Clothes Shopping and the Environment

Last year we wrote a blog about what you should do with unwanted clothes and the best way to recycle them. But today we’re looking at how to buy clothes that are easily recyclable and therefore less harmful to the planet.

The fashion industry in its current guise is unsustainable, in fact, its need to produce ‘fast’ clothing makes it one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gasses. Worldwide, millions of tonnes of clothing are thrown away every year, but on top of that, most of it is not recyclable.

Most clothing is made of synthetic materials, synthetic chemicals, microplastics, and non-sustainable dyes. In other words, these materials cannot break down. Clothing waste that cannot break down accounts for 20 percent of water pollution.

So, if we really care about our planet, what can we do about this? The obvious thing is to visit charity shops and buy second-hand clothes. Years ago, charity shopping was looked down on, partly because the shops smelt … well, horrible, and the clothing was often too tatty and old for anyone to wear. But that has all changed now, and young people, in particular, find shopping in their local charity shop not only enjoyable but essential.

But if you still haven’t come around to the idea of hunting out your latest bargain in the Cancer Research shop, or if they just don’t have what you’re looking for, what else can you do?

To begin with, know your fabrics. Polyester, synthetic fibres, acrylic, viscose rayon, and even conventional cotton are fabrics to avoid because the processes involved are toxic. Additionally, all synthetic fibres contribute to polluting waterways by shedding microfibres.

So which fabrics should you be looking out for? Tencel is an alternative to viscose rayon made from sustainably sourced eucalyptus trees. Silk, hemp, linen, and wool are considered low-impact textiles.

Surprisingly, it’s better for the planet if you shop online. Although of course, the items still have to be delivered to you, eating up road miles and using polluting fuel, it’s still more ecologically friendly than everyone driving to the shops to buy clothes. 

If you’re concerned about the amount of packaging generated by buying online there are some companies such as Amazon where you can alert them to the fact that you are ‘zero waste’ and they will minimise the amount of packaging included with your order.

These may seem like small things in the grand scheme of things, but if we all do our bit when buying new clothes, as the saying goes, ‘every little helps’.

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