how your clothing helps the planet
Sustainable Living

How Your Clothing Helps the Planet: 5 Easy Changes

Krista and I have been spending time looking at different areas of our lives where we can take personal action and help the planet. The recent IPCC Report on climate change was fairly overwhelming, so we wanted to check in and dive a little deeper on a few areas.

We’ve looked at a few areas of our lives so far, such as our food choicesenergy choices, and even our internet use choices. This week I’m looking at how our clothing helps (or harms) the planet and some choices we can make.

Shopping Malls. A haven for fast fashion
Shopping malls are a haven for fast fashion brands.
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

The Problem with Fashion

The fast fashion industry has sold us on the idea that we constantly need new items in our closets and an updated wardrobe every week. With such easy access to cheap and changing fashions, it became a fashion faux pas to wear an outfit more than once.

The entire concept of fast fashion is to make fashion trends quickly and to make them available for cheap prices. While the cost on our pocket books is low, the cost on the planet from this cycle of behaviour is high.

Fast Fashion Harms our Planet

There are a ton of statistics out there outlining the travesty that is the fashion industry. It can be no surprise, however, that an industry whose survival is based on continual consumption would produce waste and harm our planet.

A few realities of this harm to our planet are:

1. Studies estimate that two-thirds of China’s rivers and lakes have been polluted by textile factories.
2. Greenhouse gas emissions from textile production is more than the total emissions of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
3. Microplastics are a major source of ocean pollution and are causing major damage to marine life. 1/4 of microplastics in the ocean come from synthetic textiles.

Fast Fashion Harms People

Fast fashion is often made not only at the expense of the environment, but also the expense of labourers who make the clothes. Intersectional Environmentalism has taught us that social justice has to be a part of our environmental conversations.

Consider this: A living wage is a recognized human right, yet it is denied to most of the estimated 80 million workers in the global fashion industry.

When we consider that a fast fashion brand sells a t-shirt for under $5, it makes sense that they will cut their costs in other areas. This tends to be at the expense of their garment workers. Not only are garment workers paid very little, but they are forced to work in sub-par conditions.

In 2013, over 1,100 people died and approximaately 2,500 were injured in the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory. This tragedy exposed the horrible working conditions garment workers were subjected to and launched the #whomademyclothes movement. This tragedy happened 8 years ago, but poor working conditions and low wages are still a reality today.

For example, in June 2020, Boohoo Group and others were exposed for using a UK factory in Leicester with poor working conditions that exposed workers to Covid-19 and paid workers only 2-3 GBP/hour. Boohoo Group, the main clothing company using this factory, has been repeatedly asked to improve working conditions for their factory workers but have been non compliant.

Sustainable fashion brand Elk and Ina is a great choice to make so your clothing helps the planet
Read more about sustainable fashion brand Elk and Ina in our post here.

5 Easy Changes so Your Clothing Helps the Planet

Shopping sustainable clothing brands is a great thing, but I want to look at some actionable ideas that don’t cost money (or at least don’t cost a lot).

1. Be an outfit repeater

Wear your clothes longer. Proudly embrace and love your wardrobe. Mix and match your items. Wear that flattering outfit again. And again. Studies estimate that the average garment is only worn 10 times before it’s tossed. Don’t be average.

2. Buy less

A large part of a sustainable lifestyle is knowing when to say no to a purchase. Fast fashion has sold us on the idea that we need to continuously be updating our wardrobe, but this is not true! Shop your own closet before heading to the store and see if you can skip a purchase all together. Wearing your own clothing helps the planet more than going out and buying new items–even if those items are sustainable.

3. Buy second hand

If you do need to buy new clothes, try shopping second hand. From thrift stores to eBay, the options for buying second-hand clothing are numerous. Give new life to some pre-loved fashion and extend the life of these garments. One garbage truck of textiles ends up in the landfill every second. Buying second hand clothes keeps items out of landfills and reduces the environmental impact of the garment.

4. Wash your clothes less (and hang them to dry)

Frequently laundering your clothes will not only cause them to wear out, but will also release microfibers into our waterways and environment. Washing synthetic fibers is a known cause of microplastics that are found in our oceans. Even natural textiles are known to release microfibers that can be damaging to our environment when tumble dried. Wash your clothes less to keep them in better shape and to save the planet from microplastics.

5. Repair instead of replace

Don’t be scared of a fabric tear or a loose button. Get out a needle and thread and mend your garments instead of tossing them. If your sewing skills are non-existent, check with friends or a local tailor. Extending the life of your clothes by just three months significantly decreases that garment’s carbon footprint. Lowering your garments carbon footprint ensures your clothing helps our planet.

[Related: Visible Mending: What’s Old Can be New Again]

Sustainable fashion brand Leze the Label is a great choice to make so your clothing helps the planet
Read more about sustainable fashion brand LEZÉ the Label in our post here

Read More About How your Clothing Helps the Planet

We’ve talked a lot about clothing on our blog and the reason for that is your clothing choices matter. From the content of our clothing’s fabric to how the clothing is made and an abundance other factors, our clothing helps or hurts the planet.

Read more about the topics by checking out these posts:

Plastic in our Clothing

In this post we look at different types of fabrics, at how plastic sneaks into our clothing, and what we can do about it. Paying attention to different types of textiles and plastic content is a choice you can make to ensure your clothing helps the planet. Find the post here: Plastic in our Clothing

Sustainable Fashion Series

In this series of posts, we not only look at some facts about fast fashion, but also some amazing sustainable clothing brands. We interview the founders of small start ups and established brands, such as Akinda Co and fairechild, all of whom are trying to make our clothing choices better for the earth. Shopping sustainable brands is a great way to ensure your clothing helps the planet. Find the series here: Sustainable Fashion Series

Plastic Free Laundry Routine

In this post we look at how to care for your clothes in a sustainable way. Plastic seems to appear everywhere in our households and the laundry room is no exception. There are choices we can make to reduce plastic in our laundry routines and make better choices for the environment. Find the post here: Plastic Free Laundry Routine

What Will You do Next?

While fashion can be a huge problem for the planet, our personal clothing choices are within our control. It is possible that our clothing helps the planet if we pay attention to our actions.

What clothing choices do you make to ensure your clothing helps instead of harms the planet?

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  • lynnmumbingmejia

    Love this post! I do admit to purchasing from fast fashion shops but I buy basic clothing so I don’t need to buy so many items and just mix and match like a capsule wardrobe. It is really sad to see the big hauls that people post for “content”. I simply purchase cheaper clothing for budget reasons. I am definitely an outfit repeater and will be forever! I also repurpose my clothes like turning warm leggings into bike shorts, old dresses into two piece sets, scrunchies, shirts etc. Thanks for sharing! x

    Lynn |

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      I love hearing all of the things you do to transform and get more life out of your clothes! That’s so amazing! I feel it’s super important to understand that people need to shop fast fashion for a number of different reasons. I definitely understand the budgeting aspect for clothes. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • readandreviewit1

    Fab tips! I’m definitely an outfit repeater haha, I don’t see the point of having loads and loads of different outfits. Although saying that, I probably still need to work on buying a bit less – I often pick up random pieces when I’m out that I know I won’t wear regularly, so I really need to work on that. Thank you so much for sharing, this was a really informative post x

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      I feel the same way about being an outfit repeater 🙂
      Thanks for sharing your experience! I feel we all have little areas like you mention where we can grow and make changes.

  • Jaya Avendel

    I had no idea the average time a piece of clothing is worn is as low as 10! I have t-shirts in fine condition I have had for years and, once something is too old to wear, I keep it around to exercise in. Mixing and matching my clothes too always makes me feel like I am wearing some new.

    Love that you share some of the statistics behind why fast fashion is such a problem and some fine ways we can be beyond average, wear our clothes longer, and buy more responsibly. 🙂

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      10 is a crazy low number to me too. I have clothes I wear regularly that are probably 10 years old. I think the low number is likely because of the low quality of fast fashion, which makes it last very few washes.

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience and thoughts! 🙂

  • Her Digital Coffee

    This is a great and informative post. I like the idea of repairing instead of replacing. With fast fashion, it’s so easy to look for something new, but it’s important to remember that there are other sustainable options to consider. Thanks for sharing!

  • cosmicTaryn

    You have such a lovely blog! The aesthetic is very pleasing.

    You highlight a very important topic here. I hope that many more people become cognizant of the choices they make and how it impacts the Earth. We only have one home right now and it is our duty to do right by it, even if that means inconvenience for us in the short term.

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thank you so much! That’s very kind of you to say 🙂

      I hope people become more aware as well and become more willing to make those changes. Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  • Elle

    I love this post! I actually do the majority of these things, especially re-wearing clothes! I think this is so important and I love that people can come to your blog and read more about this. Thank you so much for sharing Xo

    Elle –

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thank you Elle! That’s so awesome you do most of these things already! It makes such a huge difference for our planet 🙂

  • crystalsandcurls

    So much YES in one post! I’ve been thrifting and shopping at sustainable brands for the past few years, but I’ve only realised the importance of fabrics and micro plastics recently. I think it was actually a post of yours that brought it to my attention 🙂 Since then, I’ve been being more mindful about fabrics I purchase too x

  • Vourneen

    Yes to all of this! I recently wrote a post about fast fashion brands and how awful the employees are treated and the affect on our planet. I watched The True Cost where they talk about the factory collapse and it shocked me. I think we need to keep posting information like this because many people just aren’t aware! Myself included until recent years. Great post!

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thanks so much Vourneen! I agree we need to keep sharing as people are still learning about the truths behind the fashion industry. That’s so awesome you’ve shared on your blog about it too 🙂

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

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