It’s no secret that the fashion industry leaves a big footprint on the planet, and as a result, we have seen a rising trend in consumer awareness of the impact of our spending choices. More accessible information has invited increased pressure for brands to step up and do better.
So, while brands are at work looking at the part they play in all of this, what can we as consumers do to contribute? A lot can be said for some catchy alliteration at the core of this shift that can help you get started: reduce, reuse, repair, and resale. Ready?
The benefits this ‘R’ brings are countless and the rewards can be felt instantly. Although a challenge (and often a gradual process), the act of decluttering has been around for years, especially as we learn the horrible impact consumerism is having on the planet, people, and animals.
A prominent figure in the area of decluttering and reduction is Marie Kondo, whose principles and philosophy offer a useful starting point to reducing your spending habits and your wardrobe, all while offering great tips for how to keep it organised and ensure you can utilise everything you already own. You therefore will reduce what you feel the need to buy.
This is vital in reducing your fashion footprint, with thousands of tonnes of clothing ending up in landfill everyday. Not only will you reap the benefits of the savings you will accrue and the space you will create, but a big bonus is the decision fatigue you will avoid along the way.
This has been true for various successful figures, including Barack Obama, who only ever wears grey or blue suits as a way to focus his “decision making energy”. Reducing becomes much bigger than just fashion and your wardrobe—it will have you looking at other areas of your life, too.
A useful question to pose to yourself is: “When did I last wear this?”. The answer should help to determine if the garment has served its purpose, and to decipher what should stay and what should go. And when we say go, we don’t mean into landfill, but giving to a friend or donating to the local charity drop off (see the Resale part of this article for more information!)
The waste implications of fashion are a major area of concern, and a huge contributor to the constant polluting of our planet. A recent study outlined that 95% of the textiles that end up in landfill each year could be recycled (particularly with increasing technological developments). The fashion industry is also one of the most intensive in terms of resource use such as water, waste, land clearing, materials, and more. Yikes.
With this in mind, reusing is essential to minimising your fashion footprint. Luckily, there are a number of ways it can be a fun and easy shift in mentality. Once you have reduced your wardrobe and your shopping frequency—and know exactly what you have—you can try out new pairings and look for creative ways to, for example, bring back that favourite item that’s been gathering dust for 6 months!
A big part of this puzzle is buying better quality clothing that is made to last—garments that you will wear again and again. Essentially, following a slow fashion approach rather than the ever troublesome fast fashion, which is a huge contributor to the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Resources like Good On You provide a perfect launch pad for accessing garments that will serve you for longer, while trusting they are sourced responsibly and not harmful to the planet, people, or animals.
Reusing can also encompass participating in clothing swaps with friends as another great way to have fun while utilising what you have in your wardrobe (or what your bestie has in theirs). Swapping something out with a friend every few months will give your old clothes a sense of novelty, while also supporting your friends to reduce and reuse as well.
If you are up for a challenge, Project 333 is a great initiative to shift your behaviour and really delve into the reuse part of this process.
Repairing, restoring, and salvaging is something previous generations knew all too well—but has this handy pastime been jeopardised by a changed approach to fashion and consumerism? This step is where lowering your fashion footprint gets creative, and presents a chance for you to channel your inner grandma for innovative ways to patch, stitch, and extend the life of your garment.
Repairing can be as simple as sewing up a hole, or as dedicated as taking your shoes to a professional cobbler for new soles.
Both these examples don’t take more than 20 minutes, and could add 2+ years to the lifespan of a clothing item! What this approach mainly does is generate a new life for your fashion items, all while saving you the money and time it would have taken to replace them. Getting yourself a compact sewing kit to have on hand is a necessity, and once you get into the habit, you will find yourself whipping it out more than you initially thought. You will also find yourself thinking through ways your can repair things, from patches to professional alterations. For example, transforming an older style dress into a trendy top. This also feeds into the saving benefits from this part of your fashion footprint overhaul!
Found some items you are ready to say goodbye to? Not to worry—selling your second hand goods is easier and more accessible than ever.
There are numerous online platforms where you can sell your clothes second hand (or new!) such as eBay, Gumtree, and a popular one for fashion, Facebook Marketplace.
Uploading photos takes 5 minutes, and it’s a great way to make some extra coin, while keeping within the minimal fashion footprint framework (after all, we don’t want this minimising process to add more clothing to landfill!).If online is not your vibe, then hosting a market stall or a good old yard sale is a great alternative. Who knows, you might even meet some like minded folks in the process!
Considering these tips and the fun task ahead, making commitments or challenges for yourself is a useful way to keep motivated and committed to this process.
And don’t forget: there is a lot to be said for the positive impact individuals can have by addressing their own habits to reduce their fashion footprint. Enjoy!