How to Reduce Your Fashion Footprint and Make Your Wardrobe Sustainable

Many people today are having conversations with their family members, friends, neighbors, and enemies about how large a carbon footprint they have left. Few of us have any idea, let alone an accurate one, of the total set of greenhouse gas emissions we have been responsible for over the past decades. Come to think of it, our intentions matter not, as we will still be found guilty, come Environmental Judgment Day.

Despite more conscious efforts in later years to reduce, reuse, and recycle everything from water to paper, we still have a long way to go. Reading the May 3, 2023, fashion section article by Ana Santi at, titled, “How to make your wardrobe sustainable,” I identified yet another error in my ways. Santi’s piece on wardrobe sustainability contained many concepts I had never considered. For instance, did you know it’s conservatively estimated that 4% of global emissions come from fashion and 20% of all wastewater is produced by fashion? Through reading a 2022 article by the Berlin-based Hot or Cool Institute think tank, I learned a “sufficient” wardrobe consists of 74 garments and 20 outfits, with a limit of five new items purchased in a year’s time. Those figures set me to thinking and not good thoughts. There’s no way my wardrobe and buying behavior fits within those parameters.

Santi concluded the same thing midway through the audit of her own wardrobe. She believed she had double the sustainable amount of garments. Her numbers increased further when she suddenly remembered a slew of unaccounted for summer outfits she had in storage. When Santi asked fellow journalists, Martha Henriques and Will Park, to perform a similar clothing audit, they, too, discovered they had exceeded sustainability. Dilys Williams, director of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion at the University of the Arts London, wonders if it’s from the fashion system always selling an ideal that doesn’t exist.

“Businesses are not paying the full price for what they’re making,” Williams says, “The accountancy model for fashion is flawed because it doesn’t count the environmental and social costs — these are the societal costs we pay.” Williams also believes there is a pervasive culture of newness, driven by trends and supported by cheap prices and easy returns.

So, how can we reduce our fashion footprint and make our wardrobe sustainable? Buy secondhand, mostly unblended fibers, keep the garments mended, and don’t overwash them. And, most importantly, buy less.

Source: Sturgis Journal

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