I don’t know about you but I find it incredibly easy to give up on the idea of dressing ethically. Every now and then you and your friends muse briefly on the latest factory disaster in Asia or wonder in passing how Primark manages to make its clothes so cheap. It’s hard to know whether your clothes have been sewn for less than a penny by a child in a faraway land, and because you don’t know for sure, it’s easy to stay blissfully ignorant and give up assuming that all highstreets stores are morally bankrupt but that dressing ethically is only for those who can afford high priced sustainable fashion. The other side of the coin is those who assume that dressing in a sustainable fashion means being an unwashed hippy or dressing like an aging bohemian, sweeping around in swathes of fabric. Alas after a bit of research it seems it is actually possible to dress sustainably for less! Here are some ways to stretch that tight budget of yours for maximum gain to you and this little planet of ours.
Wash Clothes in an Environmentally Friendly Way
Sometimes washing clothes in certain ways can be more environmentally damaging than the actual manufacturing of them. Levis have discovered that 58% of their carbon emissions as a company come from their customers washing their jeans! They have now started advertising washing them at 30c, line drying and donating them when you’re done.
Another way to avoid the damage done to the environment in the washing of your clothes is, and hear me out here, washing them less! It’s true, most of us are inclined to chucking things that aren’t really dirty into the laundry basket at the end of the day, just a little bit of added thought could save you washing, could make your clothes last longer and help the environment. Instead of chucking things in the wash all the time, try spot cleaning stains and leaving things out to air (foody smells are terrible for ingraining but leaving them out of your wardrobe, or better on the washing line, gets rid of that perfectly fine.) Another thing which has the double benefit of supporting your laziness and being better for the environment is hanging clothes on coat hangers in a steamy shower room to get rid of smells and creases, works a treat!
Buy Quality Clothes you really like
As I’ve gotten older my dad’s fussiness with quality has rubbed off on me. I am now one of those annoying people who inspect garments to the nth degree before purchasing them. In my head, something might be a bargain but if it is already loose at the seams or had threads hanging from everywhere it ain’t going to last long and is not worth your pennies! Sometimes it’s worth really looking at the quality of something and thinking, is this going to fall apart after one wash or does it look a bit sturdier? Natural fabrics are often a good shout too, they can last longer and when binned they decompose, double whammy! Of course recycling is always the way to go! But just in case your piece of clothing ends up in a landfill somewhere down the line at least it isn’t going to ruin our pretty earth. Sometimes it’s worth paying a tinsy winsy bit more for something that looks like it might last. From my experience it is often the places who have amazing fashion street-cred that bang the price up but don’t care about the quality, not to name any names…
Use what you have (shock horror I know!)
Clothes take energy and resources to create so this constant heavy producing and consuming circle is not great for the planet. We are all guilty of neglecting some of our clothes, leaving them crying in the back of the cupboard. Get in your wardrobe, rifle about, and I’m sure you will find you have so much choice. With a bit of imagination, combining them in different ways and experimenting, we can revitalise our style helping us steer clear of the first world problem of having so many clothes and nothing to wear!
Make-do and Mend, Alter and Upcycle
It can be easy to get lazy and chuck things out the minute they break but try to resist and learn some little skills in the process. Learn how to do some simple stitches and it you will be sorted. Here is some idiot proof direction.
Altering clothes that don’t quite fit can be a useful skill and saves on waste (see ideas here) or even that new-fangled fashion of upcycling. Check out these fantastic before and after shots here! There is so much instruction out there on how to do these things. Google away my lovelies!!!
Bin Clothes Ethically
If the clothes you’re trying to ditch are wearable there is a million options; donate them to charity, a friend or a thrift shop, sell them online (ebay ahoy!) or at a car boot sale, or have a clothing swap. Clothing swaps or ‘swishes’ are the new thing, (well probably not that new, I tend to be behind on most things) and they are fantastic! There are lots of swishing sites out there for example swishing.co.uk and swap style to name a few. We had a great one at work, everyone came away with something and I managed to nab an Orla Kiely top with the tag still attached! WINNER! Still don’t know which crazy cat brought that in to swap! I hope it wasn’t an accident for their sake.
If your clothes are unwearable that is still no excuse to plop them in the wheelie bin as tempting as it is to avoid dragging bags to the tip. It really is worth getting rid of them properly. Not only are there clothes recycling bins which often get used for industrial rags but charity shops also have rag bags which they get money for from the rag trade meaning you are inadvertently raising money for charity by dropping off your duds.
Shop Second Hand
Give unloved clothes a second life it’s much less wasteful! The key with second hand clothes is that you have to put your laziness aside and trawl the rails or the website for diamonds in the rough. You must be patient, the good stuff will come!! There are some great options out there; charity, thrift and vintage shops are the obvious ones but there are also options online; ebay of course, but beyond that there are loads of great websites such as Etsy, Folksy, ASOS Marketplace and Beyond Retro. Also don’t forget about a cheeky car boot sale or raiding the clothes your friends are about to chuck. At university I spend many an hour raiding through bin bags of my friend Lois’s donations (she was a shopaholic basically, so a good friend to have around!) and still wear a lot of the things I pinched from her.
Of course you can’t avoid shopping forever for the sake of ethics! Perish the thought! But there is always more ethical choices out there. To explore some friendly fashion online and on the high street have a peruse of our other blog posts: Top Ethical High Street Retailers and Top Online Ethical Retailers. Happy shopping!
Katy is the newest addition to the Hello Eco Living Team. Based up North in sunny Newcastle, she loves exploring ethical fashion, beauty and is open to blogging about anything we throw her way. Katy is a little bundle of sunshine and you will usually hear her before you see her!