(Sustainable Enniscorthy monthly column for Slaney News July issue)
The fast fashion industry is among the world’s most polluting industries, contributing substantially to global water waste and greenhouse gas emissions. The clothing choices we make have significant environmental impact. Those choices include how much we buy, what we buy, how much we wear our clothes, how we care for them, and what we do with them when we no longer want them.
Buy Less. A recent EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) report “Textiles: Attitudes & Behaviours National Survey 2021” available at www.epa.ie/publications/circular-economy/resources/EPA-Textiles-Survey-2021-Part-1-of-5.pdf found that 21% of people buy clothes several times a week, and 28% buy clothes once a week or a few times a month! This excessive consumption is not sustainable, economical or necessary.
Buy Better. Consider the textiles in your clothes. Where possible, choose quality natural materials like cotton, linen, wool, silk, and if available buy organic, fairtrade, recycled, or ethical textiles. Remember ‘fossil fashion’ synthetic fabrics like polyester use petro-chemicals and plastics in their production. Avoid textile blends with synthetic materials as they are more difficult to be recycled.
Buy Sustainably. Sustainable fashion consumption includes clothing rental (perfect for once-off occasion-wear), resale, swopping, borrowing, upcycling, and buying vintage or ‘pre-loved’ clothes. Enniscorthy charity shops selling used clothes include Vincents, NCBI, Hope Cancer Support, South East Animal Rescue and Irish Wheelchair Association. Thriftify.ie is an online charity shop selling clothes from charity shops throughout Ireland. Other sustainable options in Enniscorthy include Design for Life thrift boutique, and Back on the Rack cash for clothes and resale shop.
Wear your clothes out. The EPA survey found that 55% of High Frequency Purchasers buy clothes they wear only a few times, and 45% of them buy items they never wear! This wastes money and the resources required to produce clothes. It also creates problems in reusing, reselling or recycling unwanted clothes, with many going to incinerators, landfills or being dumped in poorer countries with lower environmental regulation. See https://www.dailysabah.com/life/fashion/chiles-atacama-desert-suffocates-under-fast-fashion-leftovers.
Washing our clothes is the second most environmentally damaging effect after their manufacture, but it’s an area over which we have personal control. Wash clothes only when necessary. Try airing clothes to freshen them rather than washing them if they are not actually dirty. Wash full loads at 30 degrees C. Try the laundry egg or use biodegradable washing liquids or powders. Measure your detergent according to the instructions and use only the necessary dose. Air-dry clothes naturally, avoid tumble driers and dry cleaning where possible.
Repairing clothes is a skill that has fallen out of fashion, but the circular economy has increased interest in clothing repair, alterations and upcycling. If your repair skills only extend to sewing a button back on, doing so is better than dumping that item of clothing. Luckily Enniscorthy has clothing repair and alteration services at MUM on Castle Street and Hilltop Cleaners and other skilled seamstresses in the town.
Conscious clothing consumption means buying less, buying better, buying sustainably, wearing our clothes more, caring for them more sustainably (washing and repairing), and ensuring they are upcycled, reused, or resold when we are finished with them.
Sustainable Enniscorthy would like to organise a clothes swop and/or a sustainable fashion show, but we need fashionistas to help us. Please contact us if you are interested at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us via our Facebook page.