Are you a fashion enthusiast finding it difficult to reconcile your shopping habits with your concern for the planet? There is a way you can meld both worlds – and these 3 Aussies know just the trick. Here are their simple tips to get you living in style, without costing the earth.
Our fast-fashion addiction is one of the biggest drivers of pollution, with findings showing it’s to blame for 10% of global carbon emissions. We’ve got 100 billion clothing garments produced each year, and of that number a whopping 92 million tonnes wind up in landfill. But this wasteful industry is showing no signs of slowing with a predicted 50% increase of the fashion industry’s global emissions by 2030 on the cards. One of the concerning factors is the shrinking number of times we’re reusing our clothes, with research showing the amount of times we wear an item of clothing has decreased by 36% in a mere 15 years. Currently, the stats show the average person is wearing their clothes just 10 times before ditching it.
The other issues that come with this excessive production and consumption of clothing is the chemicals used and the impact they have on our environment. Dying is a particularly insidious element of the production process, with the colours, dyes and chemicals used in the finishing stage taking a 3% slice of the global emissions output and 20% of the world’s water pollution. Consider this – just one kilo of cotton requires 20, 000 litres of water to make, meaning that one shirt you bought might have used up 2700 litres of water that could have hydrated a person for nearly 3 years! So, when we buy and toss clothes like they’re going out of style – well, with the feverish pace of fast-fashion, they really are going out of style! – we might not think about the excess resources that we’re pouring down the drain. But it doesn’t have to be this way – for all of the eco-conscious fashion fanatics out there, we’ve compiled the tried-and-true tips and tricks to scoring a quality buy without leaving the planet worse off.
Buy from thrift shops
Victoria Lewis, 37, is a long-time thrifter. She says she steers clear of fast fashion stores as a rule, declaring her closet a thrift-only zone.
“I haven’t bought clothes from a first-hand retailer in nearly two decades,” says the sales administrator, adding, “other than undergarments, of course.”
No arguments there! Jokes aside, when consumers – especially fashion enthusiasts – opt for second hand stores like thrift shops, op shops and charity shops, they prevent a great deal of unnecessary waste. Instead of new clothes winding up in landfill after just a few uses – after all, fast fashion isn’t known for its quality – pre-loved clothes destined for the rubbish heap gets new life breathed into it. Plus, you never know what you might find at a second-hand store; many a Vinnies has been graced by designer items with these classic Sex and the City Manolo shoes selling for just $35 at a humble Canberra store – keep in mind the original price for these shoes is an eye-watering $2, 125. Some shoppers like Victoria find second-hand to be better quality than their newer counterparts.
“The clothes you’ll find at the big brands might be cheap and in-season, but they fall apart after a wash or two. The cost adds up and so much of it gets thrown away,” she says. “But at thrift and vintage stores I find high-quality pieces and things you’d never get at a general retailer, I adore 80s blazers and some of those pieces are in impeccable condition.”
Buy from sustainable stores
While buying your clothes second-hand is a great way to prevent those items from getting tossed into landfill, there are ways to reduce your impact on the environment when shopping for first-hand clothes. Christine Pan, Sydney-based composer and musician, opts for stores with a strong reputation for eco-friendly materials, packaging and ethical policies. She says her passion for clothing doesn’t have to be at odds with her care for the environment – and her solution is to vote with her feet.
“I love shopping sustainable fashion brands such as Princess Highway and Dangerfield,” Christine says.
As a musical artist, the Christine Pan Music founder knows how to combine creativity and style with sustainability – and she proves that it is indeed possible to merge both concepts.
“Fashion businesses that prioritise both the environment and the “edgy” aesthetics brings a youthful and vibrant energy to my self-expression as a musician," she says.
Remember, if you’re looking to be the first to wear your pants, be sure to do your due diligence in researching a sustainable and ethical brand.
Set a limit
One of the best ways to take care of the planet – and your wallet – is to write yourself out a limit of clothing items. Our IQS social media manager, Grace Martin, has a few nifty tips for keeping your clothing choices sustainable and affordable.
"I set a limit for 10 pieces of clothes each year, and the only way I'll exceed that number is if I sell an item of clothing first,” Grace says.
The sustainable business owner says it was her experience in the fashion world that led her to this simple trick to limiting purchases.
“My friend created this idea, as we have been working in the fashion industry for many years and both witness the crazy conditions of the factories,” she says. “This was a simple way to help reduce the consumer's impact on the planet.”
Her sustainable footwear brand, Lost Sols, is leading the way in the fashion industry when it comes to ethics and environmental consciousness. These shoes are made up entirely of recycled, reused or repurposed materials to put a stop to the 800, 000 tonnes of clothing Aussies toss out every year. A whopping 95% of these materials are not recyclable, that’s why brands like Lost Sols are changing the sustainability game that has long-been monopolised by fast fashion brands.
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