delivering the products, so always check the garment’s labels. Supporting British designers and independent manufacturers also helps boost the UK economy, and you know your clothing hasn’t come from exploiting women and children overseas.
Last year’s black dress may not be in fashion this season, but add a few strategically placed sequins and you can transform it into a unique party dress. Customising is easy and fun, and many hobby or craft shops have a vast array of beads, jewels and trims to adorn your old clothing with. If you don’t have a sewing machine, don’t worry. Hand sewing isn’t too difficult to master, and with a few simple stitches up your sleeve, you’ll have a customised wardrobe in no time at all.
Alternatively, some fabric shops have sewing cafes or machines which you can use in the shop. If there isn’t anywhere in your local area offering this service, ask around friends or older family members to see whether anybody has a sewing machine you could borrow.
5. Partake in ‘Swishing’ parties
This new trend involves people getting together to swap their clothes, as usually one person is harbouring a fantastic item in the back of their wardrobe that someone else would love.
So as you see, being eco-friendly with regard to your clothes is a lot easier than you might initially think, and you don’t have to compromise on style to reduce your carbon footprint. The spending habits and attitudes of the consumer inevitably impacts the way in which retailers function, so the more we can increase their awareness that we want eco-friendly products, the quicker these companies will eventually catch on and meet our demands. After all, fashion is all about setting new trends!