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Can You Be Eco-Friendly Even If You Love Fashion And Shopping?

Challenge yourself to adopt these eco-friendly habits.

There’s no way of sugarcoating this: the fashion industry is notoriously unsustainable and wrecks havoc on the environment.

The World Resources Institute estimates that five trillion litres of (fresh) water are used yearly in garment production, while the United Nations Environment Programme points out that the fashion industry generates “more greenhouse gas emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined”. Jaw-dropping, right?

But while many point the blame to fast fashion and its constant output (Watch: The True Cost), the luxury industry is not absolve of any guilt too. Leather tanning for example, releases large quantities of heavy metals and other pollutants into water bodies and exposes them to the workers and people who depend on them for survival. And we’re nowhere near scratching the surface on the magnitude and severity of the issue here.

So if you too want to create a sustainable, greener future for ourselves and the future generation, above are eight ways you can reduce negative impact on the environment. While each action seems small and insignificant, the collective effort counts for something more.

#1: Three Rs — Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Since young, we’ve been inculcated with these three Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle — and here are some ways how you can turn them into action.   Reduce: 20 per cent of our wardrobe gets worn 80 per cent of the time, while the remainder is rarely incorporated into our rotation. So the next time you see something that catches your fancy, think twice before making the purchase, and ask yourself: will I wear this? How often would I wear it? If you don’t envision yourself wearing the piece at least once a week, put it down and walk away. Another way to reduce your fashion waste is also to mend your clothes rather than discard it when a button, for example, comes off. Lastly, bring your own bag when you’re going shopping and reject any unnecessary packaging because you’re just going to throw them away when you get home.   Reuse: One man’s thrash is another man’s treasure, and that applies to your old clothing too. You could donate to local charities such as New2u (by the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations), the Salvation Army, MINDS, Metta Welfare Association and Pass It On (who donates it to the needy via Voluntary Welfare Organisations).   Recycle: Lastly, your unwanted clothing can be donated to H&M’s recycling program. Just bring them to any of their stores islandwide and in exchange, H&M will give you voucher that grants you 15 per cent off your next purchase. You can head to their website to learn more about their initiative. American denim label Levi’s also runs promotions from time to time where you can trade in an old pair of jeans. Image: Instagram (@hm) #2: Upcycle
Upcycling aims to give new life to old products. For example, shirts that you don’t wear anymore can be made into coasters or quilts while T-shirts can be made into pom poms or cut and sewn into new, unique designs. You could even tie-dye old clothing — a huge S/S’19 trend. In addition, you can also support brands such as Reformation and ASOS’ Reclaimed Vintage line, which uses deadstock fabrics, unwanted textiles and recycled materials to create their pieces. Image: Instagram (@reformation) #3: Research
Knowledge is power, and knowing what is good and bad for the environment can help you make better and more informed choices as a shopper. Here are two areas we find pertinent:   The materials used to create the clothes, such as cotton, nylon and polyester. Not only does the growing of cotton use copious amounts of pesticides that can seep into underground waterbeds and aboveground water sources, one kilogram of cotton uses an astonishing 20,000 litres of water to produce, according to the World Wildlife. One kilogram of cotton only equates to a T-shirt and a pair of jeans, while Singapore’s per capita household water consumption was 143 litres per day in 2017, as the national water agency PUB reported. Make a commitment to go for organic cotton. While organic cotton uses as much water, it doesn’t impact the environment as significantly because it doesn’t use genetically modified seeds or synthetic pesticides.   Secondly, the supply chain and the actions that brands are taking. Do these brands source for materials sustainably? Do they pay their workers fairly? Are the diamonds you’re wearing mined responsibly? Some avenues you can begin to look into include Responsible Jewellery Council and Fairtrade Foundation. You can also look at the brand’s core values, annual reports and related published materials to find out what steps are they taking for protect the environment before choosing to support them with a purchase. Image: Instagram (@fairtradeuk) #4: Consider tailoring and custom-made pieces
While we aren’t denying you the joy of buying new clothing from the store, we’re saying start small. Consider going to the tailor to get regular fixtures in your wardrobe, such as shirts, trench coats, dresses, trousers and blazers, made. The rest, you can supplement with store-bought pieces.   Alternatively, you can be really judicious with your shopping and pick pieces that require little to no alterations or shop at places that provide alteration services. Many high-end and high-street brands these days provide this after-sale service. Else, make the conscious effort and set a monthly date to bring your loot to the tailor instead of leaving them unworn and sitting in your closet.   Look up 3eighth, Time Taken To Make A Dress and Haute Alteration Initiative in Singapore for customs, the last of which is a social enterprise that provides employment for women in less fortunate circumstances. Image: Instagram ( #5: Shop vintage
Another way to reduce your environmental impact is to make your fashion purchases at vintage and second-hand shops. Plus, fashion trends are cyclical by nature, so the retro Hawaiian shirt you picked up will definitely come back in vogue; you’ll just be ahead of the trend till then.   Retailers such as Loop Garms and The Attic, websites such as Vestiaire Collective and Oldsowhat connect you with pre-loved pieces — many of which are in almost mint condition — from reputed labels or classics that are no longer produced (such as Celine’s Clasp bag). Image: Instagram (@loopgarms) #6: Rent your outfit
For occasions that dictate a dress code that’s out of your usual repertoire, seek out outfit rental companies. Brands such as Style Theory, Covetella, Style Lease, Rent A Dress and Runway Rent have mushroomed in Singapore, and they provide services that specifically deal with these problems — like when you’re in need of a dress to attend a wedding/ Style Theory also provides a subscription service that allows you to rent and swap. Image: Instagram (@covetella)