Something we all do everyday: we open up our wardrobe to figure out what we are going to wear. We might be making a quick decision or really carefully planning an outfit for a special reason. And with lots of thoughts running through our heads - what do I feel like wearing, who am I seeing, what am I doing, what’s the weather like - and more! But one thought isn’t often in our heads at this point - what links the clothes I’m looking at in my wardrobe … to climate change?
How about when we are actually shopping for our wardrobe? Are we then more likely to make the connections? Sometimes maybe, but not at every turn, let’s be honest. But we are going to need to more and more. No doubt, that’s a big ask - climate change is a huge global issue that although is looming on our horizon, we mostly bump up against in the UK via activists and protestors, or maybe some big business’ marketing and some media coverage (good and not so good).
OK, so here comes that real ‘elevator pitch’ / big picture moment for climate change : we need to find ways to halve the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that we send into our atmosphere (via all the things we make and do in our human lives like eating, working, making stuff, transport, heating our homes etc etc) by 2030. Yes, you read that right, 2030. The alternative (ie carrying on as ‘business as usual’ beyond that date) brings dramatic changes to our planet - rising sea levels, increased extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts and floods, changes to way we can grow food and devastating change for biodiversity. The thing is, in the end, the planet will find a way through it for itself - but it will become a very inhospitable place for us to live. And there is something deeply unfair on that point - because the places that will be hit hardest are mostly the ones who have done the least to cause the emissions. Highly industrialised countries with the biggest impacts tend to be in the global north and will see the least effects of climate change. And we are storing up big challenges for all the kids and grandkids of our adult generations as they’ll be the ones facing the consequences.
So how do we make the mental connections between the clothes we see sitting in our wardrobes, or the ones we are eyeing up to buy - and climate change? And how to start to curate our wardrobes in a new way?
Well, we can look at it through lots of lenses - climate change is basically at the intersection of loads of human and environmental challenges and issues. But it might be helpful to break it down into who or what is involved in getting our clothes to the point where we can wear them - and then we can take a decision about which area we have a go a changing something ourselves.
- How are my clothes made?
Of course the production and manufacturing of all the components of a garment has an impact - energy sources used to power the clothing industry, just like any industry, need to shift away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy sources. Checking out a brand’s corporate website is likely one of the only ways to find out if a big brand is making that kind of shift - top tip, it’s slow going at the moment. Whether it’s a big brand or a smaller brand, its always worth asking what their goals are and how they are progressing.
- What do I wear a lot and what do I only wear occasionally?
Making some mindset shifts about how we appreciate the amount of clothes already in existence is a step on the path towards a more climate friendly wardrobe. It doesn’t immediately slow up what is currently happening in the manufacturing supply chain of course, but eventually these sorts of customer behaviour changes are going to have an impact on the industry as a whole.
- How can I care for my clothes?
The impact of washing, dry cleaning and not mending our clothes to make them last are all factors in how much of a climate footprint our clothes have. We tend to wash clothes too often (a good airing for many of our clothes would be sufficient a lot of the time), and we use too high temperatures. All high levels of energy use and if its using up fossil fuel based electricity, then it’s an impact. Repairing our clothes rather than stopping wearing them or getting rid of them is also a big factor in getting more use out of what we have.
- If I’m in a shopping mode, how could I do that differently?
If you aren’t sure the big brand you are considering buying from is part of the problem or part of the solution, the first thing to do is ask them. But if you don’t hear what we need to hear then how could you shop differently? Could you shop for a personal stylist to help you find more outfit combinations? Could you shop for an independent brand who is making a more positive impact? Or fill the gap in your wardrobe with preloved or rent what you need? Perhaps find a mender or up cycler to create something original for you using what you already have?
All these shifts in habit and mindset can and will make a difference. Yes, its going to take time but if lots of people are doing it at the same time, the snowball effect will help. 2030 isn’t a long way away. Developing a sustainability mindset is a step on the road to tackling climate change. Its just the same as the mindset shifts we need to make when we are tackling anything new (getting back into exercise, finding a new job, approaching a new challenge in our lives like parenthood or a career change) - rather than climbing Everest in one go, think of it as moving a few steps along the path each day. If we are taking steps, we are making change.
If you want to dive deeper into this subject keep coming back to visit us here or on our socials - we will be taking a journey through all these topics and we’d love to take you with us!