What we wear says a lot about who we are and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look our best. The growth of the fast fashion industry means, if we wanted to, we’re able to buy a whole new outfit every week, for around the same cost as a takeaway meal or a round of drinks at the pub. The thing is for all the benefits of cheap clothing, there are also some serious cons to consider too.

Shopping for something new can give you a rush of happy endorphins. It’s a way to spend a Saturday afternoon with friends, and so what if you don’t like it after a few wears – it was cheap, right?

Currently fast fashion accounts for approximately 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of global wastewater, this makes it the second largest consumer of fresh water on our planet, and with the fashion industry is expected to rise 63% in sales by 2030 this amount is only going to increase.

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Yet at the same time, it is estimated that more than 30% of clothes in Europeans’ wardrobes have not been used for at least a year, and when we do eventually discard our unwanted garments the majority of them are unrecyclable and so are unsustainably disposed of. It is estimated that the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is either burned or dumped in landfill every second.

Online Clothes Shopping
The secret side of Fast Fashion

To help make a real change, we need to slow down how much we consume. We need to forget fast fashion and move over to slow fashion. Slow fashion asks consumers to buy fewer clothes of better quality and to keep them for longer.

It calls for a change in mindset. The less we buy into fast fashion clothing, the less demand there is for the production of new garments, which in turn means a lot less natural resources being unsustainably used up. If we all wear the items of clothing we buy for twice as long, the UK fashion industry would produce 44% less emissions.

clothing sale sign
Slowing down Fast Fashion

Every change, big or small, helps improve the environmental impacts that we as individuals and as a community have on our environment. Being a conscious consumer and considering how and why we buy makes all the difference when you look at the bigger picture, here’s a few simple ways to change your relationship with fashion without missing out on the latest fashion trends:

–  A new way to buy second-hand – Many leading high-street brands are now selling used clothes in their shops, this allows the joy and experience of buying a new item of clothing without the environmental impact. When you’re next out clothes shopping, keep an eye out for the ‘vintage’, ‘renewal’ or ‘pre-loved’ section of the stores.

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–  Buy with warranty or repair services – Some leading brands now offer long-term warranties that include free repairs of products such as jeans or shoes. This is a fantastic way to make a long term, sustainable choice that will save you money in the long run and reduce your personal environmental impact. Also look out for companies that offer instructions for home repair, or details on upcycling or recycling on the labels.

–  Rent what you wear – Businesses are now starting to pop up that offer clothes subscription services, this works by individuals opting to pay a monthly fee to rent a fixed number of garments/outfits at a time. This means keeping up with modern trends without buying new clothes that will inevitably be worn for a few months, before living out the rest of its life in a wardrobe or chest of drawers.

jeans on shop shelf
Changing the way we buy our clothes

There are many avenues for finding a new home for your unwanted clothing, and some will top up your bank account too. Selling good condition 2nd hand clothing is the norm and there are many online selling sites (all of the big ones) that allow you to do this, and some lesser known too, such as Depop and Vinted, which are fashion marketplaces that help customers find unique clothing items, whilst reducing waste associated with fast fashion. Of course, a kind option is to gift clothing to friends and family or donate to a charity shop. Additionally, Chelmsford City Council will accept clean clothing and paired shoes on their kerbside recycling collection service.

It is difficult to find a new home for poor quality textiles and rags, this is partly due to the vast amount of cheap clothing that is in circulation. Old ripped t – shirts are still great for washing the car (for one example), but will need to placed in the black bin at their end of life. However, items such as old bedding and towels are usually welcomed where they are needed most, such as local rehoming centres and wildlife rescue centres.

Give a new home to the clothes you no longer need

Recent studies suggest that the largest environmental impact of clothing may actually happen once the product has been bought. This is due to energy, water and chemicals (detergents) used in the process of washing, tumble drying and ironing an item of clothing. Here’s how you can help change that:

–  Microplastics washing bags – most of the clothes we own have some amount of plastic woven into them (typically nylon or polyester). When we wash our cloths small fibres of the plastic break off, these are too small to be caught by any filters which means they end up running into our rivers and seas. The fibres are then eaten by fish and other sea creature that we eat. This means we end up ingesting small levels of toxic plastics on a regular basis, this is not good for our health. To help curb this try investing in a microplastic washing bag, this will catch any plastics and prevent it making its way into our food chain.

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–  Washing on cold wash – keeping the temperature cold when you’re washing your clothes mean no electricity is used to heat the water. As the majority of our power still comes from non-renewable sources this really helps to reduce your carbon footprint, plus it reduces your energy bills so saves you money too.

–  Avoid using the tumble drier – tumble driers use lots of electricity to create hot air and then spin clothing very fast to dry it. Try to hang as much clothing as you can out to dry, particularly during the warmer months.

–  Try using ‘soapberries’ or ‘soap nuts’ – before the days of synthetic washing detergents, soap nuts where a sustainable way to clean clothes. Soap Nuts are grown on the Sapindus Genus tree, they are a source of naturally occurring soap which can clean and freshen clothing. These are great for those with a real passion for being as eco-friendly, or for those with sensitive skin.

folding clothes
Care for your clothes and your planet too

If you don’t have the money or the ability to make the changes we talk about on this page, please don’t worry, the weight of the world is not on your shoulders. It’s important to point out that with all environmentally friendly choices that your best is always enough. This is not to say that we don’t all have a responsibility to make changes, but if your financial situation is your limiting factor then it’s okay that waste reduction and recycling is not your priority.