In the Chilean Atacama desert there is a mountain. Not like Tenerifes beautiful Teide volcano, but a mountain of discarded clothes. Unsold fast fashion from around the world gets shipped to Chile, to be dumped there. Since almost none of the textiles are bio-degradable, the mountain of clothes remains there, catching sand and more clothes. There is no easy fix to this problem: We need to change our buying behaviour. How can we spend our money on clothes in a more sustainable way? This blog delves into the need for change in buying behaviour, exploring sustainable fashion practices to counteract the environmental impact and foster a more responsible approach to clothing consumption.
In 2021, research in the Netherlands showed that Dutch people have an average of 173 clothing items in their closet. A little under one-third of those items are actually not being worn. About 40 items a year are thrown away and replaced with 46 new ones. If you take a look at your closet, how many items do you own? And could you do with any less?
The concept of a capsule wardrobe is getting more popular. The idea is simple: you select around 33 pieces of clothing. Pants, shirts, skirts, coats, dresses, hoodies, excluding underwear, sport clothing, pyjamas and accessories. All items can be combined well, and you take in mind a mix of professional and casual clothes. That’s all you need! You only replace any of those items if they are beyond repair or if you are sure that they don’t reflect your style anymore.
If you want to replace items, make them an investment! The quality of fast fashion items is so low that they don’t last long. And even worse, the fibers of these low quality clothing often can’t be used in a recycling process. So a lot of old fast fashion items get burned, adding to the already very high CO2-emissions. If you invest in durable clothing from a sustainable brand, you can wear them longer and pass it down to someone else if you don’t want them anymore.
Shopping second hand is less convenient, but definitely more exciting! Amazing treasures can be found wedged in between grandma-jackets and faded T-shirts. And not only do you save a piece of clothing from the trash, a lot of times the profits go to charity. That’s why we run a little second hand store here at the finca: We try to extend, reuse or repurpose resources over and over. Any purchase you make helps the horses and other animals here live a happier life. Do you want to visit us and our charity shop? Read more aquí.
When donating clothes to a second hand store, it’s important that they are still in good shape. A lot of second hand clothing that isn’t considered wearable anymore gets shipped to second hand markets in Africa. Vendors buy bales of clothing and sell the items one by one. Due to the poor condition of many of the second hand clothes, their profits drop, as there are less items that are in a good enough condition to sell, and more rubbish in a bale. Like in Chile, in Accra (Ghana), the landfills are swamped with discarded clothing. The infrastructure in place simply can’t handle the volume of it. That leads to heaps of ripped jeans and shirts just scattered around the beaches, with big environmental impact.
Luckily, there are more and more companies these days that recycle an item of clothing almost completely. Textiles are collected, sorted, shredded and reprocessed to create new yarns, which are used to create new textiles.
So what’s the best thing to do with the clothes you don’t want anymore? If they are in good shape, you can donate them to a second hand store. If they can’t be worn again, see if you can find a collection point that takes old clothing to be recycled. Some of these might actually be second hand clothing stores, ask around what they do with their discarded clothing!
Having your clothes repaired professionally usually supports small business owners. But it’s also really fun to do it yourself! YouTube is full of instruction videos, explaining easy and more daunting stitches and DIY-fixes. You don’t even need a sewing machine, just a needle and thread.
If you want to challenge yourself a bit, try to think beyond the original purpose of the item of clothing. Old T-shirts make great patchwork blankets, and making a tote bag out of a pair of ripped jeans is fairly easy. Want to get started? Find the instructions for some easy visible and invisible clothing repairs aquí.
Invisible mending is the technique of repairing clothing without it being obvious that you have altered or mended the item. A very useful skill to have, but maybe even more fun is visible mending, where you fix the item and make the fix very obvious, using patches or brightly coloured threads. You’re adding to the design of the clothes, making it more unique!
If we agree to change our consumption behaviour a little, switch to sustainable fashion practices, we can make a big change! Hopefully we can give the Atacama desert back to the animals that belong there, instead of last season’s pants and T-shirts.
~ Written by Norn