3 Ways to Sustainably Care for Your Clothes
Living a sustainable lifestyle goes far beyond just recycling or eating organic. We can make better choices in nearly every area of our lives, from our everyday diet to our personal care habits to what we wear.
When I first set out to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, I never realized that the way I cared for my clothes actually had an impact on the environment. But it totally does! Around 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions from clothing actually occur during the consumer use stage. So, regardless of the clothing we already have in our closets or what we choose to buy, we have a lot of control over the environmental impact of our wardrobes.
In the past year, as I’ve tried to be more eco-conscious, I’ve made a lot of simple changes that have really helped me minimize my carbon footprint -- without inconveniencing my life at all. In fact, they’ve even made my clothes last longer and feel better. Here are a few quick fixes you can start implementing today to care for your clothes more sustainably.
Wear your clothes more than once before washingOf course, I’m not suggesting that you need to wear stinky, dirty clothes in order to save the planet. But the truth is, you’re probably washing your clothes more than you need to. In particular, jeans can be worn many times between washes. Bras can also be worn multiple times before you need to wash them, and overwashing usually just makes them wear out faster.
There are also plenty of machineless alternatives to make your clothes feel fresher for longer. Airing your clothing on a hanger outside can eliminate odors pretty well. Freezing clothing is also a very effective way to kill bacteria and odors caused by it. (Though I recommend giving your clothes plenty of time to thaw out and warm up before you put them on again!)
Each time you wash your clothes, your garments shed microfibers that ultimately end up polluting oceans. Plus, your washing machine emits harmful CO2 into the air and uses large amounts of water. Washing your clothes less frequently is better for the environment and makes your clothes last longer.
Wash your clothes in cold waterWhen you do wash your clothes in the washing machine, be sure to use cold water. Again, it’s easier on both the planet and your clothes! Turning the temperature down on your washing machine can eliminate a hundred grams of CO2 emissions each time you wash, and it keeps colors brighter and the shape of your garments more intact.
Hang your clothes out to dryWhile washing your clothes less frequently and at a lower temperature can minimize your carbon footprint significantly, drying your clothes by machine is the main emissions culprit. Clothes dryers are one of the largest energy users in a home, usually using as much as a refrigerator, a dishwasher, and a clothes washer combined. A household running a dryer 200 times per year could save nearly half a ton of CO2 emissions simply by switching to hang drying!
If you live somewhere with a balcony and warm weather, hang your clothes on a line outside to dry. But if not, using a drying rack inside is a great option as well!
Every change you make to live a more sustainable life counts. It’s small, conscious decisions like these that really add up and put less of a strain on precious environmental resources. As you start being more conscious about the impact each decision you make has on the environment, you take better care of the planet, yourself, and those who come after you.