Buy a hand-crafted ceramic daffodil from the Ten Thousand Daffodils installation

30 Steps: Day to Day

Step 22 : Clothing

The Problem: wasteful, chemicals, cheap labour, high carbon footprint, plastic pollution
The Solution: second-hand, repair and reuse, recycled, sustainable
  • Fast fashion is having a devastating impact on our planet and on the lives of thousands of people around the world. The fast fashion industry has been calculated to produce around 10% of all global emissions according to the IPCC. From toxic chemicals spilled out of factories into watercourses to poor working conditions, modern slavery to the vast amounts of waste produced, we need to find a way to rethink how we clothe ourselves. Circular loops and sustainable brands must become the norm and we can do much as individuals to help this.
  • Buying clothes secondhand means you are not responsible for any of the environmental footprint associated with virgin clothing. Buying from charity shops can be a great way to do this, or there are many online platforms such as Depop and ebay where users can sell unwanted items, usually at very affordable prices.
  • If you buy new clothes, be prepared to spend more money, less often. Fast fashion has become so popular because of cheap prices for clothes which do not echo their environmental price. Buying say one or two new items of clothing a year means you can justify spending more money on good, ethical production lines and sustainable materials. We must appreciate what we have instead of wanting more all the time. Do you really need it?
  • There are many sustainable and ethical clothing brands out there. Many make clothes out of environmentally friendly materials, such as hemp, bamboo and organic cotton. Although these are better, they still do have an impact in terms of water and land use and carbon footprint, so reducing your consumption is still preferable. Supporting small businesses trying to do the right thing is really important in helping our society move away from huge fast fashion corporations into a responsibly-minded, ethical, circular fashion system.
  • Synthetic clothing is made from materials such as polyester and nylon, derived from fossil fuels. In this way, we cannot divert from a fossil fuel-reliant economy and still produce cheap clothes in current quantities. These materials also release microfibers into water courses upon washing, as mentioned earlier in the Home section. If you do have synthetic clothes, make sure you wash them in a filter bag to prevent this. When buying new, natural materials may be preferable, although many companies are now making clothes out of recycled plastics, often from ocean waste, which obviously has benefits too.
  • Don’t be afraid to wear the same item of clothing many times. We should not judge people for what they are wearing or how many possessions they have, so wearing the same outfit to every Christmas party is something to be proud of. If you fancy wearing something new for an event but don’t want to waste money on something you are only going to wear once then hiring outfits is a great option, for both the planet and your wallet. Sites such as Hirestreet and Girl Meets Dress offer rental services, as do many others that a simple search will reveal.

Initial cost


Lifetime savings


Environmental benefits


Health benefits