Clothes may not seem like the more wasteful item we own. After all, we wear them for a fair amount of time before we out grow them or they start to get past their best and invariably throw them away. But are there more sustainable approaches to clothing that can create less waste? Or are there more environmentally friendly materials we should be looking for when purchasing new clothes?
If you source them from the right place, used clothing can be a great problem solver and makes buying clothes much more sustainable – because they have already been used by someone. Charity shops are great for this because they are very strict about what they sell, how they clean it before sale and so on. Clothing manufacture does take a lot from the environment so going with second-hand clothes helps balance this out.
There are a few tips for making your clothing care more sustainable:
Don’t wash your clothes every time you wear them
Modern materials are very clever and mean you don’t need to wash them every time you wear them unless there’s a stain or something specific that needs cleaning.
Line dry as much as possible
Dryers use a huge amount of electricity and don’t always create the nicest smelling clothes. So where possible line dry your clothes and let the fresh air do the work for you. One tip is to use a little less detergent to make sure they are well rinsed before hanging to dry.
Avoid dry cleaning
The worst way of cleaning clothes is dry cleaning, using loads of harsh chemicals and resources. Most clothes now don’t need dry cleaning so avoid it as much as possible. And when choosing clothes, aim for ones that don’t need it.
If you do have dry cleaning only clothes, see if you can use a spot treatment on any stains when they happen to reduce the number of times that you dry clean the item. A gentle hand wash with some liquid soap can often do a good job and leave them to air dry.
Use water-saving washers
When you are looking for a new washer, hunt down the ones that save the most resources – either power or water (or both). Front-loading washers are less water heavy and are gentler on the clothing – the fewer the washes, the longer the clothes last. You can also purchase washing machines that weigh the amount of clothes in the drum and adjust to use less water.
The other area you can consider is the actual material in the clothing you buy. Some materials are more sustainable than others. Here’s a few ideas:
Look at hemp
Hemp is one of the top sustainable materials because it doesn’t need a pesticide to grow or chemicals to process it into clothing. It is a highly renewable material and tops most lists of environmentally friendly fabrics.
Ethically produced clothing
Vegan, artisan, locally produced or organic are all examples of ethically produced clothing that are very sustainable and avoid pollution and animal testing. Often these clothes are well made and can last a long time, too.
Read up on cotton
Cotton is everywhere but not all cotton is equal. Look at the information on the cotton and watch for ethically produced cotton that avoids chemicals and pesticides in its production.
These ideas show you can be fashion conscious and still be sustainable, choosing clothing that has the right materials, washing them in sustainable ways and even using second-hand clothes. All the while, you can still have your look!