How to Care for Clothes Better for a Sustainable Future

How to Care for Clothes Better for a Sustainable Future

The world’s temperature increased by 1°C (1.8°F) between 1901 and 2020, with 2021 ranking as the sixth-warmest year on record. Unprecedented droughts, increasing sea levels, melting glaciers, and changes in water resources are all unfortunate consequences of this.

This can be countered by numerous companies working to reduce their use of natural resources, hazardous emissions, and water pollution, as well as their overall carbon footprint.

The fashion sector is one such troublesome one. But modifications to the entire apparel life cycle could contribute to a more sustainable future. Currently, 90% of clothing is thrown away before it should be and frequently after only 10 uses. Unwanted clothing unfortunately ends up in landfills or is burned at a rate of 73%. And frequently, used clothing from the United States and Europe is dumped in other nations, including Chile.

For many years, Chile has been a busy port for unsold or used clothing. In fact, it imports more than 59,000 tons of apparel annually, making it the second-largest textile importer in the world. Sadly, 39,000 tons end up being dumped in the Atacama Desert, the second-largest cemetery in the world and the driest nonpolar desert.

What makes fashion leftovers such a concern, then?

First of all, getting these glitzy costumes from the catwalk to your closet requires a lot of effort, time, and finances. For instance, it takes around 2,500 gallons of water to make one cotton t-shirt. These resources are wasted when these things are discarded too soon.

Second, disposing of clothing in a landfill or burning it in an incinerator can harm the environment. Some synthetic textiles take up to 200 years to break down, and when they do, they frequently release methane gas and leak hazardous chemicals into the groundwater.

So, how can we lessen the amount of clothing disposed of in landfills or burned?

The majority of consumers concur that the most sustainable solution is to extend the life of the clothes itself. Research demonstrates that by extending the lifespan of clothing by an additional nine months, waste, carbon, and water footprints can be reduced by 20–30%.

Optimized and enhanced laundry care practices can help to further reduce the environmental impact of clothing. Currently, the way we care for our clothes accounts for 25% of the carbon footprint. Lowering washing temps to 30°C (86°F) or less is one approach to enhance this. This lower temperature can extend the life of clothing (because to less color fading and microfiber release), as well as reduce energy and water usage expenditures.

Unfortunately, some customer behaviors and viewpoints are impeding progress despite numerous social ads for lower washing temps from various companies. According to one survey, some consumers are reluctant to alter their laundry habits out of concern that they would destroy their clothing. Additionally, when asked, almost half of consumers stated that they lacked confidence that their laundry would be thoroughly cleaned at a lower temperature, some expressed concern that a lower temperature would not be able to remove stains, and others claimed that the higher temperature was used out of habit.

This practice may be the result of out-of-date information because, according to more than half of those surveyed, they wash their clothing automatically and have formed habits that were passed down from earlier generations.

Since the previous several decades, advances in technology and detergents have made cooler washing just as successful at cleaning materials and extending the life of clothing.

Water usage is another issue with laundry routines. Currently, 22 percent of the water utilized in typical American homes goes toward doing laundry. It is possible to optimize the laundry process with new technologies that use less energy and water even at lower temperatures.

Exist any alternative strategies for developing more ethical fashion practices?

As fashion trends evolve, consumers are becoming more conscious of the issues facing the sector and are actively looking for climate change solutions. This entails keeping an eye out for environmentally friendly fashion options, upcycling used clothing, and thrifting. These options can all work together to make the fashion sector more sustainable, combined with better cleaning technologies.

The industry leader in home appliances, Electrolux is also setting the standard for environmentally friendly garment care technology at the moment. A creative sustainable project that intends to make a statement and start a discussion involves a partnership between Electrolux and the fashion design team Rave Review. Unwanted, discarded, and unloved clothing from the Atacama Desert has been transformed into fashion wonders. In the future, reusing clothing in this way could be an excellent way to keep things out of the trash.

“We have long maintained that fashion cannot continue to exist as it does today. I believe that we must all alter in some way. Livia Schück, co-founder and creative director of Rave Review, told IFLScience that caring for what we currently have is perhaps the most practical and simple approach to make a change in the fashion industry.

Overall, things are changing. By 2030, businesses like Electrolux are actively looking for solutions to make clothing last twice as long while reducing the environmental impact.