Being sustainable doesn’t mean you can’t have style. But do you have what it takes to be an ecofashionista? So you’re eating a few meatless meals a week and taking transit to work; maybe it’s time you turn your planet-saving deeds to your closet? Yes, I’m talking about greening your wardrobe.
Did you know Americans throw away 31 kilograms of clothing and textiles per person each year, and we Canadians average about seven kilograms of textile waste (clothes, bedding, etc.) annually? I’m not suggesting you can shop your way out of this one. But implementing a few simple tips today can send you down a much more sustainable and fashionable path.
Revitalize: Remember those pants that popped a button? That shirt with the stain? Check out the Queen of Green’s ( http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/downloads/stainremoval.pdf). You’ve already got the ingredients in your kitchen—you just don’t know it yet. Fixing up even a few items will give you that feeling of having a whole new wardrobe.
Swap: Maybe it’s time to get rid of those jeans you never wear, or that shirt that was an impulse buy anyway. Well what about giving some of those finds to a good home? Call some friends or neighbours to host a clothes swap. Your old is their new. Or donate unwanted items to your favourite local charity.
Consign: Extend the life of garments you no longer wear by taking them to a local consignment shop. Each store operates a bit differently, so shop around to find one that works for you. And while you’re there, check out the selection—it’s great alternative to buying new.
Revamp: Ever try repurposing a garment yourself? Need inspiration? Swap-O-Rama-Rama is an event where designers help you embroider, knit, crochet, silkscreen, or bead an item. Visit the site to find an event in a city near you.
Reclaim, Recycle: Choose fashionable, up-cycled items that have managed to avoid the waste stream altogether. Many eco-friendly designers are getting uber-creative, producing earrings from old skateboards, underwear from recycled polyester, and purses from ties of Father’s Days past. And I’d be remiss in not mentioning vintage. Instead of buying new items that look vintage, why not just buy the real deal?
Organic cotton: Conventionally grown cotton uses about one pound of pesticides and fertilizers to make a single T-shirt. Some chemicals are carcinogenic, so buying conventional cotton products means exposing workers, wildlife, and water to these pollutants. Buying organic cotton is a small change that can make a huge impact. You’ll be helping to rid the planet of 25 per cent of the insecticides and more than 10 per cent of the pesticides used around the world.
Avoid “dry-clean only”: Did you know the fumes from slightly damp dry-cleaning can contribute to indoor air pollution? Toxic chemicals like perchloroethylene, a carcinogen and respiratory irritant, evaporate from clothing into your home. If you must use conventional dry-cleaning, remove the plastic bag and hang clothes outside to speed up the evaporation of solvents. Water-process dry-cleaning, or wet-cleaning, is an excellent alternative. But the best option is to avoid buying clothes that need to be dry-cleaned altogether. In most cases you can get away with carefully hand-washing them instead.
Wash in cold water: Up to 90 per cent of energy used to do your laundry comes from heating the water. Using cold water will not only save energy, it will also help your clothing keep its colour longer.
Hang to dry: Hanging your clothes inside or outside will reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by six pounds per load. That’s a savings of about $100 per year in energy costs. And you won’t need fabric softener either. Did you know they only work on synthetic fabrics, doing nothing for natural fabrics? Fabric softeners work by coating clothing with a residue that never completely washes out. Many are made with synthetic perfumes too. Life without scented fabric softener is better for your family members, especially those who suffer from asthma-like symptoms, headaches, or irritated skin.
The Mark News is Canada’s online forum for opinion and analysis.