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How to reduce the impact of your clothes on the environment

It’s easy to take the clothes we wear everyday for granted, but they – like everything else – have an impact on the environment. But there are ways we can reduce that, by choosing what we wear, by looking after it, and by changing the way we look after it too.

1. Wash on a lower temperature

Most washing machines now are so effective, and detergent is much better, that clothes can be effectively washed on a lower temperature. By switching your washing machine down to 30 degrees, the machine doesn’t have to use as much energy heating up the water. It’s also often less harsh on clothing fabric, so your clothes will look better and last longer too. Win win!

Image of hand turning washing machine temperature dial to 30 degrees
Turn your washing machine down to 30 degrees and save energy

2. Use a biodegradable detergent

Choose a detergent that isn’t harmful to the environment. The water from your washing machine will wash out into the sewerage system, then after treatment into the water system. Even with treatment, it has the potential to harm wildlife and aquatic eco systems, so reduce the impact it has by choosing something that’s planet friendly.

3. Use a Guppy Friend washing bag for synthetic fibre fabrics

With the news that microplastic fibres have been found in freshly fallen snow in Antartica, it’s clear that plastic is polluting every part of our planet. A lot of microplastic is in the form of tiny fibres that have washed off clothes made of synthetic – which often means plastic- or hydrocarbon-based – fibres. Things like polyester and fleece, for example.

Guppybags are very fine mesh bags that you put your synthetic-fibre clothes into, then put the whole bag in the washing machine. The clothes wash perfectly, and the bag traps and captures the synthetic fibres to stop them entering the water system.

 


Guppy Friend washing bag
Using a Guppy Friend wash bag can reduce microplastic particle from clothes getting into the water

 

4. Don’t buy lots of jeans

Or rather, if you buy jeans, make sure you’re getting a good pair or two, rather than buying lots and lots of different pairs. This is because denim fabric requires a HUGE amount of water and energy to be produced. To make one pair of jeans, it takes 7,500 litres of fresh water! So choose wisely, and make them last.

5. Repair your clothes

If your favourite trousers have a hole in the knee, or you’ve got a rip in your favourite shirt or jacket, don’t just throw them away. Think about what you can do to fix them. How about a patch, or a few little stitches – they’ll still be perfectly fine to use, you don’t need to buy a new one, and that means fewer resources are being used. In fact, many shops and brands are now offering repair services so you can get your kit patched up.

Or why not make the repair a feature? Choose a colourful patch, use different coloured thread for stitching, and you’ll make your clothing more unique and more your own.

Image of an Alpkit jacket with repair patches
Clothing can be repaired so it’s good as new, or the repair can be a feature like with this Alpkit jacket

6. Buy secondhand where you can

There are lots of places where you can get secondhand clothes. Charity shops, eBay, Vinted – it’s so much easier today to find exactly what you are looking for, and it again lessens the environmental impact of each garment.

Or you can go DIY – why not organise regular clothes swaps with your friends, or at your school, university or work place. A clothes jumble can be a great way to find new items, get rid of things you no longer wear, and save precious resources too!

7. Rent your clothes

No, we’re not joking! If you’ve got a big event or a posh do to go to, rather than splurging on a pricy outfit that you may only use once or twice, why not rent one. There are LOADS of amazing clothes rental companies that mean you could get some really swanky clothing, or even designer clothing, to wear and have fun in, without having to spend money, AND while saving resources. What’s not to love!?

And it’s not just posh frocks – some companies are now offering this with outdoor equipment and clothing, which is also very expensive. So now if you want to go on a hiking adventure, you could just rent your rucksack, tent, waterproof jacket and trousers.

A selection of Ecover laundry liquid bottles
Opt for an environmentally friendly laundry detergent

8. Buy fewer clothes

Fast fashion is a term that describes clothes that take catwalk trends and produce clothes very cheaply and quickly. In practice, it means access to lots of clothes that people buy and may only wear once or twice, and can often get into the habit of doing. The problem with this is that firstly the clothes are often produced in an environmentally unfriendly way, and can also mean that the people who produce the clothes are paid a fair wage.

Secondly, it can cultivate a wasteful attitude to clothing where we only wear things a few things and are always looking for the next new thing. Instead, try and get into the habit of choosing your clothes careful. Pick things you really love, that you’ll wear again and again, that are made well and made ethically, and that can be repaired. It’s better for people, for the planet, and for you too in the long run.

A collage of women wearing jeans by Lucy and Yak
Lucy and Yak are a great example of a clothing company that have good ethical and environmental credentials

9. Buy from ethical brands

When you buy your clothes, try to find brands that are clear about their environmental, social and ethical standpoint. Many brands will have an ‘eco range’ – quite often, this is a case of ‘green washing’, where a brand does a small environmentally friendly action in order to be perceived as ‘green’ but in fact it’s overall business practices aren’t very environmentally friendly, or can even be damaging. Look for brands that are reducing waste, use natural dyes, use less water, produce their clothes in an ethical way with manufacturers being paid fairly and working in safe conditions.

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