We have reached the point where we need to reimagine everything about the fashion industry. The world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. This is 400% more than the amount we consumed just two decades ago (Source: The True Cost).
Many elements contribute to the high environmental impact the fashion industry has on the planet and its resources, and the consumer use phase happening in the middle of this process is often overlooked - even though 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions from clothing takes place in this stage.
The good news is that as consumers, we can have a positive effect here! Because the most sustainable fashion is the one you already have, we are sharing our best tips to help you lower your overall impact on the planet and eco up your laundry routine.
The consumer use impact
Today’s linear clothing system has both social and environmental consequences, something which people are generally very disconnected from. The truth is that a garment’s lifespan, from beginning to end, is quite a journey and includes several stages. Clothes can even have a negative effect on the environment after they have been thrown away.
As you can imagine, each of these phases has a high environmental impact. Yet, out of all of these steps, it is the consumer use phase that is estimated as having the largest environmental footprint, accounting for around ⅓ of the total impact. This comes mainly from energy and water use, chemicals and microplastics. This is why caring for our clothes in a sustainable, natural way is such an important part of the fashion ecosystem. Essentially, this is what will make our wardrobes last longer and prevent them from going to landfill.
Energy and water usage
Washing machines and tumble dryers usually use electricity to heat up, and so they are extremely energy-consuming: 90% of the energy used by a washing machine is used to heat up the water, and only 10% is used to power the motor. Not only does washing machines use a worrying amount of energy, but it is also very water-intensive. Every year, the average UK household consumes 60 000 litres of water just to do their laundry — the equivalent to 550 ten-minute showers.
What you can do:
1. Wash at lower temperatures
Washing at 30°C or 40°C (often lower than stated on the care label) can help you save a lot of energy. Not to mention that it will make your clothes last longer as high temperatures are not good friends with textile fibres and wear them out. As for the drying, skip the tumble dryer and favour line drying: it will again save some energy and eliminate the heat and friction happening in the dryer which significantly reduces the clothes lifespan.
2. Only wash when needed
To reduce both energy and water use, we suggest to only wash your clothes when it’s actually necessary. If your garment hasn’t been put through a sweaty workout or a morning coffee spill incident, you can definitely wear them more than once before throwing them into the washing machine. For clothes that are not too dirty, airing, steaming and brushing them can be enough.
For each clothes wash, synthetic fabrics (such as polyester), release thousands of tiny microfibres. They go down our drains and eventually end up in our oceans and waterways. Clothes release half a million tonnes of microfibres into the ocean every year, equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles. Microfibres, just like any other type of plastic, do not dissolve or biodegrade and because they are extremely tiny, they easily pass through water filtration systems. Eventually, the microfibres end up reaching beaches and oceans where they can remain for hundreds of years.
What you can do:
3. Use a Guppyfriend washing bag
We recommend having a Guppy Friend Washing Bag to hand. It is a scientifically approved solution against microplastic pollution that filters out even the tiniest microfibres that shed from our clothes when washing. The washing bags not only help to stop microplastic pollution but also protects and prolongs the life of your clothes.
4. Buy clothes made from natural materials
Another solution to the ever-evolving issue of microfibres is to, whenever possible, choose natural fabrics over synthetic ones when shopping for new clothes. Linen, cotton, wool and silk all derive from plants and will (if produced without harmful chemicals) biodegrade more easily than petroleum-based synthetics such as polyester and nylon which are actually made of plastic.
The vast majority of conventional laundry detergents contain toxic chemicals, which are harmful to the health of humans and animals as well as the environment. Conventional laundry products often contain optical whiteners, phosphates and other toxic additives which can cause algal blooms and negatively affect ecosystems and marine life. Not only do these chemicals make their way into groundwater, and harm surrounding plant growth, but they can cause chemical reactions in our bodies, like asthma or skin irritation.
Harmful chemicals can also be found when going to get your clothes professionally cleaned. One thing to know about traditional dry cleaning is that it is not dry or clean: it consists of soaking clothes in a petroleum-based solvent called Perchloroethylene (“PERC”), which is then evaporated at very high temperatures. PERC is highly toxic for the health and for the environment and it accounts for 80%-85% of all dry cleaning fluids used by conventional dry cleaners to clean garments, despite being a probable human carcinogen and being banned in many countries already.
What you can do:
5. Use eco-friendly cleaning products
Just like for the food we eat, checking labels for cosmetics and cleaning products that are in contact with our skin is essential. Luckily, many brands - BLANC included - believe that washing your clothes shouldn’t cost the earth and there are many eco-friendly, non-toxic detergents on the market that work as good, if not better, as the conventional ones.
The Tangent GC Delicate Detergent with Orange Oil is made from 100 % natural substances and treats the cell structure of natural fabrics gently. For super sensitive skins try Bio D’s Fabric Conditioner, which leaves clothes soft, static-free and delicately fragranced and is perfectly suitable for sensitive skins. And use Attirecare's Crease Release spray to escape the tedious task of ironing. It is, of course, made from all-natural ingredients and leaves clothing crease-free, by simply spraying them after washing - a very clever time-saver.
6. Make the switch to eco cleaning
For the clothes you have that require a professional clean, one more thing you can do is to quit the dry cleaner and look for a professional eco cleaner like BLANC. Unlike conventional dry cleaners who soak clothes in toxic, carcinogenic chemicals, we use eco-technologies (including wet cleaning and liquid CO2 cleaning, which are the most sustainable and health-friendly methods of cleaning currently available) - gentle on textile fibres, yet efficient on stains. Our process combines artisan care with expert tech to deliver a better quality clean and is kinder to your skin, your clothes and our planet.