Reducing your impact after you shop
More than two-thirds of a clothing item’s carbon footprint occurs after purchase in the washing and drying process? As a customer, that means that much of the power to improve the sustainability of the fashion industry lies in your hands.
Not only can you insist that labels responsibly source sustainable textiles and produce their clothing in a durable, fair and resource-conscious way but you can even further reduce the impact of those clothes after you take them home.
Here's how to immediately reduce your impact and keep your clothes lasting longer:
JUDGE YOUR CLOTHES’ WASHING NEEDS
Instead of throwing the whole garment into the machine, often it might need just a quick spot clean (although always test your method first on a hidden part of the garment, to avoid any adverse reactions in the fabric). This will save time, water, money, detergent and help your clothes last way longer.
To optimise time and energy trying to wash in full machine loads is essential, but try not to mix colours.
Setting your washing machine to cold reduces the energy needed to heat the water. A cold wash also keeps your clothes alive and thriving for longer. Start by checking out the washing instructions on your clothing items. You should take this guide as a maximum if something isn’t stained and just needs a freshening you can wash it colder. While whites sometimes need a hot wash to resolve the colour, most dyes fade in the heat reducing the life cycle of your black and colourful items. These same items should be turned inside out as the dye will run back into the clothing and reduce fade.
The more heat an appliance generates, the more energy it requires to run. Dryers consume a massive amount of energy while speeding up the deterioration of clothing as heat damages the clothing fibres. So hang your gear out to dry. Beware that knitwear and silk need to dry flat to prevent stretching and if drying in the sun turn your colours inside out to reduce fade.
MAKE USE OF BIO-DETERGENTS
When you can, use bio-detergents. The chemicals in regular detergents are effective in removing stains but end up in water systems. Use them only when needed. Bio-detergents contain protein-digesting enzymes that are designed to be extremely effective when cleaning common protein and fat stains like food and sweat. These enzymes usually work well at low temperatures and remove stains that often require high-temperature washes.
CATCH PLASTIC MIRCO FIBRES
When you wash polyesters, tiny plastic microfibers are shed from the garment into the machine water, which is then drained and flushed out into waterways. These plastic microfibers do not only contaminate the entire marine ecosystem but also end up in the digestive systems of fish. That same fish may even end up on your dinner plate…if that sounds a lot like eating your clothes, that’s because it is.
To stop further contamination of ecosystems and to prevent yourself from indirectly ingesting plastic you can purchase a Cora Ball or an equivalent. These gadgets collect plastic microfibers from your washing water, allowing you to dispose of them where they belong, in the rubbish bin.
SIDESTEP DRY CLEANING
Try to avoid dry cleaning whenever possible. Many items can be safely washed at home either by hand or using a washing machine on the delicate cycle. Most dry cleaning uses a chemical called perchloroethylene (perc) which is useful in degreasing, deodorizing and cleaning fabrics without shrinkage or fading, but it is a highly toxic chemical solvent that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been shown to cause progressive diseases like cancer, kidney disease and liver damage.
For garments that still require a professional touch try Green Dry Cleaning. This refers to a perc free method that reduces toxicity and CO2 emissions. Look for a professional cleaner that uses water as its main solvent.
THE LONGER YOUR CLOTHES LAST, THE LESS OFTEN YOU NEED TO REPLACE THEM
Clothing should be considered to have value and character that increases over time. As a result of disposable fast fashion trends, we consume four times as much clothing as we did in the 1980s. This kind of consumption is unnecessary and unsustainable. By following the above steps and selecting quality garments, you will save all-around.
MAKE AMENDS WITH OLD FRIENDS
You can prolong the lifespan of a favourite get-up by going to your local tailor or through buying a sewing kit and doing a DIY job. Repairing the coat/ dress/ shirt that you often get compliments on will be gratifying, and it's a new skill under your belt.
When it’s time to part ways set them free and give them and a new lease on life, swap them, lend, flea market, thrift, or recycle. If you have taken good care of them, you’ll be passing on clothing that won’t go straight into landfill but will serve a new purpose.
Text by Michelle Torres