Tips and information on how to become more sustainable as consumers in relation to clothes and other fashion items are increasingly available, particularly online. Yet sometimes, it may feel confusing with various advice from different sources. To give an overview, Green Strategy has compiled a seven-step guide for a more sustainable user behaviour in relation to fashion (see below). In addition to this list, adopting more careful washing practices is also a significant step in reducing our clothes’ environmental footprints. More sustainable washing practices include: washing clothes in low temperatures, using moderate amounts of eco-labeled washing powder; hang-drying wet clothes as opposed to tumble drying; washing separate stains by hand and as soon as they are discovered; and airing our clothes instead of washing if possible. Often we wash our clothes just to make them feel fresh and not because they are dirty. To wash our clothes less often is an effective way to reducing our consumption of energy, water and washing powder, and also to keep our clothes in good condition longer.
Seven steps to a more sustainable fashion consumption
- Plan your wardrobe carefully and with a long-term view
- If you need something new for a special occasion – rent, lease or borrow
- If you desire something new for more general variation – swap with friends, attend a swapping event, visit a swap-shop or lease clothes from a fashion/apparel store or online rental site
- If you need something new to keep – choose:
- secondhand, vintage or swapped/inherited pieces
- eco-labeled, fair trade, high quality, locally made and/or handcrafted
- or order your clothes from a tailor or buy partly custom-made (on-demand)
- If you have clothes that are broken – mend yourself or hand in to a tailor
- If you have clothes that you have grown tired of – pass on to friends or relatives, or hand in to a secondhand store, swap-shop or charity organisation, or give them new life via redesign
- If you have clothes that are too worn out for reuse – donate to textile recycling via a collection box or in any charity organisation’s local store.
In addition, Green Strategy has developed a set of seven questions to help consumers make more conscious purchase decisions when shopping. Ideally, these questions should be asked (by oneself) everytime we consider buying something new.
Seven questions before making a purchase decision
- Is it desirable? Will I desire the piece over the long run, and does it really match my needs, preferences and values?
- Is it durable? Is it of long-lasting style and quality, both functionally and aesthetically?
- Is it remakable? Can I use the fabric to make something new if I get tired of its design?
- Is it reusable? Could someone else in my network wish to have it if I decide to pass it on?
- Is it recyclable? Are the materials and components separable and recyclable, in line with the principle of “Design for disassembly”?
- Is it made of renewable and biodegradable materials, in other words natural fibres such as wool, cotton, silk, lyocell, hemp or flax? Or does it contain non-renewable materials such as polyester, nylon or acrylic, which are derived from petroleum products and cannot typically degrade in nature?
- Lastly, is it sustainable and ethically produced? Has it been made under environmentally, ethically and socially respectful conditions during its entire supply chain (from raw material production, via garment manufacturing to final distribution and sales)? (Note: this last question is often very difficult, if not impossible, to know with certainty; yet an internationally established label such as GOTS, EU Ecolabel or Fair Trade is a good sign that the most important environmental or social issues have been seriously considered).