“Buy less, choose well, make it last”
- Vivienne Westwood
It is clear with the scale of the problem that we need industry-wide change. Our role as consumers is to drive those changes, but our own choices also make a difference. Here are some practical steps that everyone can take to reduce the environmental impact of our clothes and build more sustainable wardrobes.
Use your clothes for as long as possible
Wearing clothes for longer matters. Studies show that if we doubled the amount of time we kept our clothes for, greenhouse gas emissions would be 44% lower. Before you buy something, think about how many times you will actually wear it - will you wear it 5 times? 30 times? Or will it be a one-hit wonder? Chances are there are lots of clothes lurking in the back of your wardrobe that you never wear; in fact around 30% of clothes in the average household wardrobe have typically been unused for at least a year. Take a moment to look at what you already have and see if you can find new ways to restyle or wear old clothes differently. The most sustainable item of clothing is the one you already own!
Repair and care for your clothes to keep them in use for longer
Caring for your clothes is an important part of extending their life. Read the care label on your clothes so you know how to wash them, tend to stains quickly and mend minor damage like missing buttons, small holes and torn seams. Did you know that jeans are typically only designed to withstand 30 washes? That means if you wash your jeans every week they won’t even last a year. Consider doing spot washes for small marks instead. This will help keep your clothes in good condition so that they can be used and re-used for longer.
When you’re not using your clothes any more, give them a second life
When the time eventually comes to say goodbye to something you own, make sure you give it another life and that it doesn’t end up as waste in landfill. The simplest way to minimise the environmental impact of clothes you no longer want but are still in good wearable condition is to give, swap or sell them to a new owner, or donate them to a charity who will redistribute them to people in need, always remembering to wash them first! Re-using clothing both delays disposal and means that the person receiving or buying it doesn’t need to buy new, which avoids using materials and new resources to make new clothing. You can Donate Clothes to Redress at 19 permanent locations in Hong Kong.
Even if we as individual consumers don’t always have the power to effect industry-level change, with our collective power we can demand change. Get to know the brands you support by visiting their websites; do they provide any information about their social and environmental commitments? If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, ask for it and tell them why you want to know. Send an email or contact them through social media. Writing to brands sends a signal that social and environmental issues are important to their customers. The more people who take the time to contact brands, the more likely it is that they will take notice. Your question might just be the catalyst that sparks an internal conversation or push them to prioritise the issue.
Consider buying secondhand, swapping or renting instead of buying new
Wearing used clothes is one of the best ways you can keep the environmental footprint of your wardrobe in check. Connecting over clothing by sharing and swapping amongst friends is also a fun way to experiment with your style. By wearing pre-loved, you’re giving clothes that might otherwise have ended up in landfills a new life, as well as reducing the demand for new clothing which takes a lot of resources to produce. It’s also more sustainable for your wallet, too. Check out our guide for where you can thrift, swap, rent and Shop Sustainably in Hong Kong.
Share your stories
If someone passes you a compliment about something that you’ve thrifted, swapped, rented or borrowed, tell them where it came from. Strike a pose in your favourite Get Redressed outfit or take a picture when you are donating clothes at a Redress donation point and share it with the hashtag #GetRedressed on Instagram and Facebook. Sharing those stories shows others that ‘old’ clothes still have value and are not disposable, and by spreading the word you can inspire others to join the movement.
We rely on enthusiastic volunteers from corporates and the community to help with sorting second-hand clothing donations into 30+ categories so that they can be effectively redistributed, as well as for our biannual Get Redressed Secondhand Pop Up Shop and other events throughout the year. Get in touch to join our volunteer team or to organise a volunteering day for your company or club.