5 Ways To Reduce Your Wardrobe Impact

by: Rosie Dalton | 9 months ago | Features

Image: Matteja wears the V10 Leather Sneaker, which are made in a transparent supply chain

Fashion affects the planet in a number of different ways and it also has a direct impact on climate change. So much so that British MP and Environmental Audit Committee chairwoman Mary Creagh points out that, if the current clothing consumption continues, fashion “will account for more than a quarter of our total impact on climate change by 2050".

Unfortunately, governments and big brands are still doing too little to counter the negative impacts of fashion. Which is part of the reason why sustainable fashion isn't moving fast enough to counteract the effects of rapid growth. Fortunately, though, there are some steps we can take as individuals to rise and resist against the forces of fast fashion.

Vivienne Westwood’s mantra is simple in this regard: “buy less, choose well, make it last.” Armed with this knowledge and a few more golden rules, we can each make small changes to our wardrobe habits that will ultimately have a cumulative impact on Mother Earth. So here are some of our top tips for ensuring the future health of our planet.

1) Buy less
Vivienne Westwood's mantra of buying less, choosing well, and making it last is one that I often return to when I feel the need to buy something new. This is also a concept that Lucy Siegle explores in her book To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? “A staggering one-and-a-half-billion pairs of jeans and cotton trousers are sewn in Bangladesh every year," she points out. So perhaps we don't need ten pairs of jeans, just one really good pair. When we buy less, we become part of climate action.

2) Buy better
Taking up a fairly small percentage of the world’s land (an estimated 2.4%) conventional cotton crops account for a disproportionately large percentage of the world’s toxic chemicals. According to the Cotton Advisory Committee (CAC), conventional cotton still represents as much as 5% of all pesticides and 14% of all insecticides use globally. So check the materials tag of any new purchases and opt for sustainable fibres where possible. 

3) Extend the lifecycle of your clothing
"Doubling the useful life of clothing from one year to two years reduces emissions over the year by 24%,” according to Fashion Revolution. So before I buy something new, I consider whether I already own something similar that could be repaired, re-styled or reinvented. Patagonia has a whole program dedicated to extending the lifecycle of your clothes. Because, as far as the brand is concerned, “the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer.” 

4) Recycle unwanted garments
According to RagtraderAustralians discard 23 kilograms of clothing per capita every year, which results in 6 tonnes of textiles and clothing being contributed to landfills in Australia every 10 minutes. Which is why recycling your clothes properly is crucial for saving the planet. This is not an excuse to buy more clothes than we need, but rather a gentle reminder to keep wearable clothes in rotation by donating them and then investigate textile re-use facilities for those pieces that can no longer be worn. 

5) Develop a personal uniform
In the context of our choice society, we are constantly buying new clothes that we don’t need. So why not focus on developing a personal uniform instead? Maya Singer puts it eloquently when she says: “as a lover of fashion, I’d like to promote the idea that having a sense of style is a way of taking action: If you’re finicky in your taste, fussy about the way your clothes are made, and curatorial in your approach to putting together a wardrobe, that’s a pretty good defense against the temptation to buy some piece of tat, you know, just because. People should take fashion more seriously, not less.”

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