11 tips for greening the lifecycle of your clothing

When I shop for clothing, I’m more focused on how the garment looks than where it was made, what it’s made of, and what I’ll do with it when it’s worn out.

After chatting with Revital Nadiv, I realize I’m going to have to get more environmentally mindful about what I choose to wear. 

Nadiv is cofounder and CEO of Re-Fresh Global. This Israeli eco-business offers consulting services in the area of sustainable fashion innovation as well as awareness activities.

The clothing industry is notoriously difficult to sustain. These are some facts to consider:
– It takes 1,320 liters of water to produce one pair of jeans.
– The average American throws away 80 pounds of clothes every year.
– 13 million tons of unsold items get thrown away or burned by clothing retailers each year.
– About 60% of materials used in the fashion industry are made from plastic.
– The fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Re-Fresh Global created a biotech process to recycle textile waste and make raw materials. This innovative project started in Israel and is now based out of Berlin.

Viktoria Kanar and Revital Nadiv are Re-Fresh Global Partners. Photo by Boaz Adaz

Realistically speaking, most of us won’t become sustainable fashion superstars. However, these tips from Nadiv will help us make smarter wardrobe choices.

1. Make sure you read the fine print

Several big retailers, such as H&M and Mango, are using recycled textiles in their garments.

To avoid being misled by greenwashing, make sure you carefully read the label to determine if the item’s recycled content is high enough to justify your choice.

2. Check for a certification label

Numerous organizations certify fashion companies on the basis of sustainability and their impact on the environment. B Lab, Cradle to Cradle Certified and OECO-TEX are some examples.

3. Consider quality

High-quality materials can extend the useful life of an item.

“For example, Eileen Fisher uses mainly wool, which can be worn a long time and can be endlessly recycled,” says Nadiv. Since 2009, the brand has received more than 1.5 million clothing items back to be resold, donated or repurposed into new pieces.

4. Choose design for disassembly

Any article of clothing with multiple buttons, metal studs or zippers will end up in landfill because it’s hard to recycle anything with all those accessories attached.

5. Natural is always better

In general, the more natural the material, the less impact it has on the environment because it’s less toxic and easier to recycle.

This subject is however complex. For example, conventional cotton cultivation uses large amounts of water and pesticides. It also degrades soil, and releases greenhouse gasses. It is more sustainable to grow organic cotton.

6. Buy local

Local designers and manufacturers should be supported. Local designers and manufacturers can provide transparency about the product’s value chain, including where it was made and what conditions. Plus, the garment has a lower carbon footprint since it didn’t get shipped from far away.

7. Rent, not buy

An online clothing rental platform like this or this is a better option if you are looking for an expensive suit or dress for a special occasion.

Another alternative: “Some stores let you purchase a garment for a night, bring it back the next day and get 85% of your money refunded,” says Nadiv.

8. Shop thrift, vintage, and secondhand

Before buying something new for yourself or your child, see if you can find a like-new version of what you’re seeking.

Apart from brick-and mortar thrift shops, you can also join Telegram and WhatsApp groups that sell secondhand items. You can also download a secondhand clothes app that allows you to receive tokens for in-app purchases.

You’ll save money and the gently used garment will be saved from landfill or incineration.

9. Organise a swap

When you’re tired of a piece of clothing or an accessory, or it doesn’t fit anymore, swap it instead of tossing it.

Organise a party with your friends to swap clothes. Or download a local clothing-swap application that lets members create digital closets so others can view them.

10. Your old uniform can be reused

Many people wear uniforms to work. There are no other options than to throw away the uniforms after they are worn out. Nadiv suggests looking for a company that can recycle uniforms.

“There are more than 20 startups in the world today, including ours, that are repurposing textiles,” she says.

11. If you can’t sell or donate it, repurpose it

Donate some used items to charities. Charity will not accept socks or underwear in poor condition and they will be buried, or burned.

Repurpose your socks as often as possible. Your ragged socks can be used as cleaning cloths. Repurpose pieces from an old dress in crafts projects like a patchwork quilt, rag doll or rag doll. Repurpose the shirt’s stained parts as a scarf, tie, or other accessory.

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