Fashion

Second Hand September: Seven practical ways to make your wardrobe more sustainable

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Are you doing everything you can to make your wardrobe more sustainable? (Picture: Getty)

Second Hand September, coined by charity Oxfam, is an initiative to put stop throwaway fashion and its got us thinking about more ways we can be sustainable with our clothing.

Shopping second-hand is a great, eco-friendly way to challenge the fast fashion industry, but sadly its not always possible.

Luckily, there are a number of other ways to make a wardrobe more sustainable.

Here are some alternative ways to make eco-friendly choices when it comes to clothes and to ensure garments stand the test of time.

Look after (and wash) items with care

wash clothes less to help the environment
Hold off chucking pieces in the wash (Picture: iStockphoto)

Were all guilty of throwing clothes into a washing machine without looking at which wash cycle suits each piece.

The truth is that clothes labels exist for a reason and we should be paying more attention to them.

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Essentially, theyre a DIY manual for wearers, telling us what temperature the piece needs to be washed on, whether its hand wash only and if its suitable for the tumble dryer – all to keep the piece in tip-top condition.

Shrinking clothes because theyve been on the wrong wash setting is a common misfortune thats easily preventable.

Take an extra minute during your laundry session to check the labels on garments and sort out washing piles accordingly – be it hand wash, cotton cycle, 40 degree cycles or more. Clothes will last longer as a result, giving you months (and hopefully years) more enjoyment from them.

A little TLC never does any harm, after all.

Wash items less and use natural detergents

Some of the most influential people in the fashion world are telling us to wash our clothes less, like designer Stella McCartney who told The Observer: Basically, in life, rule of thumb: if you dont absolutely have to clean anything, dont clean it.

Every time a washing machine is used, significant amounts of energy go into powering it – not to mention the 13,500 gallons of water a year used by an average household.

When washing is absolutely necessary, Stella recommends doing it on lower temperature and using a liquid detergent.

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She said: Powder detergent creates more friction between the clothes [during washing], so more fibres are released, whereas liquid is smoother. The less friction there is in general, the fewer fibres are released.

According to Fashion Revolution, up to 25% of each garments carbon footprint comes from the way we wash and care for it.

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Too many clothes are ending up in landfills before they need to, all due to overwashing.

Choose sustainable materials

Some fabrics which are branded as natural are actually doing considerable harm to the environment. This is due to the efforts that go into making the garment, including sourcing of raw materials, manufacturing, production, transport, washing and disposal. Its important to be aware of the different materials and their impact.

Cotton is one of the biggest culprits. Its estimated that buying a new white cotton shirt produces the same amount of emissions as driving a car for 35 miles.

Organic cotton, however, is a more eco-friendly alternative, as its grown without harmful chemicals. That is, if you buy items that have not had dyes added. Stay safe and buy clothing in shades that cotton is grown in – thats cream, light brown and pale green (in case you were wondering).

Its generally best to avoid any clothing that isnt made out of natural materials (so anything synthetic) such as polyester, nylon and acrylic.

Opting for clothes made from recycled materials is another great option.

30 wears test

how to make your wardrobe more sustainable
Do you think about the lifespan of purchases? (Picture: iStockphoto)

A study by Barnardos found that women wear clothes an average of seven times before they throw them away. An attitude which is fuelling the harmful fast fashion industry.

Of course, buying new clothes is sometimes necessary, but sustainability consultancy Eco Age say we should be considering the lifespan of clothes when we purchase them. Theyve launched a #30wears campaign, encouraging shoppers to think about whether they will wear an item 30 times or more. If not, its longevity comes into question.

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If the piece is of poor quality and wont last 30 wears, or if its a trend piece that might not be as appealing next season – give it a miss.

Clothes that meet this 30-wear criteria can be purchased, but its important to really take the time to consider it when purchasing any new clothing and to make it a part of your shopping routine.

Instead of binning items of clothing when boredom strikes, think about holding onto them and popping them in storage. Certain pre-owned, trend-based pieces may be of interest in a few years time when styles come back around – which they usually always do.

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