We speak with sustainable wardrobe guru Rachel Papworth to get the lowdown on her top tips to achieving a sustainable wardrobe...
Hands up who loves clothes? (I had to stop typing for a second there!)
It’s fun glamming up, expressing myself through what I wear, finding something that makes me look great.
And these days clothes are cheap. When I was younger, I would save up to buy a new item of clothing, but now we can find great-looking clothes on the high street or online for less than the price of a pizza.
So far, so wonderful, right? But…
…the dyes used to make the colours we love are responsible for more water pollution than anything other than agriculture….
…when we wash polyester (the most popular fabric in fashion), it sheds microfibers (that’s plastic) that ends up in the ocean….
…growing cotton uses huge amounts of water and pesticides…
…clothes are manufactured where labour costs are cheap (and labour conditions often poor) and then shipped, using fossil fuels, to where prices are high….
…all of which adds up to pollution, climate change, decimated wildlife and a planet that can no longer provide a decent life for our children and grandchildren.
So what can we do?
1. Buy less
Go through all your clothes regularly. It doesn’t take long to forget what’s at the bottom of a drawer or back of a wardrobe. A regular sort through will remind your what’s in your wardrobe so you wear a wider range of your clothes.
Before you go shopping for new stuff, rummage through what you’ve already got. Maybe there’s something you haven’t worn in a while. Maybe you can combine items differently to create a new outfit.
Try not to go clothes shopping unless you need something specific. Do you go shopping with friends just for fun? What could you do instead?
2. Buy secondhand
You know what’s also fun? Finding something unusual and quirky in a secondhand shop. Wearing something no one else will have. And knowing that you’re contributing to the solution rather than the problem. Try charity shops/thrift stores, vintage shops, secondhand markets. You’ll be amazed at what you can find. My warmest ever winter coat was a vintage 1950s one I found in a charity shop for £25.
3. Choose lower impact fabrics
This isn’t simple. Growing organic cotton uses fewer invasive chemicals but still uses huge amounts of water, and dyes are still an issue. Claims that clothing is made from recycled plastics need to be carefully checked for greenwash. (There have been reports of manufacturers buying in new plastic bottles to remake into fabrics, so they can claim to be recycling). But try clothes made from hemp, soy (yes really, check out soy-silk or soy-cashmere), undyed organic cotton, or linen (which is made from flax).
4. Make your clothes last
Look online for advice on how to store and clean specialist fabrics. Wash clothes inside out on the coolest, gentlest cycle possible. Avoid tumble-drying. Hang garments to avoid the need to iron. Use Clothes Doctor to repair, rework, and alter your clothes to revitalise your wardrobe.
5. Dispose of unwanted clothes responsibly
Hold a swap event. Donate to charity both wearable clothes and ones that are worn out. Bag up the worn out ones and tell the charity shop they’re rags and they’ll sell them on for recycling. If your worn-out clothes are made from natural fibres (cotton, wool, silk, hemp, bamboo etc), you can compost them.
Remember, donating secondhand clothes doesn’t let us off the hook. Rich nations produce more secondhand clothing than they can resell. The majority is sold on to poorer countries where it undermines local markets. Treat donating as your last resort – only when you’ve exhausted the other avenues above.
Follow these tips and feel as good on the inside as you look on the outside.
Rachel Papworth liberates busy people like you from the shackles of clutter and disorganisation to give you peace of mind and the freedom to do whatever you want.
Click here for FREE decluttering and organising training