How to lighten your environmental footprint at home: Clothing

clothes on a washing line on a pink background

In the UK we buy well over 30 pieces of clothing and footwear each, every year[i], and there are over £10 billion worth of unused clothes sitting in our cupboards. On average we only wear about half of the clothes we have.

So keeping a lid on new purchases is a really effective way to reduce our environmental footprint when it comes to what we wear, and it can save a lot of cash too.

[i] Average per person per year

Why does clothing have an impact on the environment?

  • Clothing has a carbon footprint driven by manufacturing, transportation and production.
  • In addition, sometimes toxic dyes and chemicals used can pollute local ground and waterways.
  • Water use: Growing fabrics such as cotton has a very high water usage, often grown in areas where there is limited supply. A pair of jeans uses the same amount of water we each use for 1 ½ months worth of showers!
  • Pesticide use on cotton can impact local wildlife.
  • Polyester is made from oil, a fossil fuel.

Realistic changes to start today

There are a few options that will not cramp your style, but will make a really good dent in your clothing environmental footprint. You can sign up to Giki Zero to commit to these steps and to get a personalised estimate of your carbon footprint.

  1. If you cut down new purchases from the average of over 30, to just 10 a year, this can slice your clothing footprint by one third: (about one quarter of a tonne of carbon every year). Try going without buying any new clothes for 3 months to get started on this!
  2. Go vintage or second hand to cut a big chunk off your footprint. If you want to keep getting new clothes at the same rate, try buying half vintage or second hand. Try Depop or Ebay.
  3. Opt for organic clothing if buying new. This means that pesticides have not been used which is better for animals and biodiversity.
  4. Wash clothes at 30 degrees. This uses 40% less electricity than hotter washes.
  5. Go through your cupboards and see if there are any old favourites that you’ve forgotten, instead of grabbing your phone to order something new.

And there is an added benefit of a more environmentally friendly wardrobe: is is usually a great way to save money too!