16 ways you can reduce your fashion environmental footprint

April 25, 2023

It’s important we all try to reduce our fashion environmental footprint. So to make things easy, we are going to list the best and simplest 16 ways to do that here. 

The fashion industry is one of the most polluting in the world. Every second, the equivalent of a rubbish truck of clothes is burnt or buried in landfill around the globe.

You might think you’re not too bad. Consider for a second how much fast fashion you regularly buy. How many clothes do you have sitting unloved at the back of your wardrobe? Have you ever returned items? It’s likely these will end up in landfill rather than being resold. 

That's why we are going to share some fun and exciting ways you can reduce your fashion environmental footprint. 

Whether it's shopping secondhand, supporting sustainable and ethically-conscious brands, or investing in high-quality, timeless pieces, there are plenty of ways to make a difference and reduce your fashion footprint. 

So let’s jump in!

Here are 16 ways you can reduce your fashion environmental footprint.

Reduce Fashion Footprint

16 ways you can reduce your fashion environmental footprint

1. Shop secondhand or vintage clothing

We all have our favourite second hand or vintage shops where we know we'll discover something great. Shopping for vintage clothing helps reduce waste and extend the lifespan of your clothes. It’s one of the most sustainable ways to reduce your fashion carbon footprint. 

2. Buy from sustainable and ethical fashion brands

Buy from sustainable and ethically-conscious fashion brands. Look for brands that use eco-friendly materials, employ sustainable manufacturing processes, and treat their workers fairly. Cariki is one example, but there are many others out there.

3. Shop locally

Buying from local designers and independent boutiques can help reduce the carbon footprint of your clothing. It’s less likely that their clothes are made by unethical fast fashion sites and transported across the globe. 

4. Repair and alter your clothes

Repair and alter clothing items to extend their lifespan. This can be as simple as mending a tear or adding a new button. We have listed 26 other things you can do to make your clothes last longer here

5. Rent clothing for special occasions

Rent clothing for special occasions rather than buying it new. There are now companies that offer rental services for formal wear, wedding dresses, and more. Renting rather than buying and using clothes once is the most sustainable way to dress up. It means your clothes don’t just sit in your wardrobe collecting dust, and will also save you money. 

6. Host a clothing swap

Host a clothing swap with friends. This is a great way to refresh your wardrobe while also reducing waste. You’ll be amazed at the surprising and exciting items that your friends bring to trade. 

7. Buy high quality, timeless pieces

Invest in high-quality, timeless pieces that will last for years. This can help reduce the need to constantly buy new clothing and reduce your fast fashion impact. Whilst this may mean paying more in the short term, high quality clothes always last longer so will save you money in the long run. When buying items, make sure you see yourself wearing it at least 30 times, the core principle of the 30 wear challenge

8. Wash clothes less frequently

Wash clothes less frequently. This can help extend the lifespan of your clothing and reduce water and energy use. Want other ideas to make your clothes last longer? Read this article which answers exactly that. 

9. Wash cold and use eco-friendly laundry detergent

Use eco-friendly laundry detergent and opt for cold water washes. This can help reduce the environmental impact of washing your clothes. Ecover and Method are great household products that you can commonly find in UK supermarkets. Not based in the UK? There are hundreds of smaller brands you can find online - just give it a quick Google. 


10. Donate unwanted clothes

If your wardrobes are full of clothes you hardly wear, donate clothing to thrift stores or charitable organizations. This can help extend the lifespan of clothing items and reduce waste. One survey found that clothes are worn on average just 7 times before they are disposed of. Give someone else a chance to enjoy your unloved items by donating. 

11. Use reusable bags

Sounds simple, but using reusable shopping bags instead of disposable plastic bags when shopping for clothes is an easy way to cut back on disposable plastic waste. 

12. Choose natural fibers over synthetic ones

Choose natural fibers over synthetic ones. Natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and wool are more biodegradable than synthetic fibers like polyester. They are often more comfortable as well. Want to read more? We have written specific articles on the benefits of cotton, or why is linen so sustainable?

13. Buy clothes made from recycled materials

Look for clothing made from recycled materials. This helps reduce the demand for new materials and reduces waste. It can also give plastic waste a new life. 

14. Consider other plant based materials

Not found what you wanted from natural or recycled fibers? Consider buying clothing made from plant-based materials such as bamboo or hemp. These materials are more sustainable than traditional fibers, although as we explain there are some disadvantages to fabrics like bamboo.


15. Choose organic materials

Choose clothing made from organic materials. Organic cotton, for example, is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. These harsh chemicals ruin the environment where they are used, and often harm the families which use them. Here are the key differences between organic and regular cotton

16. Buy less clothes

Arguably one of the best ways to cut back on your fashion footprint is to simply buy less. Even the most sustainable items have a small footprint, which is why the best thing you can do is to buy only what you need.

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