When it comes to making ethical fashion choices we all know we can do more, but sometimes knowing exactly what you can do to help is actually the hard part. It can all seem a bit daunting; do I have to stop enjoying fashion? Can I still buy new clothes? Should I only wear dresses made from hemp and never wash my clothes again?
The truth is there are lots of small, easy changes you can make that collectively will make a big difference to the environment, both socially and ecologically. We caught up with Anna Gedda, H&M’s head of Sustainability, to get her top tips for making more ethical choices with your clothes.
1. Wardrobe Swapping
Do you really need that new dress? Rather than buying something new (that you know you’ll be bored with by next month – see no.3) what about that dress your friend/sister/flatmate/granny has that you’ve always had your eye on - why not offer them something from your wardrobe in exchange for it?
2. Donate any unwanted clothes to H&M
Hand-in unwanted clothes to any H&M store worldwide (to date H&M has collected 12,000 tones of garments) and they will ensure that they are given a new life, whether that is by turning the yarns into recycled cotton, donating them to charity, or using parts to create something new. However they are recycled, you can ensure they won’t end up in landfill.
3. Don’t buy something unless you can commit to wearing it at least 30 times
We are all guilty of an impulse buy, often knowing full well we probably won’t wear it that many times. So next time you feel the urge, ask yourself these four questions: Do I really need this? How often will I wear it? Do I already own something similar? Does it go with things I already own?
4. Shop consciously, and affordably
Buying ethically produced clothes doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune, a common misconception. H&M have been producing Conscious Exclusive collection since 2011 with the aim of creating beautiful clothes using only sustainable materials. The most recent collection, that goes on-sale on April 17th, includes organic silk jacquard jackets, recycled polyester dresses and high-neck blouses made with Tencel (a silky fabric derived from wood pulp) and comes with very pocket-friendly price tags.
5. Look after your clothes better so they will last longer
If your clothes last longer, there is less need to buy more. Try switching to a 30 degree wash, and hang clothes out to try as opposed to tumble drying them, or better still, try airing clothes a couple of times before you decide to wash them. Vinegar is a great stain remover on fabrics such as leather and suede, and a much more eco-friendly option that a visit to the dry cleaner.
6. Be a more informed shopper
Ask questions. If a brand isn’t transparent about where their clothes come from then question that. Where are they made? How are they made? Who are they made by? 1.6 million workers across approximately 1,900 factories are employed by H&M alone, so the textile trade is an incredibly important industry for many developing countries. Asking the right questions, and carefully researching the shops you choose to buy from, can help make sure you are doing your bit.