BY ELIZABETH ZIELINSKI

Sustainably is a value that is changing as a guiding light for consumers and fashion brands alike. What is Sustainable Shopping? As reported by Sustainability Victoria (2)– Sustainable fashion considers the environmental, social and health impact of the design, the manufacture and the disposal of clothing, footwear and accessories. With the aim to minimize any adverse effects of the industry on the environment.

This approach encourages the purchase of fewer items of better quality, as well as consideration of how the products are made. Sustainable manufacturers and shoppers consider how best to use recycled and environmentally-friendly materials, and how to appropriately recycle and dispose of fashion at the end of its useful life. 

According to research by ProBono Australia(1); In the last year, more and more shoppers are begging to become more sustainably conscious. Searches for “sustainable fashion” have skyrocketed. According to the Global Fashion Search Platform List; which tracked over 100 million searches across 5 million products, there was a 66 % increase in searches for sustainable fashion or related keywords since 2018. 

But studies also reveal that while as many as 60 of millennials say they are interested in certified clothing, only 37 % have actually purchased any.’ In another study, sustainability market is projected to reach $150 billion in sales by 2021, according to Nielsen 

The impact of fast fashion on our environment is immense when we consider the factors: 

  • raw materials used to create textiles
  • energy and water expenditure in the production of fashion
  • pollution as a result of textile manufacturing, including dying and washing and associated residual micro-plastics in our waterways 
  • unfair conditions and wages for foreign and local workers 
  • clothing, footwear and accessories sent to landfill (73 million tones globally per year), often having barely been worn.

I’m not advocating for everyone to have a capsule wardrobe however, we can try to be more conscientious shoppers. If consumers begin to make the changes, the process will shift. It must. As a designer, I design my own clothes, (sometimes from existing garments) but I do like the experience of shopping abroadI’m a minimalist, I don’t buy trinkets, but I do love wearing a piece that is a reminder of a holiday experience.

If I do purchase a new item, I choose very carefully, because the new item will replace an existing item in my wardrobe – and I really, really like my clothes, they are often a memory from a trip abroad, so if I can’t think of an item I will be replacing, I won’t purchase a new one

I hate waste! Be it food, clothing, energy or emotion. I will mend my clothing before thinking of throwing it out, I have my shoes resoled regularly, some of my shoes have lasted me 20 years, and yes, they are still stylish because I know my style and I want my pieces to last me a long time.

The fashion industry is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to pollution. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 26 billion pounds of textiles end up in landfills each year. Realistically, most of us won’t quit shopping cold-turkey. We may not even give up all fast fashion. But, many people are willing to change their habits for the better.  

Considering sustainability with every purchase may be challenging at firstSome might think I’m just one person, surely my habit doesn’t impact the world – but when you’re 1 person of 7.8 billion and all are saying the same thing, the impact is devastating. Start small, take your coffee cup to the coffee shop, or purchase your coffee from a place that uses recycled coffee cups. We can all make small changes that will help preserve our beautiful environment. 

It is very positive to see both the fashion industries and shoppers adopting a more sustainable ethos. As consumers, we have the power to make positive change and influence the industries to take a sustainable approach. Indicators of brands that apply a sustainable approach will have noticeable variants in; CostQualityMaterialit may be more costly, but as this approach becomes the norm, it will become less expensive in the long run and our children, and grandchildren inherit a better world 

How to shop sustainably for fashion…

As yourself 5 questions before you purchase:

1. Do I really need it?

2. Was the clothing made by a brand with ethical accreditation? 

3. Is the fashion made from recycled or environmentally friendly materials? 

4. How are the fashion purchases packaged? 

5. Could I recycle some of my clothes? 

Building better habits is a positive way to reduce, reuse and recycle your unwanted clothing 

If you are overhauling your wardrobe or making space for new items, I urge you to dispose of your unwanted clothing correctly. Clothing can be recycled and reused in many ways, and not just through regular curbside recycling collection. 

According to the Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia, Australians send around $500 million worth of fashion clothing to the tip each year, yet over 95% of it can be recycled and reused. 

Recycling your clothing will

  • conserve raw materials and save water and energy 
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions 
  • reduce landfill
  • provide affordable clothing to needy families and individuals. 

Reduce 

  • Reduce your need to recycle clothing by buying for the long term 
  • Buy better quality clothing that will last longer 
  • Buy sustainably wherever you can to avoid supporting unsustainable supply chains
  • Freshen your look with accessories 
  • Swap or borrow from friends and family members for special occasions, rather than regularly buying new clothing that is only worn a handful of times 
  • Plan your clothes shopping like you would grocery shopping and avoid wasteful impulse buys 
  • Buy clothes that can be layered so that you can wear them in multiple seasons 
  • Look after your clothes by following care instructions
  • Investing in small repairs can be a cost-effective way to make your clothing last longer 
  • Shopping your wardrobe is a fashion movement that encourages consumers to take a fresh look at clothes already in their wardrobe, in hopes that they will rediscover garments that may not have been worn in a while 
  • Keep your wardrobe tidy your wardrobe so that you can see everything that is available to be worn. 

Reuse 

  • Look for ways that your clothes can be reused. Hand-me-downs, charity shops, community and online marketplaces, garage sales and swap meets are all ways to resell or reuse your unwanted clothing
  • Recycle clothing in good condition by donating to your local charity store or second-hand clothing shops 
  • Check with your charity shop to confirm which items are accepted, and whenever possible, take your clothes in during opening hours and hand them to someone working there 
  • Remember that leaving items outside a closed store or next to a collection bin is illegal dumping. 
  • You can sell clothes through online marketplaces, community markets and garage sales or give them to family and friends 
  • The National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations (NACRO) ensures its members use all collected goods and proceeds exclusively for their welfare programs
  • A range of other clothing donation programs offer their proceeds to various good causes such as disadvantaged people looking for employment, and local and international communities in need of clothing and footwear 

Recycle and repurpose 

Some retailers now run recycling programs and accept used clothing in store which is resold or processed for rags or other textile by-products – Clothing Retailers H&M and Zara each have garment collection programs for any clothing or textiles, which they reuse or recycle. SCR Group will also accept worn or damaged clothing. 

  • Search a comprehensive list of drop-off locations for unwanted clothing on Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You website  

What happens to recycled clothing? 

Good quality clothes are resold by charities in their retail outlets for fundraising purposes, or they may be given to disadvantaged people. 

Some charities will recycle clothes that are in poor condition into industrial rags, sound-absorption materials, insulation or stuffing. Ask the charity what their acceptance criteria is, because the charity will be liable for any costs associated with sending inappropriate clothing to landfill. 

Some clothing (preferably natural fibres) can be used for weed matting. A community garden or Landcare / bushcare group may accept donations. 

How to dispose of clothing right, through kerbside waste and hard rubbish collections 

As a last resort, clothing that can’t be reused or recycled can be discarded in your kerbside waste bin or through your local hard rubbish collection. 

Clothing and textiles are not recycled through the kerbside recycling bin. 

Depending on the facilities at the recycling plant which processes your kerbside collections, clothing and textiles that are in recycling can get caught in the sorting machines and contribute to machinery wear and tear or slow down the sorting process. 

Many organizations that accept clothing for resale will also recycle clothes that are torn, stained or worn. Some major clothing recyclers include Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Savers, Blue Jeans Go Green, American Textile Recycling Service and USAgain. 

 

Helpful links 

https://www.keeptruckeegreen.org/how-to-sell-donate-or-recycle-your-old-clothes/ 

High End Fashion Label Resell 

https://www.vox.com/2013/10/10/7644983/resale-sites 

https://www.revoir.com.au/ 

https://us.vestiairecollective.com/ 

References

1. https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2019/04/do-people-really-care-about-ethical-fashion/ 

2. https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/You-and-your-home/Waste-and-recycling/Furniture-and-household-items/Clothing 

  

Consider the compounding effect, a strategy of reaping huge rewards over a period of time from what seem like small, seemingly insignificant actions. As individuals, we can make a hugely positive impact – imagine what we can do united. 

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