Getting dressed in the morning, you likely have your mind set on the day ahead. How will you get to work? What do you need to make dinner tonight? Concerns about sustainability may enter your mind as you debate the pros and cons of public transit or whether to serve a vegetarian dish. But what about the clothes you are wearing?
Fashion is not usually one of the first areas people consider when looking for ways to reduce their impact on the world around them. But, the choices we make about the clothes we buy, wear, and wash can add up. Consider these things and how they relate to your wardrobe and personal style.
Fabric – You may make it a habit to check a new shirt’s label for washing instructions or to determine if it may shrink after the first wash, but the fabric in a garment also says something about the environmental impact of making it.
Some synthetic fibers, such as polyester, are derived from petroleum products; producing more of these fibers places more strain on resources that we cannot replace. In response to this fact, clothes crafted from recycled materials are being made increasingly available to consumers. These can be made from sources such as recycled polyester or even recycled plastic bottles. Check the tag on your next potential purchase to see if it has any recycled content.
Natural fibers are considered more sustainable. Within this class of textiles, however, it can be difficult to sort out which are the “best” choices. For example, the pesticides used to grow conventional cotton are an issue which can be of some concern. Organic cotton is grown without using the same broad-spectrum pesticides as its conventional counterpart. On the other hand, some people may prefer conventional cotton due to the higher yields that allow less land to be used to produce the same amount of fiber.
Buy smart – As with any purchase, it is important to consider whether you really need new clothes before you buy them. Unneeded purchases are simply a waste of resources. A good alternative to purchasing new clothes can also be to swap with friends or family, or to run over to your local thrift store. You never know what great bargains you may find!
Get creative! – Getting rid of the clutter in your closet can free up a lot of space and reduce the stress of picking out a day’s outfit. Consider donating any usable items that your family no longer needs. As for the items that can’t be worn anymore, pause before you throw them into the trash.
Can they be repaired? Can you use them in some other way? Think of this as an opportunity to show off your crafty side. Jeans with a worn hem can quickly become a pair of shorts, a favorite old t-shirt can be sewn and stuffed into a pillow, and websites like Pinterest.com are rife with other DIY projects.
Rethinking the way you buy and use fabrics is an important component of reducing your eco-footprint.
[Contributed by Heather Landis, UF Program Assistant]