Create a revolution in your wardrobe - part one

Posted by Louise Edge — 2 August 2011 at 5:01pm - Comments
Daily workers at a denim washing factory in Xintang, China, search wastewater fo
All rights reserved. Credit: © Lu Guang / Greenpeace
Workers at a denim washing factory in Xintang, search wastewater for stones, to create stonewash denim.

Has our Detox campaign made you think about your clothes and their hidden consequences? You may already heart second hand, throwaway fashion makes you ill, and your mantra is quality not quantity. But how else can you align your sartorial and sustainable sides? Here's our first set of tips to help decrease your fashion's footprint.

UPDATE AUGUST 18: Nike commit to champion a toxic-free future! >>

Writer Lucy Siegle's latest book To Die For says that today people buy roughly four times the number of clothes they were in 1980. That’s an average expenditure of £626 pounds a year on clothes, adding up to 28 new kilograms of clothing per person. Yet despite our over-stuffed wardrobes we generally only wear 10 per cent of our clothes. So before buying something ask yourself: "Do I really need it?"

If the answer is “yes”, but you want to make eco-conscious decisions about your clothing choices, give some thought to the following tips.

1) Buy second-hand

Charity shops, vintage stores and eBay are packed full of clothes – check them out and pick up a bargain.

2) Buy classics

To be truly ecological, clothing needs to be worn again and again. So don’t buy fast fashion, buy classics, or things that you love. And if they go ‘out of fashion’ mothball them – you’ll be surprised how quickly styles come round again.

3) Buy green

Look out for brands that make clothing from recycled materials or use only environmentally-friendly fabrics and natural dyes. You can find specialised eco-fashion stores in many cities today, or you can check them out and order online.

4) Focus on quality

Buy well-crafted clothing that is made to last. Check the seams, zippers and buttons, which are well known breaking points. This also applies to shoes too: look at how well the sole is attached.

5) Fix things up

If you’ve got clothes you’re not wearing because they need a new zip or need taking up, then dive in and give it a go. Failing that, take them to the local tailors. You can also re-fashion your clothes by changing buttons, turning dresses into skirts, jeans into shorts and more. For inspiration checkout Refashion Co-op.

Above: Organic cotton farmers pick cotton in Kishtapur, India. © Peter Caton / Greenpeace

6) Go organic with your cotton 

Conventional cotton is a delicate plant that is pampered with fertilisers and pesticides, and heavily irrigated. According to the Water Footprint Network, just one 250g cotton shirt is estimated to use 150g of pesticides and up to 2,720 litres of water. Find out more by reading The Water Footprint of Cotton Consumption report by Ecological Economics - PDF.

Organic cotton is a good alternative because it is grown in toxin-free fields. Begin to switch, at least for baby clothes and basics like t-shirts and underwear. For details of UK stockists, visit the Pan UK Cotton Directory.

7) Look at the label

It is not easy to get along in the label jungle. But you can inform yourself about the different eco-labels and what they really mean by visiting the Eco Label Index or Eco Textile.

Look out for part two of how you can green your wardrobe tomorrow....

Find out more about Greenpeace's work on toxic chemicals and our Detox campaign:

>> Puma leaps ahead of Nike and Adidas in Detox Challenge
>> From China's Toxics team: Fishing Near An Emissions Pipe
>> From our China team: how to lose a foot on fieldwork
>> Nike & Adidas: time to Detox the world’s water
>> Hidden Consequences: The unseen price of water pollution

While I agree with the great majority of your suggestions above, I am surprised and disappointed that you recommend purchasing clothes from ebay - a company which supports and promotes the sale of countless puppy mill dogs and other animals coming from horrid physical and emotional environments.  Please rethink asking Greenpeace supporters to support Ebay, or some of us will have a problem continiuing to support Greenpeace.  Thank you.

good points, however when normal people walk into a store they have no idea of the source of the clothes they see on the rails and the label tells them jack all. added to that, i've never ever seen an "eco shirt" in my life. although having consumers changing their habits is good, it is ultimately the industry that needs to change. 

Before shopping/acquiring ANY new clothes...

RULE #1: ALL your laundry must be done and put away. 

It makes you realize you have SO much already- it's hard to take care of and put away and you won't WANT more. (Not liking/doing laundry is the MAIN reason for too many clothes.) 

RULE #2: (If you STILL want to 'shop')- Go/do, but JUST for the 'fun'; and

RULE #3: (If you don't 'feel good' after)- Stand at a mirror: Smile, give yourself a bear-hug, and say, "I am beautiful!" (This reminds you where love of self. 'feeling good' comes from- not 'things'.)

P.S.  I wish this d-photo of a human-being, being poisoned by such deadly toxins, hidden away in a 'back-alley', could be plastered on blimp and flown throughout the world; more people must learn about this human- and environmental-nightmare. 

I am so glad that you made shopping secondhand #1 on this list. In terms of cost to the environment, it beats out organic and eco-fashion. It's unfortunate that many people still have negative feelings about buying and wearing used clothing. Cheryl Gorn, Founder of Secondhand Wardrobe Week

A great article, great tips & completely agree with the comments.  It just shows us all that fashion and being kind to the planet is a tricky thing to get right. We haven't got there yet by any means but at least the issues are getting out there.

One thing that I think needs to be highlighted a lot more, especially in these difficult trading times - yes its important to buy 2nd hand/charity & wear & buy style rather than fashion - but its also vitally important that customers buy new ethical fashion - if we dont support the new & upcoming brands  then the clothing supply chain may well come unstock in 20 / 30 years time.  We sometimes forget that actually clothes are a vital part of our life - we have maybe taken them for granted far too much.  the problems in 20/30 years time lie with the potential for shortage of water around the world - do companies such as Kuyichi that are developing new sustainable textile supply chains are vital in doing the ground work now - so that we are in a stronger position in the future to adjust to climage change/environmental changes.

The fashion industry is still overly reliant on cotton - its a thirsty crop and farmers use alot of pesticides to grow it - so bad for soil & the workers.  New textile development is vital - so we are starting to see things like tencel, bamboo, organic cotton & recycled polyester - made from recycled bottles.  Creating a sustainable fashion / clothing industry is years away, we are much more at the coal face then people may think - so we at Ethics Girls say yes of course recycling/upcycling/2nd hand is good, but don't forget to support the ethical fashion pioneers of today - there are some great designers around, there is no hair / ugly shirt excuses there any more. We say shop smart and be that example :)

Being from the UK I shall watch out for those adverts!. Astonishing how
we are so easily fooled. Isnt this against the trades descriptio act? angry birds

I will support what the thread starter has said in every word, which also
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Hi  All,

I hope that laso our kenyan big names selling new clothes are made aware of this.

Not only that most business people in Kenya go to buy clothes out side kenya so you never know under what conditions they were manufactured from.

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