Tuesday, March 10, 2009

10 easy ways to be more sustainable with your clothing

I'm not too different than other women. I like clothes. I like to feel good about what I'm wearing. I have a certain style, and when I see something that I think is "me" I want it. Unfortunately, buying whatever I want isn't very sustainable - either environmentally or financially. My clothing buying has considerably dwindled in the past couple of years. 

Still, I need clothing (believe me, it would not be all that pretty if I did not have them). So how can I be more sustainable with my clothing and with my family's clothing? Here are ten ways to be greener with clothes.

  1. Wash your clothes less. Lots of the things we wear don't need to be washed every time we take them off. I have a rule that my boys have to wear their pj's at least three nights in a row before they can go in the hamper. We take a look at what we wear each day to see if we can get another wearing out of the before they get washed. Washing less helps the clothes to last longer and you use water and energy because you wash less.
  2. When you do wash, wash in cold water. It takes a lot of energy to heat the water that is used when you wash in warm or cold.
  3. Line dry clothing whenever possible. 
  4. Buy clothing made of organic fabrics. The making of organic cloth is much less harmful on the earth than non-organic cloth.
  5. If you can't buy all your clothes made from organic fabrics (and it's very difficult to do so - I don't), try to buy as many from natural fabrics - cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp and wool are natural. While some of these may be grown using fertilizers and pesticides, it doesn't take the additional chemicals to turn them into fabric as it does for fabrics like rayon or polyester.
  6. If your all natural clothing is no longer useful - say your jeans are so holey that you can't donate them, you can compost them. They act as "brown" additions to your compost pile. Cut them into thin strips so they will break down more quickly.
  7. Buy used - thrift stores and consignment stores help the environment because they are instrumental in getting clothing reused. You can find some really fabulous clothing for good prices, too.
  8. Accept hand me downs for your kids (and even yourself). Kids grow so quickly and need new clothes a couple of times a year. There's nothing wrong with accepting hand me downs. It can keep a lot of resources from being used in creating new clothing, and of course it will save you a bundle.
  9. Hand down or donate your old clothing. Don't let clothes sit in storage if you aren't going to use them again. Get them back out into the market so they can be used.
  10. Cancel the majority of your catalogs. I mention Catalog Choice here a lot because its such an easy way to cancel catalogs. If you have a bad habit of buying on impulse because you saw something you have to have in a catalog, cut off the source. If you don't know the items exists, you can't want it.
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