10 ways to reduce your wardrobe’s carbon footprint in 2022

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New year, new you? Do not be dumb. The only resolutions you need to make this year are those that are in the service of the planet. Faced with a new wave of wildfires, droughts, floods, tornadoes and melting ice, most of us (except the oil giants and governments, it seems) want to tread lightly on the environment as 2022 approaches. But it can be difficult to know how to do this while continuing to design, create, buy and participate in fashion; an industry that is so often – and rightly – identified as one of the main culprits of ecological degradation.

With that in mind, whether you’re looking to shop better or you’re a designer struggling to grasp the sustainability conundrum, here are 10 ways to start the New Year with the planet in mind.

1. Use what already exists

It is estimated that between 80 and 150 billion pieces of clothing are made each year. Granted, there’s a serious gulf between those two numbers, but whichever one you choose, that’s a lot of clothing made for a planet that’s home to just under 8 billion people. And of course, these are just clothes – that doesn’t take into account the many yards of fabric produced each year that are either wasted through scraps or simply never turned into portable parts.

The world is already teeming with amazing fabrics and clothing, so it’s eco-friendly to use what’s already there instead of putting more strain on new pristine resources. Take inspiration from those who have adopted more innovative approaches. Duran Lantink assembles and sews unworn clothes in new designs. Nicole McLaughlin makes clothes and accessories from tennis balls, Haribo bags and everything in between. American design house Collina Strada mixes undead fabrics with innovative biomaterials. Then there’s The Revival and The Slum Studio, both of which use their design skills and creativity to recycle clothing waste left at their doorstep due to the colonial practice of throwing Global North clothing on the market. from Kantamanto, to Accra.

2. Borrow and exchange

Using what already exists applies to the creation of outfits, not just the clothes themselves. When you don’t have the right piece for a certain occasion, or just want to try on a new look, our first instinct is often to buy something new to complement it. The perfect item, however, is probably sitting in someone else’s wardrobe. Ask your friends and family if you could borrow something from them that you love (and be prepared to return the favor in the spirit of the sharing economy), attend or even host a clothing swap event. community, or try one of the new rafts of peer-to-peer sharing apps. Nuw lets you swap clothes with other users, while By Rotation is the social rental app that lets you rent rooms directly from other people’s closets. Even designer stores like Selfridges are doing it.

3. Do what you sell

The burning, destruction and dumping of unsold stocks prove that fashion overproduces. To (over) simplify why this is happening: Brands are essentially risking guessing how many units they can sell and manufacture as a result, and this often leads them to sit on billions of pounds of unsold inventory. Maybe if you are a fashion retailer, the easiest way to avoid this is to review how fashion works and just manufacture what you sell.

Operating on a bespoke business model not only reduces waste and conserves resources, but means you can offer personalized options such as bespoke fits or custom colourways, further personalizing the relationship between garment and wearer. Demand makes a lot of sense to small batch makers, but even if you are looking to grow you can still use the model. Thanks to innovations in manufacturing technologies, many factories also offer the service.

4. Save

67% of consumers say high prices are a deterrent when it comes to buying sustainable products, and fast fashion brands capitalize on the perception that sustainability is unaffordable by saying they are democratizing fashion with products “Accessible”. Obviously, everyone needs clothes, not only to stay warm, but also to express themselves and socially accept themselves. However, we’re buying more than ever and throwing away more than ever, suggesting that we often buy more than we really need – or wear.

The average UK shopper spends £ 40 per month buying clothes online. Therefore, if your income allows it, instead of buying several inexpensive items that you only wear a few times, save for one or a few key coins that you will treasure forever. Having said that, if you don’t have the disposable income to save and buy fast fashion because it’s what you can afford, then you shouldn’t feel guilty about working with what you have. We may make changes that go beyond our shopping cart.

5. Think about the end of life

The fashion industry rarely thinks of end of life, as what happens to a product when it breaks or a consumer is done with it. Because of this, we see clothes piling up across the world. The “extended producer responsibility” rules attempt to change this by making producers responsible for the disposal of their products. But while some brands are spending money on the problem, there are much more creative solutions than that.

The key is to ask yourself a few questions during the design process. Could this be easily taken apart? Could it be turned into something else? Am I ready to take it back when my client is done? Am I only making the waste problem worse? From there you can design the answers. Take inspiration from Fixing Fashion and create online tutorials to turn your clothes into something new, resell unwanted clothes returned to you, or design your pieces to be easily broken down for reuse and recycling, skipping items. things like adhesives and mixed materials.

6. Do things with multiple uses

Most people buy on the basis of occasion or use; say, a sequin dress for a party or a tote bag for shopping. The need for multiple things to fit our lifestyles only accelerates consumption, so think about how you can design products that meet more than one need. Petit Pli specializes in creating clothing that grows as children grow older, and has expanded into adult clothing to accommodate maternity clothing and varying sizes. Emre Pakel, meanwhile, creates trench coats, pants and dresses that can be made into bags.

Push the limits of your pattern cutting and design skills to develop adaptable, modular and versatile parts that will take users through a multitude of events and phases of life, reducing the need to constantly purchase new things.

7. Experiment with biomaterials

“Everything you make comes back to Earth as food or poison,” says Celine Semaan of Slow Factory, and if you’re working with fossil-fuel-based synthetics that end up going to landfill, the latter is the most. likely. Synthetic fibers are estimated to increase from 69% to 73% of total fiber production worldwide by 2030, with polyester accounting for 85%.

We are at a point where we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Fortunately, there are a host of exciting new bio-based fabrics and fibers to experiment with. Collina Strada uses rose silk, made from waste rose bushes and stems; Nike and Chanel used Piñatex, a “leather” made from fibers of pineapple leaves; Stella McCartney made a leather set of mushroom grown in the laboratory; and Vollebak has developed a t-shirt made from seaweed.

If none of these appeal to you, you can try crystals made from human sweat, spider silk-inspired biothreads, or fabrics made from humble orange.

8. Make the opportunity your first choice

As mentioned before, billions upon billions of clothes are made every year, which means that if you’ve got your eye on something new, an exact version of it probably already exists somewhere in the world. Since fashion cycles and everything is pretty much just an iteration of something that came before, why not buy the original rather than the modern copy?

The existence of charity shops, Depop, Vinted, eBay, vintage shops, Vestiaire Collective and TheRealReal, as well as numerous resale platforms from brands such as Mara Hoffman and Levi’s, means that there is an option for all budgets. Before you click on buy something brand new, do a scan for used rigs. It may take a little longer, but it will take the pressure off the planet and most likely save you money.

9. Offer a service as a product

Service as a product (often abbreviated as SaaP) is a central principle of the circular economy as it replaces the production of new goods. Of course, getting things done is the goal of many creative people, but service can be just as creative and satisfying.

Helen Kirkum offers ‘SaaP’ with her Legacy line, taking precious sneakers from customers and bringing them together into a completely unique new pair. Clothing rental is “SaaP”, as is clothing repair. Selling patterns rather than clothes, leading workshops, learning to sew, embroider or crochet, customize existing clothes or accessories are all services that require know-how and creativity but do not require manufacturing and selling new products. Providing services does not make you a designer or a creator less than a manufacturer – you are simply taking a different path.

10. Literally do nothing

The advantage of taking care of the environment is that sometimes the less you do, the more impact you have. As Fashion Revolution’s Orsola de Castro said, “The most durable piece of clothing is what is already in your wardrobe.” So rather than buying second-hand or sustainably made clothes, you can just… not buy anything at all. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it will help you completely re-evaluate your relationship with clothing and consumption.

Buying nothing at all may seem extreme (and there may be some absolute necessities that you just can’t live without), but buying so often is a recent invention that has been standardized by brands who want your money’s worth. It takes no time, money, and effort, making it perhaps the easiest action you can hope to take.

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