With December on our doorstep and our social calendar filling up with lots of lovely festive events it’s time to start thinking about what we’re going to wear to the Christmas work party, the numerous family gatherings and of course the New Years Eve party. And whilst it’s likely that everyone’s first choice would be to go out and buy a new sparkly dress, when you hear that the UK sends 350,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill every year, you may start to question whether perhaps we should all be making more sustainable fashion choices during the festive season.
I’m sure we’d all like to do our bit, after all small changes lead to big changes. However, our perception may be such that we believe that sustainable clothing ranges are more expensive and that they aren’t as on trend as the high street brands we’re used to.
Whilst that may have been the case a few years back, these days our knowledge and passion for protecting our beautiful planet has grown, and so sustainable fashion is about as en vogue as you can possibly get. We are much more likely to choose fairtrade and ethical brands. We pay more attention to the materials our clothes are made of. And we are more conscientious about buying ‘slow fashion’ that is durable both in the quality of the garment itself as well as in terms of how long we are likely to wear it for.
But it’s not just about buying wisely, there are also other things we can do to make our fashion choices more sustainable. We take a look at the ways in which you can look great during the festive season and help lessen the effects on the environment in the process.
Know Your Fabrics
If you are going to buy something new, then it’s all about doing your research not only into the company you are buying from, but perhaps more importantly, the material the clothes have been made from. The vast majority of clothes are made from oil based, man made materials, such as polyester. Now the problem with this is that when those clothes end up in landfill, and remember most of them do, the oil in the materials doesn’t decompose, which means it’s there – forever. And even if they were to be burnt, harmful gases are released into the atmosphere causing a whole heap of environmental problems.
Then there’s the plastic problem. Polyester, nylon and acrylic are all essentially plastic. The sparkly sequins, glitter embellishments, zips, buttons, jewels etc. All plastic. And oh my goodness the microfibres in some of these fabrics. Teeny tiny microfibre plastic particles that come out of our clothes when we wash them, and eventually end up in our oceans, to be consumed by marine life, thus entering the food chain. Who knows what damage this is doing in the long term!
The good news is that there are lots of companies out there now who are making changes and doing something about this by championing natural products such as cotton and wool. The luxury British brand Celtic & Co are one such company who have made a stand to highlight the impact that some of the mass-produced clothing brands are having on the environment as a result of using synthetic fibres in their clothes. And whilst it is great that they are moving away from using man made fibres, ultimately the responsibility lies with the consumer to make good buying choices when it comes to fabric selection.
Buy Less But Buy Better
Moving on from this, if there is one phrase that should be embedded in our minds as we hit the shops, it’s to buy less but buy better. Yep, it’s the whole quality vs. quantity argument. We don’t need lots of cheap clothes that go out of fashion in the blink of an eye, that fall to bits after one wear, and that then lay festering at the bottom of our wardrobes. We should instead be focusing on spending our money on a few more expensive items that we can style in different ways and that are classically fashionable, thus always being ‘in’. There’s no question that more expensive clothes are better quality clothes and these last longer. Clothes that last longer are instantly less damaging to the environment as they remain fit for purpose – in our wardrobes and out of our landfill. One classic little black dress could last you years; you simply need to get clever with the accessories you wear with it.
The #30wearschallenge (there’s even an app to help you!) challenges consumers to ask the question ‘can you wear it 30 times?’ whenever they buy something new. This initiative encourages us to move away from fast fashion and instead invest in quality garments that stand the test of time and trends.
Look After the Clothes You Already Have
From how you wash your clothes to repairing or customising them when they start to look a bit worse for wear, we could all spend a bit more time looking after our existing clothes to help lower our need for more clothes. The clothes we wear have care labels for a reason and so it’s time to start paying attention to the symbols and information displayed on them. Keep washing temperatures low and only ever wash when you have a full load – this will help save water and energy. However, don’t go too far the other way and cram clothes in so they’re virtually bursting out of the door, as this will only damage your clothes and could result in rips or snagging. Always make sure zips and other fastenings are done up before placing in the washing machines and wash any smaller items inside a pillow case to prevent them getting lost or damaged. Expensive items may need specialist care and so a trip to the dry cleaners may be necessary every now and again to ensure your clothes are treated with the right cleaning method.
If an item of clothing does get a hole, wear through, rip, get bobbly etc., that doesn’t mean you should automatically go to throw it away. Have a go at fixing it yourself, or if you’re really not convinced of your sewing skills take it to a seamstress who will be able to make it good again. Likewise, just because a button has fallen off don’t see it as a problem, instead view it as a chance to customise something that is old into a newer updated version. And when your clothes have well and truly given up the ghost, take them along to a textile bank (they are usually found at most recycling centres and often in supermarket car parks) so that they can be recycled or repurposed rather than ending up as landfill.
Hit The Charity Shops And Go Vintage
Gone are the days when shopping in charity shops and wearing second hand clothes was reserved for students and hippies. Nowadays rooting around in charity shops is the very epitome of cool and can often dig up many a vintage treasure. Buying second-hand not only cuts down on manufacturing demands, but it also keeps clothes that have plenty of life left in them from heading to landfill and it raises money for worthy charities too. What’s not to like!?!
If you’re not so keen on trawling the charity shops on the high street, you can shop from the comfort of your own home on various apps and websites that sell secondhand and pre-loved clothing.
As well as buying second hand clothing you should also make sure to donate any clothes that no longer fit you or that you no longer wear, to increase their life cycle and again reduce the amount that ends up in landfill. Be sure to only donate clothes that are clean and fit to be worn. If you wouldn’t buy it yourself then you can’t expect others too.
Rent Your Party Wear
Occasion and party wear are the worst offenders when it comes to how little we wear them. Trends and seasons come and go and what might have been fashionable last year is highly unlikely to be ‘in’ a year later. Yes Christmas is all about the sparkle, but cuts and styles can change dramatically and often we get lulled into buying something new that we may only ever wear once. And social media platforms like Instagram have a lot to answer for, because as more and more of us post our #ootd (outfit of the day) pics which can be seen by hundreds, thousands, even millions of people, it means we simply can’t be seen in the same outfit twice.
Something had to be done. And it has, with specialist companies now offering clothing rental services to enable us to switch up our style with zero waste. This helps reduce the need for fast fashion and protects our bank balances in the process. Plus, when we change our buying habits by only buying key pieces and renting ‘special’ pieces, it saves space in our wardrobes and we can fully embrace clutter free living more easily. Fashion rentals are also a fantastic way to deal with temporary fashion needs, for example maternity clothing or even holiday outfits.
Have A Clothes Swap
Do you struggle to find anything to wear despite your wardrobe looking as though it contains the entire stock of some high street department store? According to a survey carried out by WeightWatchers it is estimated that UK shoppers own £10bn worth of clothes they don’t even wear. What on earth are we doing with them then!?!
Some no longer fit, but we hang onto them with the belief that one day we’ll get back in them. Some hold nostalgic value – that dress you used to wear clubbing, that jumper your mum knitted for you etc. Some even hang adorned with their tags, bought on impulse but never worn. Well it’s time we all got real, got decluttering and arranged a clothes swap with our friends. I mean it’s the perfect excuse for a girly night in, right?
To keep things fair ask people to bring the same number of items and check in advance what size people are so that you have a good mixture and to ensure everyone has at least one other person to swap with. Or you could make it easier by having an accessories swap instead, that way it is 100% a free for all. Elbows at the ready girls!
There are so many ways we can make sure the clothes we wear are more sustainable. We are responsible for our own decisions, our own actions and what we spend our money on and the choices available to us are becoming much wider. So before you click on the Pay Now button on your online order, think firstly whether you really truly need something new and if you do whether the company you are buying from follows ethical, fair trade and sustainable principles. It’s up to us to make a change.
Check out our Sustainable Christmas Gift Ideas to help your Christmas become even more eco-friendly!