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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Opt for organic clothing if buying new. This means that pesticides have not been used which is better for animals and biodiversity.
- Wash clothes at 30 degrees. This uses 40% less electricity than hotter washes.
- 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!