Should we make it September all year round?
You may have heard about Second Hand September, a new initiative started by Oxfam, which has taken social media by storm. The idea is to commit not to buy new clothes in September and to stick to second hand if you need anything. Raising awareness of the garment waste we contribute to is definitely a good thing but how can we do more?
If you take time to look at the Oxfam website you'll read that 11 million items of clothing end up in landfill every week (they don't specify whether this is the UK or worldwide but either way it's still shocking). We should definitely be shocked by this, but what can each of us do and how can our little drops of effort in this ocean of waste help to make a wave that will change things?
Last year at the Edie sustainability conference we came a across a great analogy... if you came home to your bath tap on full blast and your bathroom flooding you'd surely turn the tap off before you grabbed the mop and bucket. It would make sense to look at the garment industry like this... the tap is on too full. As individuals we are not the ones manufacturing too many items but perhaps we can do more to make sure we aren't supporting businesses with these practices. Too many manufacturers still make (sometimes poor quality) garments in huge volumes in order to achieve economies of scale and end up selling off hugely discounted clothing that is not made to last.
Kirsty McGregor, the new Editor of Drapers Magazine recently commented on The Fashion Pact presented at the G7 summit in Biarritz over the August bank holiday weekend. She said that this was a watershed moment in the global effort to make the textile industry more sustainable and heartrendingly some of the world’s largest luxury and high street brands have signed the voluntary commitment to reduce their environmental impact. However, she also criticised the industry stating that 'this commitment is at odds with the panic discounting behaviour we’re witnessing from high street retailers in the UK'. Her suggestion is that rather than thinking about how to drive footfall in the short term, retailers must increase their efforts to improve forecasting and bring down lead times, so they can reduce stock overhang and resist the temptation to start the new season with 40% off. We couldn't agree more and this is where our voice and our actions can make a difference. By choosing to buy from companies who offer transparency in their manufacture and supply chain and make quality garments we are supporting more sustainable practices. Turtle Doves is a closed-loop recycling business and we are here through the support of customers who seek us out and choose to buy textiles that are 'on a second tour of duty' rather than buying new.
Some, but not all of us, buy more clothing than we need. Cutting down on unnecessary purchases and redirecting necessary purchases to second-hand or re-claimed products will definitely help. Secondhand September is a good step forward and hopefully it will raise awareness and make more of us consider the alternatives to buying new. If more of us do this every month of the year we will make a difference together.
There are lots of ways of reusing things too and, whether you can sew or not, often a much loved item can be repaired or altered and carry on being useful to someone for many years.
At the other end of the product life-cycle we can also have a huge effect by choosing carefully where our garments go when they're no longer useful to us. We get rid of things for so many reasons, clothes can be worn-out, no longer fit us or be out of fashion for example. Whatever the reason is doing it mindfully could really help individuals as well as minimising waste.
There may be charities, national or local, who collect specific items and help particular groups of people. Underwear is often seen as non-recyclable but Smalls for All and Oxfam are good places to start; for many women in Africa a bra is an unaffordable luxury and your discarded bra could really change someone's life for the better. Closer to home if you have smart clothes you no longer wear they can help to change lives too. For womenswear, charities like Dress for Success and Smart Works are a good start and for gents office wear Suited and Booted and Suited for Success will help your old clothes to help others.
If you have a damaged cashmere jumper our recycling scheme may be of interest to you and even if the jumper is beyond use we'll make sure it is sent on the right journey and doesn't go into the ground.
If you're unsure of how something can best be re-used some time spent on Google can help. That said, often time is the limiting factor and if you just don't have enough of that to do research then your local charity shop can help. As long as clothes are clean, even if they aren't in perfect condition, they will end up in the best place if they go into the charity system. This is now a well-oiled machine and it's always better to send things in that direction than to bin them.
Not so many decades ago clothing waste just wasn't a thing and old shirts, for example, became cleaning cloths then rags and eventually just wore away... perhaps we should be looking backwards as well as forwards for inspiration!
I know a lot of this isn't news and it's only touching the surface of the things we can all do to help reduce waste. If you have any thoughts or resources you'd like to share with us we'd love to hear from you. The email to send to is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading and here's to making our own difference however small.
Kate & the TD Team xx