Columbia Climate School produced recommendations over the past five years to help folks develop more sustainable habits in their everyday life, and with that, I thought I'd do an audit to see and share how we've come close to - or exceeded - the items on the list. Yesterday's was focused on a big one - food. And today? It's going to be about clothing. But because there were only three items on their list? I've decided to expand it to textiles in general, as I believe they missed out on a HUGE component of what's contributing to climate change in our throwaway culture...which I'll note in blue. So here goes...
1) Wash your clothing in cold water. Not only does this save energy (up to 500 lbs of CO2 emissions a year for 2 loads per week), washing in cold water is cheaper on your bills and is what the detergents are made to work with! Hot water is also way tougher on fabrics. Don't worry, your sheets and towels WILL get clean in cold water! We've done this for decades and are just fine.
Note: Please stop buying detergent 'pods' or liquid detergent that comes in plastic bottles. Buy an eco-friendly powder detergent (even Fred Meyer and other large grocers always have green brands, folks) which are usually in smaller boxes because you don't need as much, and recycle the cardboard. Plastic, along with being made by climate-destroying fossil fuels, is not truly recyclable, and it's been proven that the quasi-recycled plastic is even more toxic).
Note #2: Hang your clothes to dry whenever you can! They actually dry faster in 65+ degree weather than in the dryer! Then just fluff them for 20 minutes and you're good. We built our first two (city and farm) with DIY Diva's plans, and after downsizing back to the city, we bought this wall-mount version to connect to the side of our shed which I love.
2) Buy vintage or recycled clothing.
While I loved thrifting when I was younger, I've found this a much more difficult challenge in my 40s, as my body is quite curvier than it once was, and as most folks know, once you've got a little junk in your trunk, the selections at Goodwill and other resale stores literally plummet. I even read that some li'l skinnies out there buy plus size clothes just to cut them up and make smaller clothes from! Oy vey. So while my weight loss journey continues (23 lbs lighter and going strong...), my current focus is very similar to how my stepfather was with shoes - invest in them and take care of them, and you'll have them for years. Or as someone once told me, "buy once, cry once". Yes, those ethically-produced shoes or pants might be $150, but if they last for 5 or even 10 years, you've more than recuperated the cost of buying multiple cheapo pairs (which are also made-in-China, often by slave labor). See that picture of me at the top in the peach bandana? I shit you not, I bought that in the 8th Grade while on a school trip to DC. Yes, that'd be 1987, and today it's still in my closet, no rips or tears, in 2023. Clothing was so much better made back then that I was able to literally sell a box of my 1980s and 90s duds I'd clung to for far too long on Etsy in 2020 for over $2,000.
PS - I'm not a fan of buying used clothes online for myself, as there is rarely a return policy if something doesn't fit. But I'm optimistic that there will be something for me soon in a resale store as I approach my goals!
Yep, I sold this sweatshirt on Etsy for like $25-30 a couple years ago. Yep, I got it in 1985.
3) Don’t buy fast fashion.
I feel very fortunate that, as a GenX'er, our version of 'fast fashion' was literally thrift stores. I'm so glad to see so many young women and men embracing the vintage and resale shops, but it still doesn't overwhelm the massive amount of H&M, Forever 21, Walmart, and all those other nightmarish companies who are not only destroying the planet but also notorious for their union-busting and environmentally destructive business practices.
As mentioned in #4 above, the key is to buy staples that will last, whether that be an awesome black sweater, a great pair of boots, or some super well fitting jeans. And while most folks forget about this possibility, you can have things altered to fit you! I found some jeans that fit my thick thighs but were always too loose on my waist, so took myself and my new jeans down to Nordstrom and for $30 she measured, pinned, and took in the waist for me. Unlike swimsuits, jeans are WAY easier to find if you keep tailoring in mind!
Note: No matter what size you are, accessories are a GREAT thing to find in resale, antique and vintage stores. Furthermore? Support local creators who make jewelry via repurposing! And last but not least, make your own. Necklaces are particularly easy if you have one chain, as so many things can be popped on it for decor...
Three ways I've saved on jewelry during my life? 1) My grandma gave me the necklace she is wearing while holding me, her first grandchild. 2) I scored this classic Donna Karan necklace for $30 while working at the Rack when I was 20 - and I still wear it. 3) When I first met my husband in real life down in Melbourne, Australia, more than a decade ago, I collected this shell along the beach. It had a natural hole in it so when I got home immediately popped it onto an existing necklace chain.