Well Halloween has come and gone now, and in the following weeks we are all sure to feel our clothing get a lliiiittttllleee tighter, especially with Thanksgiving (for our American neighbours) and Christmas around the corner.
So lets talk clothes this week! In a three-part series I hope to share with you guys the importance of Minding your closet and the detrimental effects the Fast Fashion industry has on our environment. This first post will be about the EASIEST and CHEAPEST way to have a sustainable closet.
1. The Garment/Fast Fashion industry (ie. clothing which is a “steal” bargain or super trendy) is the SECOND largest polluting industry next to Big Oil.
2. The FIRST place to start creating a sustainable wardrobe is to take care of what you already own. Don’t rush out to buy new ethical brands or sustainable fabrics to replace your existing items, that is expensive and wasteful. Buy QUALITY DETERGENT free of phosphates and harmful surfactants which can impact aquatic life in freshwater and saltwater ecosystems. Brands like Seventh Generation, ECOS, Mrs. Meyers and Nellies Laundry Soap are both affordable and effective!
3. Make your clothing LAST by pre-treating stains with concentrated laundry detergent (no need for special pre-treating products) and wash dark coloured things like denim inside out to protect their colour.
4. Mix up your wardrobe! Check out Pinterest for outfit ideas and put together new outfits with your existing wardrobe. I do this ALL THE TIME, too often if you ask my Husband, but I get that “new outfit feels” when I get to try a different combination out.
So! For the rest of you who can stick around, keep reading to find out how I started out my sustainable wardrobe journey with tips and tricks that worked for me. The rest of you? Get back to work 😉
I will be the first to admit that I am not the most fashionable person… Yep.. I love me a comfortable pair of jeans and a t-shirt and converse runners. Which in some ways makes sustainable fashion easy and difficult at the same time. When I began this I tried to keep in mind two things:
Keeping my existing wardrobe was the best option! I found a similar Ethical Closet guide like the one created by into-mind.com and I use it regularly to help me stay on track.
I surveyed my closet. Know thy enemy! I regularly take an afternoon to sort through my clothes. I donate what I am not wearing anymore and make a list of staple pieces I would like to replace or add to my wardrobe. This prevents me from impulse shopping during moments of “I have nothing to wear” or “Ohhh… that’s a good deal….”
When I first started thinking about my closet I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make many changes; however, I took a couple simple steps which helped me figure out where and what I could improve on while also cluttering and organizing.
First I surveyed my closet. How many pieces have I owned for 2+ years? 3+ years? 5+ years? A large part of sustainability is resisting the temptation of fast fashion (ie trends, impulse shopping, and brands which have great prices but terrible track records for quality) So keeping clothing for a long time requires them to be durable and timeless.
If they still looked great, I turned the hanger around (this is step one, and I come back to this later.) If they didn’t or didn’t fit, I donated them. I was fairly surprised to see that much of my closet was full of long-term pieces (considering I wasn’t a big spender and I love a good sale)
Second, I surveyed the amount of clothing I had received secondhand. Did they still fit? In style? Misshapen or pilled? After conducting this survey, I turned the keeps hangers around and donated the rest.
Third, I looked at my closet to see what was left (easy to spot since some hangers were turned around! Ah see! I told you I had a plan!) I surveyed these. Where did they come from? Are they still in style? What kind of shape are they in? Not surprisingly what these pieces were, were the “fast fashion” pieces purchased over the past year. These pieces were brands like Joe Fresh, H&M, and Le Chateau. They hadn’t kept their shape well or had pilled badly. Some looked okay, and I decided that they got to join the “long term” clothes, but would receive better care in the future.
The same kinds of surveys were conducted with my t-shirt collection, sock and underwear drawers and what I was left with were two medium sized bags of donations and about two dozen empty hangers. What had I accomplished? Well beyond organizing and purging my closest, I became cognizant of my wardrobe. What many of us take for granted in the access we have to clothing, and its immediacy at stores.
Now I was prepared to replace clothing with sustainable items and knew what essentials I already had in my closet. Next, taking care of what I had.
Now, I have always used a “earth-friendly” detergent. In our house we use ECOS brand liquid soap because it is affordable (from Costco) and effective for our needs- not a ton of stains or spills. We also ditched the dryer sheets, scented beads and fabric softener years ago after finding out that they not only contain chemicals (similar to those in detergent) which pollute waterways, but they can damage fabrics like nylon, spandex, elastic (basically everything athletic oriented), microfiber and microfiber blends. Not only that, they cause build-up on clothing which discolouurs whites and dulls colours. AND lastly, for many people the fragrance and softening properties irritate skin and allergies. So not only do the shorten the life of your clothes, but are irritating in multiple ways.
So I am guessing many of your are going “But… but… I like the smell of fresh laundry…”
Solution? Felted dryer balls! We have two that we use and I put 3-5 drops of essential oil on them once a month to impart a nice smell on to our clothes. The felt removes any static too. My Sister asked if the oils stained our clothes at all and I would have to say no, I haven’t seen any! When I add the oil, I always let it soak in a little before throwing them into the dryer.
I bought these at FAVOURITE Gifts in North Vancouver (you can find them on Facebook) for I think $5.00 each. Well worth it considering that a box of dryer sheets run about $4.00-$9.00 per box and only last 120 washes. I have had my felt balls for 2+ years, so well worth the $10.00.
Next week we will talk about the Do’s and Don’ts of shopping for vintage or thrift clothes and one of my best kept secrets: consignment stores. Our last post of this three part series will talk about what to look for in sustainable clothing brands and who some of my favourites are.
Here are some links which I found helpful! Hopefully they will be to you too!