Now I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and admit I have WAY too many clothes. Several jackets, various jeans and t-shirts, and even multiple pairs of the same shoe – just in a different colour. Now unless I was planning to take the London Fashion Week to the North Pole, or what’s left of it (let’s leave that for another day), there really is no need for so many layers.
A recent Greenpeace survey concluded that ‘people start to realise they are trapped in an unsatisfying cycle of cheap, disposable fashion trends and that their over-consumption does not lead to lasting happiness.’ This is something I can resonate with.
With The Environmental Audit Committee announcing an investigation into the social and environmental impact of disposable ‘fast fashion’, I thought I would use this post as a timely reminder of the impact of our shopping habits and offer some suggestions.
According to Wrap, it is estimated that 1,130,000 tonnes of clothing was purchased in the UK in 2016, an increase of 200,000 tonnes from 2012. However, an incredible 300,000 tonnes of clothing is binned in the UK each year – the equivalent weight of 11 Statues of Liberty.
There’s probably a high chance that a large proportion of the clothing being disposed of is perfectly fine. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation have looked into this and have found clothing utilisation – the average number of times a garment is worn before it ceases to be used – has decreased by 36% worldwide over the last decade. The report goes on to state that if the number of times a garment was worn doubled on average, greenhouse gas emissions would be 44% lower.
The numbers are staggering, but will they stop me buying clothes? Probably not. However, I will be making a firm intention to smarten up my act and so can you.
Polyester emits up to three times more carbon dioxide than fibers such as cotton and requires 70 million barrels of oil annually to make it. We should therefore try to purchase clothes which use natural fibers instead to reduce our reliance on this.
Don’t compromise quality for price
As a student, I know how tempting it can be to go for quantity over quality. However, this is counterproductive and in the end leads to making more frequent purchases. I believe we should steer away from cheap low quality brands (no offence Primark) and move towards timeless, longer-lasting goods. McLaren et al (1998, 53) support this idea and describe durability and reuse as “critical in increasing overall efficiency” in resource use.
Utilise second-hand offerings
You should remember that you don’t NEED to splurge on brand new items. If money is an issue, check out your local charity store. Essentially, work towards the circular economy, which is where everything is re-used and nothing is wasted.
And if you’re too much of a snob to do this, it might be wise to remember the words of Coco Chanel. “Elegance, does not necessarily consist of putting on a new dress.”
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McLaren, D., S. Bullock, and N. Yousuf. 1998. Tomorrow’s world. London: Earth scan.