Guest post: Words on waste in fashion
Guest post by Celine Syverud – see full bio below
One of today’s main environmental concerns is the huge amount of waste that we generate. The fashion industry is mainly based on the linear economy of “take – make – dispose”, and as a result, the average garment is only worn 3.3 times in a lifetime and retailers destroy or burn about one-third of its unsold merchandise. According to new research, the United Kingdom was expected to dump 235 million items of unwanted clothing in 2018 alone, while at the same time we produce more than 100 billion items of apparel globally each year.
the average garment is only worn 3.3 times in a lifetime and retailers destroy or burn about one-third of its unsold merchandise
Even though we all own and wear these pieces daily, there are a few things we can do as a consumer to make more conscious decisions when shopping for new garments and numerous ways to avoid unwanted items to end up as waste. Here is a short list of suggestions on how to be more mindful in terms of apparel!
1. Seek information
The easiest approach in terms of choosing a garment is to look at the labeling. Here, the brand will give you information about the materials, production countries and certifications – if any. Though purchasing items from sustainable brands are favorable, there are different ways to act more sustainable in terms of fashion.
Natural fibers: These are fibers such as cotton, wool, silk, and linen, which are preferred in relation to textiles, as they can be recycled or decomposed at the end of its life-cycle. For this to be a possibility, choose materials in 100% natural fibers, as decomposing is only possible if not mixed with synthetic fibers.
Synthetic fibers: Polyester, nylon, modal, and spandex are non-renewable and will therefore eventually end up in landfills and finally travel through our eco-systems. These items will also release micro plastic during washing that ends up in our oceans and eventually our food chain.
However, some brands produce garments in recycled polyester and nylon, which is a better alternative if you want to have items in these types of material.
Fairtrade, GOTS, and Ekotex are some of the many certifications that give you an indication of cleaner, more eco-friendly and ethically produced items.
Other brands worth discovering in terms of sustainability:
2. Embrace vintage and second-hand
Even though this might be obvious in terms of sustainability, some people could feel slight resentment towards wearing pre-owned items. However, chances are high that the clothes have never been worn, at least not as much as you would have thought! In return, vintage can provide uniqueness through one of a kind pieces and contribute to a more personalized wardrobe. There are a growing number of vintage and second-hand shops for apparel online, and therefore never been more effortless to find something for everyone’s taste and price levels.
Other current favorites for vintage shopping:
3. Quality over quantity
When shopping for new garments, try to think of it as an investment that should stay with you for a long time. Choose garments created in high quality and timeless designs that could easily fit into the rest of your wardrobe. Think about shape, durability, color, material, and comfort. Is it something you can see yourself wearing for the next ten years? Can you use it in different settings? Is it something you can wear during winter as well as summer? With these questions in mind, you are already being more attentive as a consumer and likely to come to a conscious decision. These thoughtful purchases will also be easier to re-sell later on, as you haven’t compromised in terms of quality or style, regardless of trends.
4. Take care of your garments
For an item to last for a long time, devote some caring in terms of maintenance and washing of your apparel. To keep clothing from shrinking, fragmentation and fade in color shading – wash less frequently at low temperature, low spinning rate and turn the garments inside-out. This will also save energy and water usage, which will lessen the impact on the environment. Before throwing out an old garment, consider the possibilities of repairing instead of replacing by taking it to a tailor or mend it yourself.
5. Be accountable
Instead of giving away your responsibility to a charity or thrift shop, take charge of your garments destiny by making sure fewer things go to waste. According to the documentary “The True Cost” (Morgan et al., 2015), only 10% of donations that end up in thrift shops actually gets sold. So instead, seek out social networks for threading clothes or give your clothes to a family member or friend. Not only will this prevent harmful waste to end up in our environment, it is also easier than ever before to recycle! As a final option, turn to your local store that offers a recycling station such as the ones in H&M and Nudie Jeans were textiles are given a new chance in life.
Some good networks for threading clothes are:
We all share a responsibility in terms of generating waste. Meaning we can have an influence in making sure that fewer things go to waste and shift the fashion system from linear to circular – giving our beloved items a second-chance in life!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Celine Stene Syverud holds a PBA in Sustainable Fashion from KEA in Copenhagen. She was a design-intern for Holzweiler Oslo in 2015 and was hired as Elin Kling’s personal fashion assistant in Stockholm under the brand Totême. Celine has written articles for The Daily, during Copenhagen Fashion Week, and for trendtablet.com. Celine will be hosting a sustainable Christmas workshop with Monica Øien at Core Balance December 9.