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At Timberland, we’re committed to environmental protection and sustainable clothing and have set ambitious goals for the near future. We also realise that billions of people making small changes can add up to big differences.
Eco-friendly clothing is a key piece of the jigsaw puzzle. If all 7.5 billion of us made small positive changes, the overall effect would be immense. From the clothes we choose to the way we get the most out of them, here are our ten steps to an eco-friendly wardrobe – all of which you can start today.
10 achievable tips for eco-friendly clothing
1. Buy from ethical clothing brands
There are so many clothing brands that take their environmental responsibilities seriously, so do some research on a company’s eco-credentials before you buy.
Don’t just take manufacturers at their word – they all say they’re greener than green. Search for any brand with a term like “corporate social responsibility” and you’ll probably be directed to one of its web pages where it lays out its mission. But you’ll also find independent articles and videos from campaigners who might give a more honest assessment. It’s up to you to make informed choices.
Once a garment has reached the end of its life, think about how you can use its materials. Could you cut that pair of knee-worn jeans into a pair of shorts, for example? If you’ve got scissors, a needle and some thread, you’ve all the tools you need to re-purpose all those old clothes. They don’t have to be turned into other clothes, of course. Make them into quilts, cushions or craft items that are truly unique.
3. Buy Quality
One of the major problems with fashion is the amount of energy required to make its materials, fabricate the clothing and transport it. The more clothes and shoes you buy, the bigger your impact. Buying good quality fashion will reduce the need to constantly buy new stuff, so you’ll be doing your bit. Remember: quality shoes are ethical shoes – they might cost a bit more than fast fashion, but you’ll save in the long run.
4. Buy vintage - and donate
People get rid of clothes for all sorts of reasons, not always because it’s worn out. You can pick up some bargains in vintage and charity stores with a near-zero carbon footprint. Also, don’t throw out old but wearable clothes. You can sell them, donate them to charity shops or weigh them in for cash – material can be recovered from unwearable clothes to make brand new fabrics. We run a Second Chance project for shoes – read all about it here.
5. Make do and mend
Learn a few simple stitches and patching techniques and you can repair most small rips and wear. Or if you get really clued up, you can tackle some pulls and tears that might initially seem like write-offs at first (and remember the cleaning tips above). Offer your new-found skills to friends and you’ll be even more popular – that beloved sweater doesn’t have to go to the clothes bank, darn it.
6. Don’t buy clothes on a whim
Do you ever buy something just because you fancy it, even though you’ve got nothing to wear it with and you really don’t need any more clothes? It will often end up unworn, and you’ll probably find it a few years later, with the price tag still attached. That is the direct opposite of sustainable fashion. Plan your style season and make sure you wear everything you buy. An unworn item of clothing has an equal impact on the environment to one that you wear.
7. Dab and sponge
One way of having sustainable clothing is washing it less often. Most of us get a few wears out of a pair of jeans or a top between washes, but if your spooncraft is still a work in progress, there will be accidents. But do you throw it straight in the machine, or can it be dabbed?
While it’s wet, get a sponge or cloth and add a tiny amount of soap or washing-up liquid, dampen it and wring it out, then roll the sponge over the stain. After several rolls, you’ve probably lifted the spillage off, and it will dry with barely any noticeable discolouration. If the stain is dry, dab water on it and let it soak for a minute or two, then repeat the above, and it should work a treat.
Most importantly, don’t rub the stain, as that can remove the dyes in the clothing. You are lifting the stain, not sweeping it.
8. Go low-temp
A lot of clothing is quite delicate nowadays, and washing powders are getting more advanced, so the days of boiling clothes or even washing them at 60 °C are over. And since water needs lots of energy to be heated, every extra degree is just another reason to dial it down. You can usually go to 40 °C or even 30 °C and still get a decent wash. Only towels, socks, underwear and sheets need to be washed at high temperature.
9. Use eco washing powder
While big detergent brands are bending to public pressure and making their products less impactful on the environment, there are smaller brands that have long made it their mission. These ethical brands have always placed a premium on making more concentrated products that help with transportation and packaging, and actively use ingredients that are kinder to the environment, especially water. Seeking these out will make a difference to the impact of every wash.
10. Wait for a big load
Do you ever run a whole washing cycle for one or two items of clothing? That’s incredibly wasteful, using about the same amount of water and energy as a full load for most machines. Divide your clothes into different temperature and colour washes, and only wash them when you’ve got a full load. You’ll save money, too.
Sustainable fashion starts here!
As we’ve shown, sustainable clothing is within our reach, just by making a few small changes to the way be buy, care for and dispose of clothing. None of the changes require significant changes to your behaviour, but they really add up. And don’t forget, many of the tips above will save you money, making ethical fashion a real win-win. Don’t rely on other consumers and governments to take action. Start today, and reap the benefits.