5 ways to give your wardrobe an eco-friendly makeover

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From washing tips to more considered purchases, here are some easy ways to make your wardrobe more sustainable…

It’s estimated that the retail fashion industry contributes approximately 53 million tonnes of waste to landfill each year.

In light of such stark figures, it’s clear we need to adopt a more eco-friendly approach to style, but sometimes it can be tricky to know where to start.

The good thing is that thanks to changing consumer attitudes and more conscious behaviour from brands, there are plenty of ways to give your wardrobe an eco-friendly makeover.

From reassessing shopping habits to upgrading clothing care, here are five key pointers on how to get started…

  • 1. Curate, consider, invest

    From one-click ordering to lunch break window shopping, the retail environment these days makes it incredibly easy to impulse buy.

    How many times have you bought a piece on a whim only to find it languishing at the back of your wardrobe, tags still on, months later?

    Sustainability says it’s something to avoid - these days, longevity is the name of the game.

    Adopt a conscious approach - considering each purchase carefully and opting for investment pieces over faddy trends.

    Livia Firth, founder of Eco Age, endorses a “30 wears” approach to dressing.

    The premise is simple - for every piece you buy, assess whether you’ll wear it 30 times, and if the answer is no, then don’t buy it.

    It’s worth considering the rest of your wardrobe as well, aiming to fill gaps, or selecting pieces which can be styled with a decent proportion of items you already own. 

  • 2. Start small

    Don’t try and do everything all at once - small, gradual changes are far more likely to stick and become part of your lifestyle.

    Begin with the basics - the building blocks of your wardrobe – and go from there.

    Your underwear might not be the most obvious place for an eco-makeover, but there are some excellent options for sustainable smalls.

    We’re all about doing our research up front - look into brands’ conscious credentials to track down those making steps to be kinder to the planet, and check composition and care labels for eco-friendly fabrics.

    Look out for products containing Tencel™-branded lyocell fibers. Made from renewable raw material wood, these fibers are naturally durable and retain colour even after multiple washes, as well as being softer and lighter than cotton - perfect for bras and bottoms when you want some added comfort while remaining sustainable.

    We’re keen on these colourful briefs from Stripe and Stare, while this bustier from Swiss brand Calida is the sustainable sports bra you’ve been looking for.

    The real clincher? Tencel’s lyocell fibers are made in a closed-loop production process, using far less water than other natural options.

    They’re completely biodegradable too, so one day your old underwear can find its way back to nature. 

  • 3. Reassess clothing care

    The post-purchase care of our clothes contributes exponentially to their carbon footprint, but it’s easy to make some quick changes to keep that to a minimum.

    First up, wear pieces more often between washes (spot cleaning for pesky small stains), and when washing is essential opt for a green detergent - ideally plant-based, or made with natural ingredients.

    Machine drying uses about ten times the energy of washing, so aim to air dry where possible, then instead of ironing (which shortens the lifespan of fabric) use a handheld steamer or hang in the bathroom when you have a hot shower.

    Different fabrics also have different demands - some denim lovers swear by freezing jeans to refresh them.

    And it’s worth remembering that denim can be one of the most polluting fabrics to manufacture, so seek out recycled fibers, or opt for eco-friendly denim pieces.

    These ultra-comfy high-waited chinos from Scotch & Soda are a good option, using Tencel-branded fibers that offer natural comfort, smoothness and versatility, while also having been manufactured through an innovative, eco-responsible process that minimises water wastage.

  • 4. Repair before replacing

    Repairing is another way to instil longevity into your wardrobe.

    The speed and ease with which items can be replaced has altered mindsets over the last few decades, but, attitudes are gradually shifting back.

    The classic mantra, ‘make do and mend’ is having a resurgence as we look to our grandmothers for inspiration; darning socks, re-hemming skirts, patching knees.

    Where to start? Build your restoration arsenal - find a friendly local cobbler, track down a seamstress or tailor or invest in a sewing machine.

    These days there are a battery of experts waiting to breathe new life into your wardrobe - see Clothes Doctor for ready-to-wear, The Denim Doctor for jeans and Cashmere Centre for your knits.

  • 5. Adopt a circular approach

    Where possible, don’t buy new - these days there are a plethora of other options.

    First popularised by Carrie Bradshaw’s style savvy assistant, Louise, there’s been a huge growth in the rental market over the last few years.

    A whole host of companies - By Rotation, Hurr, My Wardrobe HQ to name a few - now offer every element of a dream wardrobe on loan, from statement satchels to wedding dresses, all for a fraction of the retail price.

    Plus, renting works both ways - offer up your own pieces and make your wardrobe earn you money.

    Alternatively, you could shop for pieces that have already lived a previous life, having been made using recycled materials.

    These jeans from Italian brand Closed are made from denim derived from upcycled garment scraps via innovative Refibra™ technology, ensuring that waste material is granted a stylish second existence.

Wanting to make your wardrobe a little more sustainable? Look for clothing made from Tencel cellulosic fibers of botanic origin that offer natural comfort, smoothness and versatility. Find out which brands are using Tencel fibers and where to shop them here.