This is a guest post by Hubbub, an environmental behavioral change charity based in the UK.
In the last 15 years, the rise of fast fashion—the inexpensive, mass production of clothing—has caused global clothing production to double. Catwalk trends are quickly and affordably available on the high street, and as a result we buy cheaper, poorer quality items, wear them less and discard them when they’re no longer on-trend.
Constantly buying new and mass-produced clothes not only affects our wallets; it also has serious environmental implications. Most garments nowadays contain synthetic fabrics—like polyester, nylon and acrylic—and when washed, they release tiny plastic microfibres that make their way into our waterways and ecosystems. In fact, according to the IUCN, up to a third of microplastic pollution in the oceans now comes from washing textiles—that’s 16 times more than plastic microbeads—and these plastic particles are contaminating our waterways, ecosystems, and what we eat and drink.
What can I do about it?
UK-based environmental behaviour change charity, Hubbub is helping to raise awareness of how we as consumers can make small changes to both our shopping and laundry habits, to make a big difference to the environment. Below are top tips from them to help nudge us away from fast fashion and treat and wash our clothes in the right way:
1.) Choose clothes you really love and which are more durable, so you can get more wears from them. Before you buy a garment, check what materials it’s made from! There are numerous guides out there to find ethically-sourced clothing made from sustainable fabrics, including Conscious Life & Style’s Ethical Brand List.
2.) Pick timeless classics that go beyond trends. You’ll be able to wear them with more outfits, and they won’t go out of fashion.
3.) Restyle items in your wardrobe to keep them fresh. Recent Hubbub research found social media is a large driver of new purchases as people don’t want to be tagged in the same item twice! Rather than buy more, look for inspiration online on how to use the same item to create different looks.
4.) Don’t always buy new. When you do want to update your wardrobe, you can pick up some amazing bargains at charity shops, and your cash is going to a good cause too. You could even host a clothes swapping party with friends—one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure, after all.
5.) When you are ready to throw an item away, don’t put it in your general waste bin. Instead, donate it to a charity shop or recycle it. Clothing in landfill sites breaks down into micro-sized plastic particles, which can find their way into the oceans.
6.) Wash clothes only when you need to. Microfibres are released in the wash, so if you can get another wear out of something, let it air instead.
7.) Wash clothes at a lower temperature (30 degrees Celsius, 86 degrees Fahrenheit) and on shorter, gentler cycles. This will prevent them from wearing faster which can lead to more microfibre release—plus, it saves energy too.
8.) Air dry your clothes, avoiding tumble dryers as they too can wear your clothes out and increase the chances of microfibres being shed. Your clothes will stay in shape for longer too, so it’s a win-win.
9.) Look at your clothing labels and follow the care instructions – and share a picture of your label with the campaign hashtag #WhatsInMyWash to join the conversation online.
10.) Pledge your support for more research and industry action on the issue of microfibres by visiting www.whatsinmywash.org.uk.
Editors Note: If you already have synthetic clothing (which pretty much all of us do!) I recommend investing in a washing bag that blocks microfibers from being released in the wash. I use The Guppyfriend Washing Bag.
While there’s more that needs to happen to encourage a wider cultural shift towards slow, conscious fashion, there’s plenty we can do right now to begin to tackle this problem. And what better place to start than by taking greater care of our clothes and extending the life of our wardrobes!
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