If, like many, you are left feeling disheartened by the recent decision of President Trump to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, you might be also feeling powerless about what each of us can do about climate change. And yet surprisingly, your wardrobe might be a good place to start.
Did you know that the purchase and use of clothing contributes about 3% of global CO2 emissions? That is more than the combined emissions from the aviation industry! Furthermore, we – as consumers – are responsible for up to 70% of those impacts and hence have the power to change the equation.
Here are five tips for a climate-friendly wardrobe:
- Choose organic fibres
In recent years, polyester has overtaken cotton as the world’s most popular fibre. But our reliance on polyester comes with an increase in environmental impacts. Emissions from polyester production are nearly three times higher than those from cotton. Meanwhile, it takes 62% less energy to make organic cotton compared to conventional cotton. Other natural fibres, for instance linen, are also a climate-friendly choice.
- Choose locally made clothes
Today, most of our clothes are likely to be produced far away from our homes. China is by far the world’s largest producer of textiles – accounting for 43% of global exports. By choosing locally made clothes you will be cutting down on transport emissions and, in many cases, sustaining your local textile industry.
- Wash less and air-dry your clothes
Washing and drying 1 kilogram of clothing over its entire life cycle, using typical methods, creates 11 kilograms of greenhouse gases. By washing your clothes less often and hanging them out to dry in fresh air instead of using a tumble drier, you will be reducing your clothes’ carbon footprint.
- Make your clothes last longer
Today, 60% of our clothes end up in landfill just one year after purchase. By making your clothes last even a little longer you can make a big difference. For instance, just doubling the useful life of clothing from one year to two reduces emissions over the year by 24%.
- Consider pre-loved clothes
Well, ok, there could be some exceptions – like underwear! – but choosing pre-loved clothes can actually be a very creative and climate-friendly way to shop. In most cases, truly vintage clothes (see my earlier post about what counts as vintage) will be of superior quality compared to 21st century fast fashion rags. And you will also reduce methane emissions from clothes that would have otherwise been destined to landfill.
Today, World Environment Day, is a perfect day to start your journey towards a low-carbon wardrobe. Saving our climate will no doubt require a collective effort by all countries, cities, companies and communities, but each and every one of us can still make a contribution.
Happy World Environment Day!