environmental cost of our wardrobes

What Is The Environmental Cost Of Our Wardrobes?

While we are becoming much more conscious about the damage we’re doing to our planet in many ways.  Are you really aware of the environmental cost of our wardrobes?

Our Spending Habits

  • The average Brit spends £1042 on clothes each year
  • Women on average own 95 items of clothing
  • We only wear 59% of our wardrobe regularly

These statistics were part of a study commissioned by Ariel as part of the Great British Wardrobe Report.   These figures are scary enough.  But add in the environmental cost of our wardrobes and it’s a full-blown Hollywood horror movie!

environmental cost of our wardrobes

Fast Fashion

The phrase Fast Fashion evolved from celebrity influenced styles turn up on the High Street in record time at affordable prices.  Worn by consumers who seek constant new styles and discarded quickly either because the garments don’t last or boredom sets in.

Fast fashion has a big impact on the environmental cost of our wardrobes. Turning out garments quickly and cheaply means more:

  • Water Pollution
  • Textile Waste
  • Use of Toxic Chemicals

Did you know that textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally?

Solution: Buy less and use the money we spend on clothing to buy better quality items that last.

Polyester’s Environmental Impact

Blue Planet taught us a huge amount about the environmental impact we are having on our oceans and marine life.

When we put polyester fabrics in our washing machines microfibers become detached and end up in the sewers and eventually the oceans becoming ingested by marine life.

But let’s not forget about production, which involves Nitrous Oxide.  Nitrous Oxide is 310 times more damaging than Carbon Dioxide to the environment.

So that means I need to give up polyester fabrics?

Solution: Not necessarily.  There are manufacturers who have been developing more eco-friendly types of Polyester either recycling plastic bottles to create the yarn or microbes to eat old clothing  and break the polymer down.

Buying Cotton Is Better Right?environmental cost on our wardrobes cotton

Presumably cottons have a lower environmental cost on our wardrobes?

Not necessarily.  In order to grow enough cotton to make one shirt 2700 litres of water are needed!  Given that a lot of cotton is produced in areas where water is scarce this simply exacerbates the local environmental impact.

In order to meet the demands of production cotton growers have been using genetically modified plants.  Oh and let’s not forget that more pesticides are used for cotton production than any other crop.

However the Better Cotton Initiative supported by the World Wildlife Foundation is having a big impact.  They are working with farmers and businesses that buy their crops to adopt more environmentally friendly approaches.  In Pakistan 75,000 farmers reduced water by 39% and their income by 11% working with the BCI. They also used 47% less pesticides and 39% less chemical fertilizer

Learn how a Female Farmer becomes a role model in her local Pakistani community.

Solution: Don’t’ simply rely on responsible manufacturing. We need to take action too. Again buying less and investing in better quality will help.

Textile Waste

This is one we all need to get behind.  We can have the biggest impact on the environmental cost of our wardrobes with regard to textile waste.

When researching this post I was shocked that 75% of Britons still throw clothes away rather than recycle them.

We need to change our mindset away from buying new and thinking instead of reusing. Here are some ways we can do this:

  • Mend clothes that are damaged rather than simply throwing them away.Something we’ve largely stopped as fashion’s got cheaper.
  • Keep clothes for longer, find creative ways to revamp them or combine them with different items to create more outfits.
  • Look for stores with more sustainable credentials in terms of sourcing – see list below.
  • Recycle clothes and shop local in:
    • Charity Shops
    • Pre-Loved or Dress Agencies
  • Look at hiring clothes. Rent The Runway for example.

We cannot continue to pretend that the environmental cost of our wardrobe does not exist.  But we can be more responsible about the impact we’re having.

Reduce The Environmental Cost Of Our Wardrobesreduce environmental cost of our wardrobes

Buy from stores who have a greener footprint.  There are brands like H&Mwho are using the power of their brand to effect change.

Patagonia the outdoor wear brand was one of the pioneers in its field.

People Tree has sustainability as its ethos and promoting fair trade suppliers

There are also a number of smaller independent brands catering to different audiences.  Sustainable fashion must become an everyday part of our lives to reduced the environmental cost.

 

How Confident Are You?

Many women buy clothes to feel more confident.  79% of women say they are at their happiest or most confident when wearing something new, and 52% say they feel lacklustre or less confident when wearing something old.   You can turn that mindset around and it’s about feeling more body confident.  If you’d like to find out how, then sign up now to receive a copy of my three top tips to make you feel more body confident.

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4 thoughts on “What Is The Environmental Cost Of Our Wardrobes?

  1. Suzanne Dinter says:

    Fascinating, Carol. Thank you for researching and writing such an interesting article. I find I’ve been buying a lot less clothes since I had my colours done. Knowing that I am “spring” means that I only have colours in my wardrobe that suit my skin tone, hair and eyes. Also, all my clothes coordinate because they’re from a matching colour palette. That’s where I get my clothes confidence from, not from buying something new every time I feel down. Plus I decluttered my wardrobe MarieKondo-style 4 years ago and I haven’t looked back since x

    • Carol says:

      Great to know you’ve had your colours done Suzanne. It makes such a difference doesn’t it! Having a less cluttered wardrobe is really liberating and makes life a lot easier too.

  2. Claudia Crawley says:

    Great article Carol and a real eye opener. Thanks for educating me.
    I recycle all my clothes. In fact I’ve just had a shoes clear out and have taken them to the local Mind shop. Why throw them out when there are people who’ll benefit. So we’re doing our bit not just for the planet but for those on low incomes too.

    • Carol says:

      Absolutely agree, Claudia, but remember that it’s not just what we consider ‘reusable’ that can be recycled. We can recycle items that we think are torn and unwearable through local authority recycling centres. The items will be used for all sorts of things.

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