Reducing the carbon footprint of your wardrobe

by | 13 April 2021 | Environment, Sherwood

We all need clothes, however the fashion industry accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20% of wastewater. And while the environmental impact of flying is now well known, fashion sucks up more energy than both aviation and shipping combined. The good news is there are some steps we can all take to halt that trend.

Look at the clothes you already own
Around 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill every year. Not only does landfill take up space, but it also releases methane into the atmosphere. Remember the saying ‘waste not want not’ and instead of sending to landfill consider the following options.

  • Repair: You only need a needle and thread to sew on loose buttons and mend rips, helping clothes last longer. Fixing something is often quicker and easier than you’d think. You could try mending clothes using the Japanese technique, Sachiko.
  • Find a tailor / dressmaker: If you don’t think you have the skill to repair the item yourself there is always someone local or dry cleaners who will undertake the work for a small fee.
    Modernise or make over: If the garment is a favourite which has become a little outdated there are ways of modernising such as removing frills or lowering the neckline. There are a number of YouTube videos with ideas and help.
  • Recycle: Buttons and zips can always be saved and used to repair other garments in the future. Material can be reused to make a quilt or to make fabric shopping bags for your vegetables when you go to the supermarket. Dresses can be made into skirts and tops. There are many self help tutorials on the internet to guide you.
  • Swap with friends: If you no longer want a garment, a friend might have something they would like to swap it for.
  • Hand down to siblings: If you have outgrown a garment but it is still in good condition a younger sibling may be grateful to add it to their wardrobe.
  • Donate to charity: Charity shops are always looking for good quality items that they can sell to make money for a good cause.

If the item is beyond all of that, find your nearest clothing recycling point.

When need new clothes
Before you consider buying why not:

  • Have a go at making your new clothes: Patterns, material, thread, buttons and zips are much less expensive.
  • Go vintage or second hand: In general, jeans made from material as close to the natural state of cotton as possible use less water and hazardous treatments to produce. The stretchy elastane material in many modern jeans is made of synthetic materials, derived from plastic, which reduces recyclability and increases the environmental impact further. Vintage jeans are the best and loads of sellers offer handpicked pieces in excellent condition.

As a last resort if you need to buy new clothes, buy locally and be selective. Look for fabrics and styles that you’ll get the most out of – quality pieces within your budget, that’ll hold their shape and withstand wear and tear. See them as an investment that you’ll wear forever – or until you hand them down. Also remember you can re-dye natural fibres like linen and cotton fairly easily (as long as they’re not blended with elastane or polyester). So you can give faded pieces a new lease of life, rather than discarding them.
If you’re looking for ways to repair and recycle (without compromising your style) check out Lauren Bravo’s book ‘How To Break Up With Fast Fashion: A guilt-free guide to changing the way you shop – for good’.

For more information about Sherwood Forest Friends of the Earth, we’re on Facebook at Sherwood Forest FoE, or email

Pauline Meechan
Sherwood Forest Friends of the Earth