Tim Hunt, editor of Ethical Consumer magazine, takes a look at sustainable fashion and suggests some alternatives to hitting the high street for the perfect holiday outfit.
With an exciting new trip on the horizon, it’s easy to get swept up in shopping frenzy while advertisers draw us in with promises of the next new holiday look. We certainly like our fashion. In the UK alone, consumers buy 1,130,000 tonnes of clothing a year. But shockingly, according to Barnados, each garment is only worn an average of seven times before it is discarded. This fashion fix is short lived, but it doesn’t have to be this way, and can’t be if we want to travel sustainably.
Across the developed world we have a problem with fast fashion: cheap pieces in the style of the moment that aren’t built to last. After a few wears, most of this fashion makes it way out of our houses in household waste, most being sent to landfill or incinerated, only to be replaced with yet more clothing. This harmful circle of overproduction and waste contributes to global warming, releases poisonous chemicals into the environment and fuels poor working conditions for textiles manufacturers in developing countries.
It’s time to slow down. Here are 5 ways to a sustainable suitcase:
- Take stock and save – do you already have what you need and can you make do with what you have? Although a new outfit makes us feel great, it isn’t new for long and you might already have something that does the job just as well.
- Swap – there are loads of swapping initiatives popping up all over Europe and the US. For a small charge, you can take your unwanted clothes and simply swap them for another item. Cheap and cheerful. Or for a completely free alternative, simply arrange your own swapping session with friends.
- Shop second-hand – by browsing the racks in charity shops, you’ll not only be picking up bargains you’ll also be supporting a good cause. If the statistics are anything to go by, the clothes will be hardly worn.
- Get sewing – think about whether you can mend your clothes. Fix holes and add new fastenings and your outfit will be as good as new, at a fraction of the cost.
- Buy durable – if you do need something new, then buy good quality items that are built to last, and then wear them lots. To prolong the life of your clothes, line dry rather than tumble dry, wash at low temperatures and iron less.
If you do need a new item, there are increasing number of sustainable and ethical brands offering feel good clothing:
1. People Tree for 100% Fair Trade clothing, with natural, organic fabrics chosen over chemically-produced manmade fibres.
2. Nudie Jeans for 100% Fair Trade and organic jeans and a wide selection of second-hand items. They also offer a free repair service for all new jeans and a 20% discount if you trade in an old pair.
3. Annie Greenabelle for a combination of organically grown, recycled and reclaimed fabrics.
4. Beyond Retro for quirky vintage pieces and an own label made entirely from reclaimed material.
5. Know the Origin for 100% organic materials and selected Fair Trade items, as well as a transparent and fair supply chain.
You can send your old clothes travelling too. When you finally need to part ways with a garment, make sure to give it the best journey possible. Charity shops should accept all types of clothing, for reselling in the shop or export to another country. Anything not suitable for resale can be collected for recycling, with the charity receiving a payment. Although textile recycling is still in its infancy, there are some good tracks being made to produce quality clothing from this process.
You can find Ethical Consumer magazine at www.ethicalconsumer.org. For more information on sustainable and ethical fashion, check out Ethical Consumer’s guide.