Small Ways to Make Big Environmental Changes: Consider Your Clothes

Clothing on hangers

If you’re constantly buying new clothes you only wear once or twice, consider what happens to it after you throw it away

Did you know that the clothing industry accounts for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions? It’s the combination of creating the material, manufacturing the items, and shipping them that makes the fashion industry such a high polluter. So as a consumer, what can you do? We pulled some advice from Laurie David and Heather Reisman’s new book, Imagine It!: A Handbook for a Happier Planet, that will hopefully help you shop a little smarter.

Know what happens to your old clothes

Even though the majority of our old clothes could be reused or recycled, 85% of them end up in landfills where they break down and emit toxic chemicals. So before you just toss out the latest “fast fashion” items you’ve only worn a few times, consider donating them, trading them with friends or even selling them.

Think before you buy

Next time you go to buy a sweater that you already have in six colors, think to yourself: Do I really need this? David and Resiman say a good rule of thumb is to try the #30WearsChallenge, which means before you buy something, imagine if you’ll realistically wear it 30 times. That’s one really quick and easy way to preemptively Marie Kondo your closet! If you do decide to pull the trigger on that new dress, check to make sure the clothing company has made a commitment to sustainability. From Girlfriend Collective to Allbirds, there are a ton of brands that prioritize the environment to choose from. 

Don’t just ditch your denim

Since jeans are made of cotton, they can be recycled! That means they can be remade into new clothing, or even changed into something for a totally new purpose, like home insulation. A ton of retailers are now participating in something called the Blue Jeans Go Green program, which recycles old jeans. You can drop them off at participating retailers, or mail them in. (Hot tip: Madewell will give you $20 off of a new pair of jeans if you recycle your old ones with them, no matter what brand they are!)