You like clothes but you like your planet more. Find out how the net can help reduce your fashion carbon footprint.

Did you know that the fashion industry is responsible for ten per cent of annual global carbon emissions? That is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Flying has nothing on the carbon footprint of the fashion industry; a million tonnes of clothing are thrown away every year, with 300,000 tonnes going to landfill. While fast fashion makes clothes more affordable, it comes at an enormous environmental cost.

‘Fashion needs to clean up its act – and fast,’ wrote Emily Chain in Vogue last year. The internet, however, is helping today’s shoppers reduce and re-use their clothes in a bid to reduce landfill and carbon emissions. We can now have all the fun of browsing a flea market, or shopping from sustainable brands, or fixing ripped jeans, just by browsing on our computers.

Are you a conscious consumer but unsure where to look online? Here are a few favourite forward-thinking fashion platforms to help reduce your carbon footprint.

Shopping? Think, Will I Wear It 30 Times?

Will you wear this new item a minimum of 30 times? This is the question put to us by Livia Firth, founder of Eco-Age, a fashion sustainability consultancy. Her site is a treasure trove of articles detailing what dressing sustainably means in 2020. On average, British women wear a garment of clothing just seven times. Livia started the #30Wears campaign – which went viral – encouraging shoppers to buy an item only if they know they will wear it again and again. And again. Thirty times over. When you shop, don’t just think price, think lifespan. Statement impulse buys, that fall out of fashion in no time? Those are the ones that tend to end up in landfill.

Listen to Deliciously Ella's podcast with Livia Firth on Sustainable Fashion on Spotify.

Best Ethical Brands If You Are Buying New

Nobody is saying you have to stop shopping. It’s just time to buy less and buy better. If you’re going to shop for new clothes, know which shops have a sustainable focus in mind. Buy high-quality pieces made out of durable material that won’t end up in landfill. To reduce the carbon impact of your clothes, look for garments made from eco-friendly natural fabrics such as bamboo, silk, organic cotton and hemp. Some of the high street’s biggest shops have special sustainable collections. H&M offers the Conscious Collection and Mango is aiming for fifty per cent of the cotton used in its collections to be sourced sustainably by 2022. Livia Firth recommends Bottletop (sustainably sourced handbags), Kitx (luxury sustainable slinky dresses), Veja (ecological sneakers) and Amur (sustainable feminine fashion).

How To Donate Preloved Clothes To Prevent Landfill

If you’re serious about sustainability, do clear out your wardrobe and either sell, swap or donate your old clothes. Whatever you do, don’t – as many still do – throw away the garments. We need to keep fashion castoffs, which are more often made with unbiodegradable plastic fibers, out of landfills.

‘One of the areas in which you could make a big difference in terms of your personal climate change impact is by reducing the amount of clothes you buy and keeping them for longer, then donating them to charity shops to keep them in the national wardrobe,’ says Libby Peake, senior policy adviser for Green Alliance. A number of sites will help you donate your pre-loved clothing to a good cause. I Collect Clothes is a free service that will pick up bags or boxes of unwanted clothes from your home and donate them to a charity of your choice. Some high street shops offer customer credit vouchers when they bring in old clothes. The H&M Garment Collecting Programme helps prevent unwanted clothes from going to landfill; trade in a bag of old clothes in H&M for a £5 voucher towards your next purchase of £25 (or more). Meanwhile, M&S has teamed up with Oxfam; if you donate an item of its branded clothing, you’ll get £5 off your next purchase over £35.

Find An Online Tailor To Alter Clothes

Broken zip? Lost some buttons? Jacket too tight? In order to get the most mileage from your clothes, you may need to repair the odd rip or tweak the style of clothes. The average lifetime of a clothing garment in the UK is estimated as just 2.2 years. In order to lengthen this lifespan, you need to take good care of your clothes and ensure they last as long as possible. This needn’t mean traipsing down the high street to find a seamstress as the web offers all you need at the click of a button. Clothes Doctor is an online clothing maintenance service providing clothes repairs, alterations and restoration treatments. Post or drop off your garments and the expert seamstresses will fix and return the item within seven days. ‘Many people no longer wear their favourite item because it no longer fits them, or because they no longer like the style,’ says Chris Morton, head seamstress at Clothes Doctor. ‘A simple alteration like taking in at the waist or shortening a full-length dress into mid or short length can give you what feels like a fresh new outfit, and also keep your old favourites updated with the latest style.’ Time to make do and mend.

Buy Second Hand Online: The Best Pre-Loved Fashion Platforms

Hunting for a vintage sweatshirt, one-off items or a pre-loved party dress? Stay at home and look on your smartphone. It is not just fast fashion e-commerce that thrives online; there has been a market shift as forward thinking preloved fashion sites soar in popularity. ‘According to the annual retail report by popular pre-loved clothing platform ThredUp, the fashion resale market is set to reach $51 billion in the next five years, overtaking fast fashion by 2028,’ says Beatrice Murray-Nag from Eco-Age. Millennials and Gen Z look to high-end online marketplace 1st Dibs which sells vintage fashion alongside antiques. If you’re feeling more frugal, your first online port of call should be ASOS Marketplace which sells clothes from over 800 small businesses including vintage boutiques, individual designers and independent labels. Real people model the clothes; hence, its nickname ‘the people’s runway’. Other vintage shoppers rate It’s Vintage Darling, a site where every single listed item, from shoes to homeware to party frocks, has been personally picked by the staff. There is also Beyond Retro, which chooses to ship their products by boat, rather than air, in a bid to keep their carbon footprint minimal. Last but not least, look to The Resolution Store which combines influencer marketing and slow fashion with its little worn or unused clothes.


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By Annabel Jack
Updated August 2021

Annabel Jack

Contributing Editor

Annabel is a regular contributor to The GWG, with a taste for finest in food, fashion and interiors.