10 ways to reduce your wardrobe carbon footprint in 2022

New year, are you new? Do not be silly. The only decisions you need to make this year are on those who serve the planet. In the face of mounting news of wildfires, droughts, floods, hurricanes, and melting ice shelves, most of us (except for oil giants and governments, it seems) want to deal gently with the environment as we approach 2022. It can be hard to know how to do so with Continuing to design, create, purchase and participate in fashion; An industry that is often – and rightly – identified as the main cause of environmental collapse.

With that in mind, whether you’re thinking about how to shop better, or you’re a designer struggling to understand the puzzle of sustainability, here are 10 ways you can start the new year with planet Earth in mind.

1. Use what is already there

It is estimated that between 80 billion and 150 billion pieces of clothing are manufactured each year. Sure, there’s a serious gap between these two numbers, but whichever one you choose, this is a lot of clothing made for a planet where fewer than 8 billion people live. Of course, this is just clothing – not taking into account the many numbers of fabric produced each year that are either wasted by shredding or simply not made into wearable pieces.

The world is at bursting point with already amazing fabrics and clothing, so it makes more ecological sense to use what is already there rather than putting more pressure on new, pristine resources. Get inspired by those who have taken more innovative approaches. Duran Lantink pastes and stitches unworn clothes into new creations. Nicole McLaughlin makes clothing and accessories from tennis balls, Haribo bags, and everything in between. American design house Collina Strada blends dead fabrics and innovative biomaterials. Then there’s The Revival and The Slum Studio, who use their design skills and creativity to recycle waste clothing left on their doorstep by the colonial practice of dumping clothes from the cosmopolitan north at the Kantamanto Market in Accra.

2. Borrowing and swapping

Using what is already there applies to the clothing industry, not just the clothing itself. When you don’t have the right piece for a particular occasion, or if you simply want to try a new look, our first instinct is often to buy something new to complete it. However, the ideal item would probably be sitting in someone else’s wardrobe. Ask friends and family if you could borrow something you love (and be prepared to give back in the spirit of the sharing economy), attend or even organize a community clothing exchange event, or try one of the new raft of peer-to-peer sharing apps. Nuw allows you to exchange clothes with other users, while By Rotation is the social rental app that allows you to rent items directly from other people’s wardrobes. Even designer stores like Selfridges are getting into this space.

3. Create what you sell

The burning, destruction and landfilling of unsold waste proves that fashion is overproducing. To simplify why this happens (more than): Brands basically risk guessing how many units they can sell and manufacture accordingly, often with the result that they have billions of pounds of unsold stock. Perhaps, if you are a fashion retailer, the simplest way to avoid this is to reconsider how you use fashion to work and simply make what you sell.

Working with a bespoke business model not only reduces waste and conserve resources, it means that you can offer customized options such as made-to-measure sizes or custom colors, further personalizing the relationship between the garment and its wearer. On-demand makes a lot of sense for small batch makers, but even if you’re looking to expand, you can still use the form. Thanks to innovations in manufacturing technology, there are now plenty of factories that provide service as well.

4. Rescue

67% of consumers say high prices are a deterrent when it comes to buying sustainable products, and fast fashion brands capitalize on the perception that sustainability is unsustainable by saying that they democratize fashion through “accessible” products. It is clear that everyone needs clothes, not only to keep warm, but in order to feel a sense of self-expression and social acceptance. However, we are buying more than ever, and throwing away more than ever, which suggests that we often buy more than we really need – or actually wear.

The average British shopper spends £40 a month shopping for clothes online, so if your income allows you to, instead of buying tons of cheap items that you only wear a few times, save up one piece – or a few essentials that will do. treasure forever. However, if you don’t have the surplus income to save, and buy fast fashion because that’s what you can afford, you never have to feel guilty for working with what you have. We can make changes in ways that go beyond our shopping cart.

5. Think about the end of life

The fashion industry rarely thinks about the end of life, such as what happens to a product when it breaks or the consumer dies. That’s why we see clothes piling up all over the world. Extended Product Responsibility rules try to change this by making producers responsible for disposing of their products. But while some brands spend money on the problem, there are much more creative solutions out there.

The key is to ask yourself a few questions during the design process. Can this easily be disassembled? Can this be turned into something else? Am I willing to take this back when my client is done with it? Am I just adding to the waste problem? From there you can elicit the answers. Get inspiration from Fixing Fashion and create online tutorials to transform your clothes into something new, resell unwanted clothes that are returned to you, or design your own pieces to be easily disassembled for reuse and recycling, and skip things like adhesives and mixed materials. .

6. Make things with multiple uses

Most people buy by occasion or use; For example, a sequin dress for a party or a shopping bag for shopping. The need for multiple things to accommodate our lifestyles only speeds up consumption, so consider how you can design products that meet more than one need. Specializing in clothing that grows with children, Petit Pli has expanded into adult clothing to accommodate maternity wear and changing sizes. Meanwhile, Emre Pakel makes trenchers, pants, and dresses that can be turned into bags.

Push the limits of your model-cutting and design skills to develop adaptable, modular, versatile pieces that will see users through many events and life stages, reducing the need to constantly buy new things.

7. Experiment with biomaterials

“Everything you earn comes back to the Earth as food or poison,” says Celine Semaan of the Slow Factory, and if you’re working with synthetics based on fossil fuels that eventually go to landfill, the latter is more likely. It is estimated that synthetics will grow from 69% to 73% of total fiber production globally by 2030, with polyester accounting for 85%.

We’re at a point where we need to leave fossil fuels in the ground, and fortunately, there’s a whole host of exciting new bio-fabrics and fibers to experiment with. Collina Strada uses a rose plant made from waste rose bushes and stems; Nike and Chanel used Piñatex, a “leather” made from the fibers of pineapple leaves; Stella McCartney made a coordinator from the skin of a lab-grown mushroom. And Vollebak developed a T-shirt made of algae.

If none of these appeal to you, you can try crystals made from human sweat, spider silk-inspired threads, or fabrics made from a modest orange.

8. Make the user your first choice

As mentioned earlier, billions and billions of pieces of clothing are made every year, which means that if you’re keeping an eye on something new, it’s possible that an exact copy of it already exists somewhere in the world. Given that fashion runs in cycles and pretty much everything is just a repetition of something that went before, why not buy the original instead of the modern-day version?

The presence of charity stores, Depop, Vinted, eBay, Antique Stores, Vestiaire Collective, and TheRealReal, as well as a host of privately-branded resale platforms from the likes of Mara Hoffman and Levi’s, means there’s an option for all budgets. Before you click to buy something completely new, do a survey of used pallets. It might take a little longer, but it will take the pressure off the planet and will probably save you some money too.

9. Provide the service as a product

Service as a product (often shortened to SaaP) is a central tenet of the circular economy because it replaces the production of new goods. Of course, making things is the goal of many creative people, but services can be both creative and fulfilling.

Helen Kirkum introduces “SaaP” with its Legacy line, taking customers’ prized sneakers and assembling them into a completely new and unique pair. Fashion rental is “SaaP”, and so is clothing repair. Selling patterns in place of clothes, hosting workshops, teaching people how to sew, embroider or crochet, and customizing existing clothes or accessories are all services that require skill and creativity but do not require making and selling new products. Serving doesn’t make you less of a designer or a creator than someone who manufactures – you just take a different path.

10. Don’t do anything literally

The great thing about caring for the environment is that sometimes the less you do, the bigger your impact. As Ursula de Castro of Fashion Revolution said, “The most sustainable clothes are the ones you already have in your wardrobe.” So, instead of buying second-hand or sustainably made clothes, you can… buy absolutely anything. It’s easy, cheap and will help you completely re-evaluate your relationship to clothing and consumption.

Buying anything may seem overkill (and there may be some absolute necessities you just can’t do without) but buying too often is a recent invention normalized by brands that want your money. It takes no time, money, and effort, making it the easiest action you could hope to take.

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