Welcome to Day 3 – Zero Waste Week 2019! Climate Change in your Closet

Welcome to day three – we’re half way through Zero Waste Week already!

How did you get on with yesterday’s challenge? Did you manage to shop in your kitchen cupboards, stick to a shopping list or buy sans packaging and air miles?

Today we’re off to your wardrobe, or closet for our friends across the pond. Do you have nothing to wear? According to research done by retailer Matalan, the average woman spends ONE YEAR of her life agonising about what to wear! And with climate change headlining throughout the year, it’s not just about matching your outfits any more, we have to take sustainability into account as well.

Over the past year, the fashion industry has found itself under the microscope as people began to learn about how environmentally detrimental it can be. According to Oxfam, the global textiles industry is proving to be devastating for people and our planet – contributing to 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions which affect climate change. That’s more polluting than aviation and shipping combined. On the production end, unsustainable manufacturing processes use huge amounts of water, chemicals and carbon to create clothes on an industrial scale. These clothes have been dubbed ‘fast fashion’, as they are made extraordinarily quickly and are designed to last for a short period of time before a new trend takes over. This fast and cheap method of production also produces a lot of textile waste.[2]

30bil worth clothing

Issues also arise on the consumer end, as buyers want the latest trends. This leads to buying far more items and throwing away barely-worn clothing to make room for a never-ending stream of new ones. This is a new phenomenon fuelled by ‘fast fashion’, as the average consumer buys 400% more clothing than 20 years ago.[3] An increased consumption leads to an increase in waste, as people buy and throw away clothes at an unsustainable rate. Recent research showed that in the UK, 300,000 tonnes of textile waste ends up in household waste bins every year, sent to landfill or incinerators.[4] More waste leads to larger landfills which means more greenhouse gases and global warming. Luckily, as we all wear clothes, we have an opportunity everyday to make choices to minimise waste and combat climate change.


Each day of Zero Waste Week, we’re reducing the price of an item in our shop. The offer runs from midnight to midnight BST.

One of the first things we did on our zero waste journey was to stop using disposable carrier bags. It took us a long time to find the perfect reusable bag and we finally found them. The Resackel bags are made from old rice sacks – they’re super strong and waterproof. Take advantage of today’s offer to get 5 bags for just £20 – a saving of £7.50.

Be quick – these bags are very popular and special offers usually sell out. We won’t be buying any more, so grab them while you can!


The fashion industry is driven by trends and consumers’ desire to follow them. As people’s interest in clothes has grown, so has the number of trends and their frequency. The ‘need’ to have the latest fuels a ‘throw away’ culture in which clothing is seen as expendable after a few uses.  The wasteful habit of dumping clothes after minimal use sees clothes end up in landfill shortly after they are bought. This turns into a vicious cycle.

Luckily the problem is easy to fix, it is like a habit that you can break with a bit of will-power. The first tip is to look in your wardrobe and focus on loving what you have! Things often come back into style or can look completely different with a belt or different pair of shoes! You can even try your hand at ‘upcycling’ which requires a bit of DIY. You could learn to sew patches onto your jeans, add buttons or turn old ties into headbands. Your new upcycling hobby also means you don’t throw away clothes, produce waste and contribute to climate change!

Charity shops are a good alternative to high-street fast fashion, but the growth of fast fashion has meant that they can be inundated with donations. We’ve even seen headlines about many clothes remaining unsold.[5] We need to remember that charity shops can’t just be a dumping ground for what we no longer want, while we continue to go out and buy more and more new stuff. Charity shops rely on you and I buying from them as well. This month Oxfam is challenging people to buy no new clothes for the whole of September? Will you join them? Click the link at the end of this post.

So, the best way to deal with your own clothes is to buy fewer of them.  We all need to slow down on our purchasing of new garments. So next time you are looking for a new outfit, take a good look in your wardrobe first and see if there are items in there already that you could team up in a new way for a different look.  If that doesn’t work, then take a browse in the  charity shops near you. Think about adopting a “one in one out” policy too. If you do find your next new outfit in the charity shop, think about taking something that you no longer wear next time you are passing. One of the reasons we sometimes can’t find something we feel inspired by in our own wardrobe is because there’s actually just too much in it.

Another way of keeping your closet zero-waste is by swapping clothes instead of buying them. Swap with friends and family, or even host your own ‘Swishing’ party where every guest brings a few items and then they get to ‘shop’ from what others have brought. This is a fun way of reducing your fashion waste and adding a few new pieces to your wardrobe, whilst freeing up some space too.


If you’ve learned something new today please donate! Donations help with the running costs of the site, including hosting, technical support and subscription services.

If you have clothes that are old or too worn out to continue wearing them, cut them up into cloths to use around the house or try making something out of the fabric. Re-using your old clothes will keep them out of landfill, save you money and save you a trip to your local donation bin. If you can’t find a use for them at home, then still think before you bin. There are places that collect up “rags” to be shredded to make insulation material for the building industry. You may find that a local charity shop has a rags collection, or sometimes a local school might collect them. Anything we can do to keep fabric out of landfill is a good thing.


In order to gain back power as a consumer, knowledge is key! This means taking an interest in how your clothes are made, where they are made and if the brand is doing their part to ensure they are managing excess waste. It also means knowing how to take care of your clothes. Washing and storing clothes properly increases their longevity and means you don’t have to throw them away unnecessarily.

If you can’t find what you are looking for in second-hand shops or from swapping with friends and new clothes are your next choice, then one way of reducing waste is doing some research into the brand that you buy from. Buying less but higher quality clothing can significantly reduce waste. There are also some brands that utilise stock fabrics left over at the end of the season, old denim or even abandoned fishing nets pulled from the ocean to make clothes. Cotton is particularly important to research thoroughly as it is one of the most wasteful materials to produce. Choosing organic cotton has a huge environmental saving compared to conventional cotton.[6] Look out for the GOTS symbol or the Soil Association’s symbol on the label. Or try one of the more sustainable fabrics such as Tencel, hemp, linen, rayon or recycled polyester as an alternative to conventional cotton or polyester.

However, as you might imagine, it is not just what the fabric is made of, but also the other parts of the clothes manufacturing process. You might like to read the story of Nicola’s British Wool skirt.

washing and storing clothes to reduce waste


The usual advice applies here. If you are buying clothes, pre-loved or new, always bring your own bag. Although the spotlight tends to be on plastic bags, whereas many clothes shops have switched to paper bags, this is only actually increasing the carbon footprint. Paper bags are more energy intensive to make yet don’t tend to get used over and over again enough times to make the extra energy worth it. A reusable bag used over and over is the answer.

Try and go to physical shops if you can and steer clear of online shopping. Not only is it much easier to fill up a virtual basket with unnecessary items (and spend far more than you had anticipated), but the excessive packaging that accompanies online clothes orders will most likely end up in landfill. Also try and limit the amount of time you spend looking at clothes and only go out shopping when you need a certain item. This way, you won’t be tempted to buy the ‘latest’ trend that you don’t really need. Trust me, your wallet and the environment will thank you!

And remember… if something isn’t right, doesn’t fit or is poor quality take it back. Don’t let it languish at the back of your wardrobe, lost and forgotten.

Today’s Challenge

Go through your wardrobe and find an old piece of clothing that you haven’t worn in a long time. Try and incorporate it into an outfit and focus on loving what you have! Take a selfie and use the hashtag #ZeroWasteWeek in your social media updates, so I can see what you’re wearing today! If you’re feeling brave, this article in the Metro, suggested that instead of saving clothes ‘for best’, we wear them just for the fun of it. Why not wear your ballgown to the supermarket or your tuxedo to your doctor’s appointment! Go on, I dare you!

Businesses, we have plenty of ideas in our Zero Waste Week pack to help you engage staff. Plus you’ll know what’s coming up for the rest of the week, so you can get ahead of the game. Get your pack here.

day three challenge love what you have

Further reading resources:

Love Your Clothes (great guide to all things fashion and environment)

Quiz: Are your clothes damaging the environment?

WRAP: Section on how to be a more conscious consumer of fashion

OXFAM‘s Second Hand September Campaign


[1] Oxfam

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/environment-costs-fast-fashion-pollution-waste-sustainability-a8139386.html

[3] https://www.greenpeace.org.au/blog/fast-fashion-textile-waste-tips/

[4] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvaud/1952/report-summary.html

[5] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/11/27/fast-fashion-means-charity-shops-getting-many-clothes-forced/

[6] https://www.loveyourclothes.org.uk/blogs/why-we-should-buy-organic-cotton

Posted in

Rachelle Strauss


  1. Viv on September 4, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    I’ve been shopping pretty much exclusively in charity shops for myself, my husband and two teenage children for the last 3 years, there are a few obvious exceptions which I then try to source as sustainably as possible. I love going into the charity shops never knowing what I will find and if I didn’t tell you that I bought my clothes there you would never know – I am very well dressed.

  2. Rachelle Strauss on September 4, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    Hi Viv, thanks for sharing your experience. Like you, I’m an avid charity shopper – there’s a great buzz to finding something lovely at a fraction of the price, while keeping things out of landfill and benefitting charities. I now find that I rather resent having to buy new items at full price!

  3. Angela Almond on September 4, 2019 at 11:29 pm

    We ran a swishing party at our church a couple of months ago [United church Ferndown, Dorset]
    We rehomed 100 garments and raised £150 for charity.
    And we all had so much fun!

  4. Sarah Austin on September 5, 2019 at 9:54 am

    I started a challenge July 2018, no new clothes for a year apart from underwear & shoes. This purchase ban included buying from charity shops & carboots. I didn’t manage no purchases but only brought a pair of pjs bnwt but from carboot & a couple of tops also from charity shops. I was amazed at how easy it was & how many lovely clothes i already had in my wardrobe! I now have a one in one out policy & either try to sell unwanted clothes at dress agencies or on line auction sites or donate to charity
    I have much more money in my account & am doing my bit to reduce landfill. Winner winner!

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