With World Environment Day coming up this Saturday June 5 and the recent release of documentaries like ‘Seaspiracy’ and ‘David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,’ we are thinking a lot about our environmental impact – and, more importantly, how we can reduce it.
Our wardrobes are one of the best places to start.
Alexis Todorovski leads Australia’s largest and most innovative clothing recycling group, SCRGroup, and says that Australians don’t appreciate the impact their fashion choices have on the planet.
“Many people don’t know that the global garment industry generates 92 million tonnes of textile waste, 80% of which is primarily disposed of in landfill,” says Alexis. “It’s sad to say that Australia is one of the worst countries for throwing away unwanted clothes.”
Alexis explains that Australians send an estimated 501 million kilograms of clothing to landfill every year. Even more concerning is the fact that, on average, Australians buy 27kg of clothing each year – and by the end of the year, 23kg of that is thrown away, with four out of ten people binning unwanted clothing rather than repairing or recycling it.
“We can and should be doing better and every one of us is part of the solution,” says Alexis. “It’s obvious that as a nation we love fashion and shopping, so we need to find ways to balance that love with a responsibility to our environment – and it starts at home in your wardrobe.”
There are small ways to make a big difference, Alexis says. These are some of her favourites.
Shop for investment pieces
There’s no denying the fact that most of us love low cost fast fashion – it allows for a quick wardrobe update or an easy fix for a one-off event.
“But we need to find a balance for the sake of our fashion futures,” says Alexis. “Treating fast fashion like a guilty pleasure every now and again is a good place to start, so you can instead focus on building a wardrobe full of investment pieces that are versatile, high quality and trans-seasonal styles.”
This approach to fashion is how many people look chic all the time – think French girl style! Choose clothes that can be styled multiple ways so you can wear them longer and more often, and can be paired with a more sustainable fast fashion option to keep things trendy and interesting.
“There are many brands that are now using recycled fibres and offering takeback repair programs, and I think you’ll find that you love the clothes that love you back,” says Alexis. “You’ll look and feel more stylish, and won’t need to buy as much once you start investing in higher quality versatile clothes.”
Care for your clothes
Life admin sucks, and that includes the chore of washing and drying your clothes. But looking after your clothing is key to loving and keeping them for longer – even a cheap dress lasts longer if you actually take care of it.
“Extending the life of your clothes is a simple and cost-effective way of keeping them out of landfill,” says Alexis. “These are some of my best clothing care tips.”
- Turn your dark clothes inside out before putting them in the wash to maintain their colour for much longer
- Use wash bags to avoid zip and washer snags
- Wash on cold water and gentle or hand wash cycles
- Where possible, dry your clothes outside rather than using a drier and store them out of direct sunlight
- If you can afford it, or you can’t be bothered doing your own laundry, take bags of similar fabrics and colours to your local dry cleaner who probably does bag washes too. They’re clothing care specialists, so outsource it to an expert if you want to!
“Finally, channel your mum and learn how to make small clothing repairs yourself,” says Alexis. “Sewing small holes and replacing buttons yourself is strangely satisfying and prevents larger, unfixable damage from taking place. Plus, and trust me on this, repairing clothes yourself instead of throwing them away will save you lots of money.”
Create a circular approach to fashion
“Fashion is naturally circular – we see styles come back on trend time after time, so keeping clothes circulating in society is one of the most sustainable ways to expand your wardrobe, and to stay fashionable year after year!” says Alexis.
Before you buy your next brand-new clothing item, consider shopping from one of the many resale websites or vintage stores available. Using clothing rental services and stores and swapping your clothes with friends and family are also great options to expand your options without purchasing new pieces. Check out a list of places to shop here.
Reuse and recycle
When the time comes that you really just don’t want to ever lay eyes on a piece of clothing again, there are a few ways that you can thoughtfully dispose of items.
“Reaching out to shelters and refuges to see if there are any items that they need is a great way to ensure your pre-loved pieces go where they are needed,” says Alexis. “Second hand sites and stores, as well as online marketplaces are also worth considering if you have quality pieces that you would like to get some money back on.”
And when your clothes finally reach the end of their time with you, a preloved clothing collection company such as SCRgroup will help you give them a second life. You can visit any one of the 1600 drop off locations with your unwanted clothes and SCRgroup will rehome them, ensuring they don’t end up in landfill.
“What can’t be reused or rehomed will either be turned into rags or converted into an alternate fuel called biofuel, helping you play your part in a circular, sustainable fashion economy,” says Alexis.