How to be more sustainable with your fashion?

The way we create, sell, care for and dispose of our clothing has a pretty huge environmental footprint. The impact comes from every stage of our clothes’ lives, such as the thousands of litres of water needed to grow crops like cotton, the fabric dying processes that pollute waterways across the world, the carbon emissions created from transporting them and the microplastics released when we wash them – to name a few.

Fast fashion is also produced at an incredibly excessive scale, so there’s just too many clothes being made and being thrown away too fast – to give some perspective, a whopping 11 million items are binned each week in the UK! (Oxfam). Slow fashion is a concept that represents producing clothing in a way that is ethical, sustainable and respectful to people and the environment, as well as including aspects for consumers to extend the life of their clothes such as caring for, repairing and reusing.

Buying better clothes, caring for them and keeping them around longer is a great way to reduce the environmental impact of our wardrobes, and probably save some cash too. Check out some ideas to get started with slower fashion below.

1- Shop your own wardrobe
The most sustainable thing to wear… is the thing you already own! The average person buys 30-40 new things every year, and we don’t often take stock of how much we really own. Spending some time reorganising, rediscovering and restyling can bring back excitement you once had for your clothes, and probably save you money on some things you otherwise would have bought. Here’s 5 ways to rediscover your wardrobe.

2- Passing on old clothes
One place clothes should never end up is in landfill, because they take a huge amount of resources to create and most modern textiles contain plastic fibres which take hundreds of years to degrade. If you have clothes that aren’t your style or size anymore, check out these ideas for how to pass them on sustainably instead.

3- How to upcycle old clothes
Got some old garms that are too worn to wear? Maybe they’ve got a tear or a stain, but the rest of the fabric could be used and can live on as something else! Check out these 5 fabric upcycling projects.

4- Clothes care
Every time we wash our clothes that are made from synthetic clothing (polyester and acrylic) microplastics (tiny plastic fibres) are shed from the fabric and rinsed out into our water systems, and eventually our oceans. Washing carefully, less often and on more gentle, cooler cycles can help our clothes last longer and reduce the impact of our laundry. Check out these tips for more.

5- Clothes repair
Most holes, tears, buttons and zips on our clothes can be fixed – with a little know-how! Repairing our clothes is a great way to keep them in use. No worries if you’ve never picked up a sewing needle and thread, a lot of mends are really simple, or your local tailor and Leila The Tailor might be able to help you out. Or why not get creative and try visible mends that embrace the damage rather than trying to hide it? Here’s a tutorial for some simple mends you might need.

6- Who made your clothes?
Learning more about how our clothes are made, and by whom, can help us understand their value better. There are some great documentaries that cover the issues in the fashion industry, or check out our fashion episode of the ‘Down To Earth’ podcast on how community, skills and sustainability could build a fairer fashion industry.