Sustainability, particularly environmental sustainability has become the buzzword of the decade for businesses, institutions and organisations. There has been an exponential growth in discussion around the topic as the impact of climate change is becoming ever more serious and action to mitigate and adapt to the changes is increasingly urgent.

Here we bring together an introduction to the environmental challenges of the fashion industry and how charity shops are a primary actor in the attempt to reduce the impact of fashion on the environment. We’ll show how to learn and be part of the slow fashion movement.

A few facts about the fashion industry:

  • Clothing manufacture and sales in the EU is the 4th largest pressure on our natural resources after housing, transport and food.These impacts occur at all stages of the clothing life cycle, from the production of the raw materials, and the creation of the garment, to how it is used and cared for, and finally discarded.
  • The World Bank estimates that 20% of industrial wastewater pollution worldwide originates from the textile industry. Some of these chemicals are classified as bio-accumulative and persistent, meaning that once in the environment, they will remain there for a long time.
  • Textile production uses around 93 billion cubic metres of water annually
  • Textile production produces an estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year.
  • This is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
    6.4 million tonnes of clothing consumed in the EU-28 in 2015 generated 195 million tonnes CO2 equivalent.
  • The clothing industry’s CO2 emissions are expected to rise to nearly 2.8 billion tonnes per year by 2030. These are the equivalent of emissions produced by nearly 230 million passenger vehicles driven for a year, assuming average driving patterns
  • In 2016, this process or ‘supply chain’ waste in the textile industry was estimated at over 800,000 tonnes. This came from cut offs, packaging, imperfect items and much more.

From the above information it is evidence that reducing our fashion’s environmental impact is vital to tackling issues of climate change. Through a host of collaborative solutions at each stage of the textile lifestyle. It is an extremely complex issue and if you are interested in finding out more, make sure to check out https://wrap.org.uk/

Opportunities for Sustainability in Fashion

The most sustainable clothes are already in your wardrobe
Clothes that you have already bought and worn are the most sustainable clothes that you can find. They have already made an impact on the environment and by wearing your own clothes, you reduce the number of new items you buy, and therefore your clothing demand of the economy.

So start your sustainable fashion journey and look within, you might even find something that you never thought you had.

Normalise rewearing outfits

We all know how long it takes to match the perfect outfit together! Why should it be the case that once you have worn it once you can’t wear it again?!? That’s crazy! Rewearing clothes over and over again extends the life of clothing, reducing the volume of perfectly wearable clothes sent to landfill. It also reduces the demand for the supply of new clothes, reducing the raw materials, energy to process and transport required and so reduces the carbon footprint and impact of the entire industry! So let’s all celebrate those killer outfits again and again and again!

Look to Slow Fashion alternatives

We have all heard of fast fashion and all the negative impacts of it, so what is slow fashion?
Slow Fashion is the idea of changing consumer behaviours to buying fewer clothes of better quality and keeping them for longer. It relies on creating and promoting trusted supply chains, small-scale production, traditional crafting techniques, using local materials and trans-seasonal garments. It is all about impacting our world as little as possible, and giving back to the community as much as possible.

Charity shops are a key element of the slow fashion movement, providing an alternative for clothing no longer wanted but totally still wearable and providing funds to charities supporting those who most need them in our local and global community.

Join the Sharing Economy

We were all told as kids that ‘sharing is caring’. Well when it comes to conscious consumers it couldn’t be more true. We all have those odd pieces in our wardrobes that we had to wear to a certain event, and there are very few events that we could ever wear it again at. Rather than letting it go to waste, why not lend it out to a friend, swap it with something else, or rent it out! Working within the sharing economy, renting wedding outfits, special occasion wear, protective clothes or even maternity and baby clothes reduces the volume of textile waste entering into landfill and saving the resources required to make new ones only to be worn once and thrown away. Taking part in the sharing community can also be a lot cheaper than buying something brand new.

A Right to Repair

As the saying goes “A stitch in time saves 9”. Repairing an item of clothing could save far more than 9 stitches! Our society might have got out of the habit of repairing clothes, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bring it back. If shell tracksuits can come back into fashion, anything can, including repairing! Repairing or upcycling clothing extends the life of an item, reducing the pressures on new materials to create new clothing and stops so much textile entering landfill sites. If you don’t know how to repair, youtube is a goldmine for tutorials and it doesn’t have to be just clothing, it can be furniture, carpets, anything! Get started and make sure you show off your repairs and upcycles to encourage more people too!

The Circular Economy

The circular economy aims to recreate an economy that focuses on positive, society-wide benefits and looks to redefine growth in the economy. The idea is to gradually separate economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and most particularly to this discussion, design waste out of the system. So how does this fit into conscious fashion? Well sometimes there are clothes that are perfectly good but we just can’t wear them anymore. So instead of throwing them into the bin, why not donate them to a charity shop so that someone else can enjoy them! If you need to buy something yourself, try to get it secondhand, rent it, or borrow for a friend. The circular economy is all about decoupling our economic system from waste and so therefore we need to stop creating waste, and reuse or repurpose everything!

To find out more about the circular economy and how to become a part of it visit here.