I love clothes. I love clothes possibly to the point of obsession. When I’m not buying clothes or deciding on an outfit, I’m probably watching YouTube videos about clothes (bestdressed and Emmas Rectangle are my fav).
So when I found out how much the fashion industry is harming our planet I felt pretty upset and incredibly guilty. So many clothing items end up in landfill, and the amount of energy and resources that go into producing the fashion we wear is insane. The earth is our home and it is our duty to do whatever we can, big or small, to help save it.
For more information on the impact of the fashion industry on the environment, both Stacey Dooley’s documentary (BBC iPlayer) and Andrew Morgan’s documentary The True Cost are great starting points. I have also linked a few great blog posts about sustainable fashion at the bottom!
For tips on how to be more sustainable when it comes to clothes, read on! The clothes featured in this post are all second-hand or repaired/up-cycled items.
- Buy second hand
Some of the best clothes I own were not bought brand new. Think vintage thrifting, charity shop bargains, and online steals. Most cities have a handful of vintage shops if you know where to look. Bigger cities in the UK will usually have a Cow Vintage and/or a Pop Boutique. They’re usually full of funky and fashionable, affordable pieces, meaning that you can get a unique wardrobe whilst you save the planet. You may even get lucky and find a bargain designer item (or two).
Vintage shopping can also be a great way to explore a new city on foot – take a look at ‘The Vintage Tour’ of second-hand shopping in Paris down below for inspiration!
Buying clothes from charity shops can be a little more difficult than vintage shopping because, let’s be real, their clothing items aren’t always the most desirable, but if you have the time and patience you can often find a few hidden gems. Plus, you know your money is going to a great cause. It’s a win-win.You can also find great second-hand clothing on apps like depop and vinted. I can admit that I am a depop junkie, and my wardrobe is well on it’s way to being 100% depop finds. Scroll down for information on using these apps to sell items.
- Buy from sustainable brands
Sustainable clothing brands are becoming both more popular and more affordable. Which brands you opt for really depend on your budget and style.
I personally adoooore Lucy & Yak, their clothes are the cutest. Every time I see someone wearing the colourful dungarees on campus I get major fashion envy. I’m also forever coveting pieces from Nobody’s Child, they get it right every single time.
Don’t worry about giving up your favourite brands either, H&M and ASOS already have ethical clothing lines, meaning many more shops will have to follow.
- Repair or up-cycle old clothing
Your clothes getting damaged doesn’t always mean you have to throw them away. If you don’t have one already, sewing kits are a great investment. It’s very easy to fix holes and loose threads in clothing when you have the right tools.
If an item really is beyond the point of repair, depending on their material they can be kept and used as cloths for cleaning windows, dusting surfaces, polishing your car and your shoes, etc. You get the idea. This will also save you buying so many cleaning products, which are probably just as harmful to the environment.
After the chain handle on one of my favourite bags broke on a night out and I drunkenly decided to crawl through a crowd to get it back (drunk me is a giant idiot but at least she found the bag I guess?), I replaced the broken handle for one I made out of an old top by plaiting three strips of fabric, see the left pic below. You can decide if I was still drunk or not when I did that.
- Donate old clothing
The obvious option for donating old clothes is to give them to charity shops or pass them onto friends or family members. You can also give your old clothes to homeless shelters.
If the clothes really are too worse for wear to pass on, then find a local fabric bin and pop them in so your items can be recycled. Lots of H&M stores have introduced fabric bins.
If you have any unwanted underwear then I really recommend either posting them to Smalls for All or Against Breast Cancer, who distribute them to people in many African countries, as wearing a bra is a sign of wealth that can prevent rape. Against Breast Cancer have bra banks all over the place so check if there’s one near you before spending money on postage! They are also working towards a vaccine for breast cancer. Here are the addresses for these charities –
Smalls for All: Smalls for All®, 108 Buchanan Crescent, Eliburn, Livingston, EH54 7EF, United Kingdom
Against Breast Cancer: Recycling Scheme, Against Breast Cancer, Leathem House, 13 Napier Court, Barton Lane, Abingdon, OXON, OX14 3YT
- Sell or swap unwanted clothing
If you’re a poor student like myself, this is the best option, and possibly the only option. Selling things on sites like depop is super easy. Here’s a completely shameless self-promotion of my account on depop.
Take aesthetic photos of your items, upload them to the app, pick a fair price, and you’re all good to go. All you have to do when you’ve sold something is send it. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Making a bit of dolla, aaand helping out the planet? Can’t complain.Some sellers are willing to swap items on depop too, meaning no money has to be involved if you’re broke (@ me). You can also swap between friends if you’re not feeling using apps.
- Cut down on washing
I’m obviously not saying you should walk around stinking of BO (that would be grim) but I am saying you should only wash your clothes when it’s actually necessary. Pants and socks need cleaning after each wear, but jeans, skirts and jumpers etc can generally wait a little longer. Small stains/spills/areas of dirt can usually be removed without having to put the clothing item in the washing machine.
If you can, avoid using standard detergent. There are loads of eco-friendly products out there to choose from instead, like the smol laundry capsules, or ecoballs like this one that will save you money whilst you save the planet. Another win-win.
It’s also worth considering hand-washing your clothes sometimes to save on water. Apparently we should all be doing this anyway with bras (I plead guilty to never doing this ever, but maybe now I actually will?) to prevent them getting shrunk or ruined, so there’s an incentive.
By making even one of these changes you are making a huge difference! Going sustainable when it comes to fashion means that you’re reducing the amount of clothes that end up in landfill, as well as decreasing the demand for the production of new clothing items that require vast amounts of energy and resources to make. Keep on saving the planet, make David Attenborough proud.
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Nothing in this post is sponsored. No copyright intended. All photos are my own.
As promised, here are a few more blog posts on sustainable fashion:
My fast fashion habit & how I’m handling it – thelittlegreenacorn
What is Sustainable Fashion? – danceing on my own 2 feet
What is Sustainable Fashion and Why it’s Important – Society19, Giulia Frau
The Importance of Sustainable Fashion – Lucy Pearson
Sustainable Fashion: Reformation – pocketsizedkatt
Rethink Your Wardrobe: Sustainable Fashion on a Budget – Bella Green