5 Fashion Habits That Will Help You Protect The Planet

by: Rosie Dalton | 5 months ago | Features

Our pal Savannah in her Jungle Kimono

Vivienne Westwood’s mantra is simple: “buy less, choose well, make it last.” Although simple, this seems to be something that many of us struggle with as consumers. And it isn’t entirely our fault either; given that we have been conditioned to value cheap clothing, fast. This insatiable desire is slowly killing our environment, though. For example, “it can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton (or a single T-shirt and pair of jeans), according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). And, based on an estimated annual global textile production of 60 billion kilograms of fabric, the energy needed to produce that fabric is a staggering 1,074 billion KWh of electricity.

In other words then, if you care about the environment, urgent action is required from each and every one of us. Rather than leaving all of this up to the big brands, we can all make small changes to our individual wardrobe habits. And collectively, we can make a big difference and help to protect our precious Mother Nature. So here are some of our top tips for ensuring the future of our planet.

1) Buy less
As Maya Singer points out on behalf of Vogue, much of the fashion industry’s negative environmental impact comes down to the sheer scale of the enterprise. “A single pair of jeans is no threat to Planet Earth. But as Siegle notes in her book, ‘a staggering one-and-a-half-billion pairs of jeans and cotton trousers are sewn in Bangladesh every year,’” she says, pointing to Lucy Siegle’s book To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? “And that’s just in Bangladesh,” she reiterates. “And that’s just jeans (and cotton trousers). Virtually every mass-produced fashion item arrives at our shores with a likewise Byzantine backstory.” The reality, though, is that we don’t need ten pairs of jeans and when we buy less, we also help to protect our environment in the process.

2) Buy better
We know that conventional cotton crops account for 11% of the world’s pesticides and 24% of the world's insecticides — despite occupying just 2.4% of the world's land. So why not use this knowledge to make more informed purchasing decisions in future? By investing in sustainable fibres instead, like tencel or even organic cotton for example, you can help to radically reduce the fashion industry’s impact on the natural world. And your clothing will feel that much more beautiful for it.

3) Extend the lifecycle of your clothing
Patagonia has a whole program dedicated to extending the lifecycle of clothing. Worn Wear provides useful videos on how to fix a broken zipper, for example, or mend a hole. Because as far as the brand is concerned, “as individual consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer.” In an age of disposable fashion, this has become a truly radical act. But it is not a difficult one, especially not if we commit to purchasing things that we know we’ll love and wear for years to come.

4) Recycle unwanted garments
According to the Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia, clothing is the fastest-growing household waste in the country. This is because Australians send a whopping $500 million worth of clothing and textiles to landfill each year, which amounts to an average of 30 kilograms per person. This is why recycling your clothing properly is so crucial for the environment right now. I don’t just mean tacking onto one of the fast fashion brands recycling initiatives, either, but donating clothing to goodwill stores or investigating effective textile re-use facilities in your area.

5) Cultivate a sense of style
This one might sound a little ridiculous, but the fact of the matter is that in the 2010s we have all but lost a distinct sense of style. I don’t just mean this broadly speaking — although decades like the sixties were obviously far more identifiable, style-wise — but also on a personal level. Yes we have come to value individuality now, which is great, but not so much when that ‘individuality’ oscillates every time a new trend hits the shelves. Because this also means that we are constantly buying new clothes that we don’t need. 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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