Break the pattern: 5 easy ways to make your clothes more sustainable

·4-min read
Getty Images (Getty Images/EyeEm)

You have your morning coffee in a re-usable coffee cup, diligently recycle plastics, and offset your carbon when you fly. But, do you consider what impact your fashion choices are making on the environment?

If you regularly treat yourself to a new outfit for a night out, then forget about it when a new trend rolls around, you’re not alone. On average, clothes are discarded after only 10 wears, and 90 per cent of garments are thrown away long before they need to be.

The result? A whopping 73 per cent of these items are either burned or end up in landfill. Chile’s Atacama desert has become a garment graveyard; home to 59,000 tonnes of fashion leftovers, it’s proof that our relationship to clothes has become unsustainable.

Clothes dumped in the Atacama desert, Chile
Clothes dumped in the Atacama desert, Chile

There’s a simple solution to this problem; understanding that the most sustainable clothes are the ones we already have. Extending the life of our clothes by just nine months can reduce climate impact by up to 30 per cent. In other words, we need to take better care of the clothes we have in order to make them last longer.

As a sustainability leader in the global laundry appliance industry, Electrolux is aiming to ‘Break the Pattern’ of our unsustainable approach to clothes. Their aim is to make clothes last twice as long by 2030.

These easy steps can help make your wardrobe more sustainable.

1. Change your washing habits

Twenty-five per cent of the carbon footprint of clothes comes from the way we care for them. You can improve this in a few ways. Firstly, ensure your washing machine has a full load before you turn it on. Then, use shorter wash cycles and lower temperatures to help reduce your carbon footprint; washing clothes at 30degrees instead of 40degrees can reduce energy consumption by up to 35 per cent.

It’s also worth considering whether a garment really needs washing. Electrolux’s VapourRefresh program means you can freshen an item without giving it a full wash; this uses 96 per cent less water than a complete washing cycle. As an added bonus, it means you don’t have to iron either!

2. Invest, borrow and repair

Investing in items that will see you through more than one season is a great way to build a sustainable wardrobe. Curating your wardrobe doesn’t have to be expensive, and it can mean you’re more likely to take good care of items you truly value. Storing your clothing well can make a difference to its longevity; hang shirts, pants, dresses and anything made from linen to keep it looking pristine, and fold jumpers neatly. When you look after what’s in your wardrobe, you’ll get a lot more wear out of it.

Renting or borrowing items for special occasions is a great, affordable option rather than buying new. It’s also worth learning when something can be fixed; fallen hems, frayed cuffs and broken straps can all be mended. Either do it yourself, or take your items to a tailor or seamstress.

Learn new washing habits
Learn new washing habits

3. Understand your materials

Look at the materials of your clothes before you wash or dry them in order to preserve their life. Extend the life of your denim by washing it inside out, and dry chunky knits flat so they don’t lose their shape. Items that might traditionally be dry-clean or hand-wash can often go in the washing machine thanks to Electrolux’s specialized silk and wool programs, which are designed to extend the life of your clothes.

4. Use a washing machine known for garment care

Electrolux have worked to reduce the environmental impact of garment care by making their washing machines increasingly energy and water efficient. They also contain several innovative features that help wash your clothes gently so they last longer.

The AutoDose function rejuvenates your clothes by automatically estimating how much detergent and fabric softener they need. Using the correct amount of laundry detergent means clothes don’t get washed out, so extends their life. The ColourCare function optimises detergent even in cold water, so you can get a great wash without going too hot.

There’s also a new microplastic filter which can be fitted to your washing machine. This captures up to 90 per cent of microplastics released when synthetic clothing is washed, stopping them from being released into the environment.

Upcycled designs by Rave Review
Upcycled designs by Rave Review

5. Re-use what you have

Think about how you can repurpose items in your wardrobe before chucking them. Could your jeans be cut in to shorts? Could you dye a jumper you no longer wear to modernise the colour? Thinking outside of the box can make you re-evaluate your wardrobe, and seriously reduce your carbon footprint too. Swedish design duo Rave Review, who are known for their upcycled collections, have partnered with Electrolux to create a fashion collection derived entirely of garments retrieved from the Atacama garment graveyard. The 11-piece collection was made from 10 boxes of discarded clothes, and reminds us that used clothes still have value. It’s designed to inspire people to shop from their own wardrobes before buying new items. It really is that easy to make a difference.

Learn more about Electrolux’s goal of helping clothes to last twice as long by 2030 at electrolux.com/breakthepattern