by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 1st December, 2018
Winter is either coming for some, or already here, and as such, many of us are thinking about updating our wardrobes to reflect the colder weather. With the recent release of a shocking new climate change report showing that we have only 12 years to stop climate change before it becomes an unstoppable snowball effect, many of us too are starting to look into how we can make our lives more sustainable.
It might not seem like it, but the clothing we buy and where we buy it from has a huge impact on the environment. Much of our clothing ends up in landfills where they take hundreds of years to biodegrade, and the production processes used to make these clothes often use toxic chemicals that eventually end up in the water supplies, killing off local plants and wildlife.
So you want to be more environmentally conscious when it comes to your clothing, but what does that actually look like? The phrase "sustainable wardrobe" gets thrown around a lot, but what does a sustainable wardrobe actually look like? In truth, clothing sustainability looks different for everyone depending on where you live, how much money you have and what your day to day needs are.
A sustainable wardrobe should be your best effort to shop and dress more sustainably, but it doesn't have to look like everyone else's. You might be able to afford 100% locally made hemp jackets, or you might just have a wardrobe full of thrift store clothing, neither is more sustainable than the other.
When looking to update your wardrobe, first look at what you do have. Drag out old clothes from storage and look to see if you have anything still wearable, chances are, you do. If we're going to be creating sustainable wardrobes we want to avoid a) chucking away clothes and b) buying new ones. Re-using old clothing solves both of these problems. Look at your wardrobe and decide what can be put in storage for warmer weather, what can be kept, what can be re-introduced and what is no longer useful.
If, like many of us, you end up with a pile of clothing that is no longer any use to you, either because you really don't like it, or it doesn't fit - you should always try and donate it first. Of course, some clothing isn't fit for donation if it's badly broken or dirty, but much of the items we do throw away can be donated to local charity shops or homeless shelters.
Now is the time to embrace minimalist. You might think that you need 5 jumpers and 3 coats to survive winter, but do you really? Probably not. Taking a "less is more" perspective to your wardrobe creation will not only make it easier to get dressed, but also save you money in the long run. Try and aim for a capsule wardrobe of sorts, to make sure that you aren't buying any unnecessary surplus items. If you can, try to find items that double up and can be used in many different weather conditions, or layered with other clothes.
If you do come to the decision that there are some items that you need to buy, try to buy as ethically as possible. There are two main ways to accomplish this - either by buying second hand, or by buying sustainably.
As a general rule, buying second-hand should always be your go-to if possible. Buying second hand reduces the number of clothes headed to the landfill and, if bought from a charity shop, will ultimately benefit others too. If the prospect of wearing someone else's old clothes puts you off, don't be. Many thrift stores are absolute goldmines for gorgeous, inexpensive clothing so you needn't worry about being dressed like an aged pensioner.
If you can't find what you need second hand, try to buy as ethically and sustainably as possible. Look for companies that use organic fabrics (meaning they don't produce toxic waste) are made fairly local to you, and commit to being environmentally sustainable as well as paying their workers well.
Exploitation in the fashion industry is a huge issue, so making sure that the company you support gives fair wages is important. You may well end up spending a lot more money on these pieces of clothing than if you were to buy from a high street brand, but ultimately you get the peace of mind that you're not hurting workers or the environment, and very often, these pieces will last you a lot longer.
Finally, do what you can to make do with what you have and mend any broken patches. So many people every year throw away perfectly good clothing simply because it has a tiny hole in it that could easily be stitched up with some basic sewing skills. Rather than throwing away your old clothes, try to make to and mend.