“But that’s how it is when you start wanting to have things. Now I just look at them, and when I go away I carry them in my head. Then my hands are always free, because I don’t have to carry a suitcase.”
― Tove Jansson, Elizabeth Portch
Disclaimer: Opinion pieces are representative of the opinion of the individual, rather than Fifty Percent as an organisation.
When I was doing my first master’s degree, I had to choose a topic for my thesis by the end of the first year. I already knew that it had to be something in relation to ecology and business ethics. Still, I did not yet precisely know the specific topic. So, one evening, I sat down with a cup of tea on my worktable and googled ‘most polluting industries’. To my shock, I found that the fashion industry was the second (!) most pollutive sector in the world. Right there, in front of my eyes, appeared a range of articles, documentaries and photographs that painted a picture of terrible working conditions and environmental destruction. I was devastated – I have always loved fashion, kept up with the trends, but until now, I had never considered the pain behind the gloss. That day, I chose my thesis topic and committed to a total change of attitude and behavior.
Today, I write this article to share what I have learnt with you:
The 5Rs rule consists of 5 main actions: ’Refuse,’ ‘Reduce,’ ‘Reuse,’’ Rethink,’ ‘Recycle.’
The first thing that I started doing was reading and educating myself about the sustainability and ethics of my favourite brands. Some of them had promising things to say, some not so much, and some - back then in 2017 - disclosed no information on the topic at all. At the time it did not occur to me that I could have simply written them and asked about it, holding them accountable to their claims, so I am now sharing with you: you absolutely can. And you should. You might learn about the company’s materials, production circles, how they treat their workers, and much more. It takes time, but it is worth it. At the point when I am at a mall, I stopped walking into unsustainable stores, and therefore avoid the temptation.
One day I gathered all the clothes that I own into one pile, and seeing how much I owned was shocking to me, especially when I thought about how much of it I really used.. I decided to sort some of it out, giving some away to friends and some to charities. However, the desire of buying pretty, nice things was still instilled in me, even when I knew I had enough at home. In a bid to be more sustainable, I started to buy from thrift stores. So instead of a pile of new clothes, I got a pile of pre-loved ones. And I was not even noticingI had created these piles: the habit of buying new was simply replaced with a habit of buying second-hand- but it was still impulsive. It did not come to me until I had sat down, and by the advice of the wise Marie Kondo, put all of my clothes from all the hangers, shelfs, and chairs into one huge mountain.They say that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure when going to flee markets and such, but a lot of the golden findings I thought I got, without use, became my trash. So, after sorting out my clothes, I donated 6 large bags to charity again. After that realisation, whenever I had an urge to buy something, I started to ask myself, ‘Is that a need or a want?’. It is essential to be honest with yourself here. If that is a ‘want,’ then just put it back. Chances are, in a week from that point, or even in a day, you will not remember about that piece. At least, that is what happened to me. Sometimes, I strongly desired something, so I kept thinking about an item for a month, and then, if it was ethically produced, but I did not need it -I would get it. But at least, I had an incredible feeling of satisfaction from that.
One more positive habit is giving out or recycling one thing when you buy something: ‘one-in-one out’. That was difficult initially and still not easy for me, but that does save me time on decluttering my wardrobe. I suggest you try that; it gets easier with time.
I am not as much of a party person now as I used to be, though I guess that in the last two years nobody really was. But as things are coming back to normal, the offline meetings and celebrations of all kinds are coming back too. A question of ‘what am I going to wear?’ comes back with it. It is more difficult for the people who identify themselves as women, as they have historically been more pressured not to appear in the same outfit in public twice. The truth is -nobody really cares. It is now even common seeing celebrities adhering to the slow-fashion movement and making it a point to repeat outfits. . As I started repeating outfits to such events more often, I am fairly certain none of my friends or family noticed. If anything, as my wardrobe now consisted of pieces I truly loved and therefore wore more often, they complimented me on how well my clothes suited me. If that still does not convince you to repeat the same outfit – try and recombine it with some accessories, see if that eases your anxiety about wearing the same clothes. And enjoy more of the people, atmosphere, and the party itself, then caring about clothes- being present in these meaningful moments is what adds value to your life and what you will remember later, not the outfits you wore.
I am not a very crafty person, to be honest. But I have started to learn, bit by bit. Upcycling clothes can be an attractive option, though I still prefer to pay someone to do it for me rather than do it on my own. If you want to get crafty, I recommend you try the most straightforward methods first on items that are really worn out and that you won’t mind if they don’t come out perfect.’ Start with dyeing with natural colors. This is one of the easiest and affordable options. You can share your results with us. I would be curious to see that.
Where do your clothes go when you throw them away? Many naturally produced clothes can be recycled into compost like other bio trash, but sadly most clothes go into the landfill. Most clothes nowadays are made of synthetic materials, which are difficult and expensive to recycle, involving many chemical processes. Also, the recycling process of clothes might not be as straightforward as you may assume. Most items are made of a blend of materials and different pieces – think about how all of these have to be separated -buttons, zips, all kinds of decorations, glitter -there is so much of everything.
But What are the options if you do want to get rid of your clothes? The first obvious option is to try and sell it -either online or at the local market. If that is not an option, ask your family and friends if they would want to take some of your clothes that you do not need anymore. You can also try clothes swapping! You can make a fun event out of it. In some countries, clothing-swap apps may be available to make the process easier.
If none of these steps were helpful – you still have a choice of upcycling or downcycling: make a bag out of old jeans, cut an old shirt for cleaning clothes, resew a dress into doll’s outfits, etc.
You can also search for recycling options by your favorite brands and bring them the old clothes in exchange for a discount. Last but not least, you can donate your items to charity or throw Them away if you really have no other option.
To this day, I am still not perfect when it comes to following these rules, and I am not asking you to be either, but it is crucial to commit to change, and I am now. I believe in the power of habits, and I sincerely hope that my experience will help you become a conscious consumer and look fabulous in sustainable clothes.