Let’s face it, retail therapy is some of the best therapy. Especially clothes! Even more so, kids clothing. It’s cute, almost guaranteed to fit and fairly cheap in comparison to my own clothes (fair enough, I do also have expensive taste, as my hubberoo loves to remind me!) But still, coming home with a big bag (or bags… guilty!) is a surefire way to really give yourself a dopamine boost. But the more I dive into the rabbit hole looking for ways I can make a positive change to the climate crisis, the more I’m gobsmacked by just how impactful our day-to-day lifestyles actually are and how crucial it is that we start to make some big changes.
I recycle, I compost our food waste, I avoid single-use plastic at all costs. But all that is pretty meaningless if we don’t start curbing things right at the beginning of the process – our consumption! Undoubtedly the most important R in the 5 R’s is REFUSE. Do we really need so much stuff? Refusing to buy it right from the start is where it will really make a difference. Meaning that less is actually manufactured in the first place, sparing the multitude of resources required to get it to the consumer in the first place and the need to dispose of it once it no longer serves a purpose.
The fashion industry contributes to around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions due to its long supply chains and energy intensive production. The industry consumes a great deal of precious resources and takes more energy than the aviation and shipping industry combined! To make just one pair of denim jeans, it takes 10,000 liters of water to grow the one kilo of cotton needed for just one pair of jeans. It would take one person 10 years to drink 10,000 liters of water to put it into perspective. The fashion industry alone produces about 20% of global waste water. Just for 85% of textiles to end up in landfills or be incinerated when most of these materials could have been reused.
So what can you do?
Don’t be cheap!
It’s so tempting to compromise on quality when you’re enticed by cheap items and then grab one in every colour. But the cost of fast fashion is literally eating the planet! You also need to ask yourself why is this piece of clothing so cheap? You might be getting a bargain, but someone or somewhere is paying the real price. Either through horrific work conditions and unlivable wages or chewing up natural resources to keep up with the insatiable demands of our disposable fashion sense.
Re-evaluate what’s on trend
The average millennial would rather be seen dead before they posted an image on Instagram of themselves wearing the same outfit twice. The fashion industry has become disposable with seasonal trends changing every 3 months in stores and clothes deliberately made to not last more than a season. But what we really need to be concerned with being “so last season” is co2 emissions. We as consumers ultimately have the final say. It may feel like we’re just blind followers of what the fashion trends dictate, but where and what you spend your money on has the loudest voice. So just say no thanks to items that you can’t see yourself wearing a year from now, ideally five and let’s reframe what on trend looks like. Sustainable brands with a conscience over mega labels perpetuating fast fashion as fashionable.
Invest in a capsule wardrobe
It’s a big buzz word on Pinterest and rightly so! Rather buy higher-end quality pieces that are well tailored and made ideally from natural fibres ensuring they will stand the test of time. Think: could I still be wearing this in 5 years? Stick to neutral colours and avoid busy loud patterns that will discourage you from regularly wearing something. Instead aim for a streamlined wardrobe of good quality neutral essentials (think leggings, tunics, tee’s, jerseys, denim) and then splash out and express yourself through accessories that bring bright personality-pops or other more seasonally appropriate colours into the mix. The key is to then not rush out and buy every cheap tacky piece of plastic cosmetic jewellery you can load in front of the cashier. Rather aim for quality, ideally locally made or handmade pieces of jewellery, hand bags, shoes and scarves. These are far more of an intriguing talking point than those 70% off neon plastic watermelon earrings with the matching flamingo necklace that will make you cringe ten years from now.
Rethink second hand
Since having kids of my own I really had a rude awakening to just how much “stuff” we go through in our lifetimes. Children under 5 especially fly through their wardrobes, and you’ve only just ripped off the tags to that newborn onesie before you’re packing it away for good. So why not start up a mom-to-mom clothing swap with other parents in your circle. There should be no shame in hand-me-downs especially for baby clothes in the first year. Social media is also a great place to find second-hand platforms where you can either buy, swap or sell everything from clothing and toys to books and school gear. Targeting another critical “R” – REUSE! It doesn’t have to stop at children’s clothes either. Getting married? Prom dress? Black tie event? Peer-to-peer clothing rental platforms are popping up all over, so there really needs to be a shift from buying something brand new if it’s only intended to be worn once or for a short time.
Apply the “30 times” rule
OK so buying clothes at some point is probably unavoidable, especially if you’re a weird size like me. Anyone else hate shopping for pants and jeans? I have freakishly long thighs that mean most trousers look like capri pants unless they’re extra length. Thank you Danish grandfather… Sigh. So to avoid impulse buys that more often than not result in buyers remorse after wearing it twice. Ask yourself: “Can I see myself wearing this item of clothing AT LEAST 30 times in the next year?” If the answer is no, then hang it back on the rail.
I know, I know! Nothing is more cathartic than snipping off those labels that have neon pink 50% off stickers plastered all over them! You feel like you’ve got gold in the bargain-hunting Olympics. The thing is though… you probably came home with three times more “stuff” than you actually needed. Which if you work out what you actually spent vs what you originally intended to spend you stop feeling so smug very quickly. The retail industry is also extremely conniving, they will never sell anything at a price that doesn’t still make them money. Which only begs the question of how grotesque their mark ups really are and how they’re not only screwing you but also screwing the supply chain to produce it at next to nothing. Say no to sales unless it is strictly for stuff you already intended on buying at full price already.
Polyester is one of the most popular materials used to make our clothing. By 2030 synthetics are expected to account for 75% of global apparel fibre production. The main reason why synthetics are so popular comes back around to you. Brands need to use materials that have a natural feeling but also at a price consumers are ready to spend. A polyester and cotton blend is drastically cheaper than cotton and most of us find the feeling very similar to natural fibres. So this is where it comes back to buying less so you can afford the better natural, albeit more expensive, quality. Not just good quality so that it will last longer, but also using better quality natural fibres and paying better quality wages for the labour involved. The other major issue with synthetic materials are microfibres. When synthetic clothes are washed they shed tiny microfibres that pass through sewage and wastewater treatment plants, ending up in water streams and oceans. These materials not only endanger aquatic life they also enter the food chain by being mistaken for food particles by fish and other sea life that we in turn consume. The latest study conducted suggests the average human consumes enough plastic to make a credit card each WEEK!! Sit with that image for a while…
Become an informed customer
Choose organic natural fibres over synthetic wherever possible. Buying less clothes less often frees up the budget to be able to afford better quality, on all levels. Do less laundry, unless it’s really dirty or smelly, chances are you can wear things again. Especially things like jeans, pants and jerseys. Try and wash anything synthetic you might already own as little as possible. When you do fill up your washing machine to the max: washing a full load results in less friction between the clothes and, therefore, less fibres are released. Wash at low temperatures and use washing liquid instead of powder: the ‘scrub’ function of the grains of the powder result in loosening the fibres of clothes more than with liquid. Do some research into clothing brands and support the companies that are making an effort to be more sustainable and responsible. If you can’t easily find information on where your clothes come from and #whomademyclothes then don’t be afraid to ask why. Don’t forget how powerful your voice is.