Resolve to green your wardrobe

Photo: istockphoto.com/Ginaellen

On average, North Americans throw away about 30 kilograms of clothing and textiles per year. So if you’ve resolved to cut down on waste this year, your wardrobe is one place to start. Make your wardrobe environmentally responsible in 2009 with these simple but significant suggestions.

Buy local whenever possible
Keep your carbon footprint in check by seeking out pieces that are locally designed and produced, so that your clothes don’t have to travel the globe to reach you. Watch for labels that are marked with a third-party certification to provide you with assurance that the garment was produced in a sweatshop-free and safe environment, and with sustainable materials.

These seemingly small design choices matter in the short and long term: raw materials that aren’t treated with pesticides have been shown to produce organic and natural fibre products with a longer lifespan and durability. So go a step further by asking stores to show you their lines of clothing and textiles made with organic cotton, bamboo or other sustainable fabrics. This will help send the message that consumers want to see (and buy) them. Also, always ask whether the dye used as colouring was vegetable-based and non-toxic.

Get style on a budget
Check out local second-hand shops and flea markets to discover some real bargains, while also diverting clothes from getting dumped. For inspiration, consult the Goodwill fashion blog. Consignment shops are another great way to add value to clothing; these shops will help you resell your gently used fashions, and offer some great pieces — at serious discounts — to upgrade your wardrobe. An even better choice? Your best friend’s closet. You might find that fabulous merino wool sweater you’ve been looking for. Just organize a clothing swap with friends and discover the magic of exchanging clothes with your inner circle of style-gurus. Find or start a clothing swap near you, using meetup.com.

Take good care of your clothes
Make a fabulous wardrobe even more sustainable by investments in quality items from the outset. First, question whether you really need the item; what if the latest trend expires before the garment itself? Second, whenever possible, try to revive your old duds by getting still-funky clothing remodeled or repurposed into something unique and trendsetting again. And always try to salvage what you can from a damaged article of clothing by seeking out the help of a seamstress or tailor. Third, take care of your fashions. This will ensure that the products you do buy will last long enough to be reused, repurposed or recycled by someone else, even when you’re done with them. Switch your laundry detergent from a commercial petroleum-based products to a green detergent that is plant based. They’re easier to find than ever, and there are Canadian-made options abound like Attitude and Nature Clean are two home-grown companies producing eco-friendly detergents. Last but not least, hang your clothes to air dry. You’ll not only save money but also save your garments from the ravages of an electric dryer.

With research by Shelagh McNally.