The essential guide to sustainable clothing

With the new season here, many of us take the transition as an opportunity to spring clean our homes. Include your wardrobe clear-out on your cleaning to-do list and learn more about how to make more sustainable clothing choices.

Out with the old, in with the new

While some people are inclined to simply throw unwanted items into the rubbish, we say put down those plastic bags and take a different approach. Go through your clothes and accessories to find items which you no longer wear or want. Give them a wash on a planet-friendly cool setting before taking them down to your local recycling centre or op shop. This is a great way to cut down on the amount of waste you produce, as well as send your belongings to a new home for a new lease of life. Plus, be sure to pack them in reusable bags and walk or take public transport so fewer harmful emissions are emitted into the atmosphere as a result of your journey.

National OpShop Week recently took place across Australia at the end of August, highlighting this important aspect of the national retail sector. Research from the National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations (NACRO) found recycling clothes helps redirect 300,000 tonnes of items away from landfill each year, showing just how significant the effects of throwing away unwanted clothes can be.

Choose clothing carefully

When picking your clothes, you can make more eco-conscious choices by considering the materials of the items too. Opting for naturally and locally sourced fabrics as much as possible can avoid the planet-harming production processes required to manufacture many traditional clothing materials. Canvas and other organic fabrics can be used to create clothes and accessories, and are often the material of choice for the increasingly fashionable (and sustainable) promotional tote bags

Check labels and research clothing options before you decide on an item. Buying locally made items is also another great way to contribute to making the planet healthier, as this cuts down on the carbon footprint of your clothes. Research from Systain, a German consulting firm, and the Otto Group, an international retail contractor, found that a standard white cotton shirt creates more than 10kg of CO2 alone, according to the 2009 study. 

Extend the philosophy

It's not only in your clothing choices that you can be sustainable. Extend this ethos to all areas of your home too. Use eco-friendly products for cleaning your home, specialist green toiletries as part of your beauty regime and even make sure the food that you eat is fresh and locally produced for an array of environmentally aware alternatives. Taking the time to reassess attitudes to clothes, accessories as well as household essentials is easy and quick to do, with the cost-cutting benefits likely to be felt straight away, plus contributing to the longer term well-being of the planet too.

According to research from the University of Missouri, it can also pay to be creative with how you use clothing fabrics too. For instance, denim can be remade to use as insulation or mattress stuffing – proving your old jeans haven't reached the end of their days just quite yet! 

However you decide to incorporate sustainable choices into your wardrobe and home, you can be sure that you're likely to save money as well as contribute to making the planet a more pleasant and greener place to live. While the effects of such switches may not be immediately obvious on the wider scale, gradual changes to a more sustainable way of life will be beneficial not only for our health but that of the planet too.