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14th Apr 2020

#stayathome: Social distancing could be a great excuse to kick your fast-fashion habit – here’s how

Jade Hayden

Let’s be clear – the coronavirus pandemic is an inherently bad scenario.

Thousands of people have lost their lives around the world, countless businesses will not recover, and people are struggling to deal with not seeing their friends and family for extended periods of time.

The world will be forever changed as a result of the outbreak, and once restrictions are lifted there will noticeable differences in the way we interact with one another – and the world.

But all of those changes don’t need to be bad. In fact, some of them could end up doing a surprising amount of good.

Already, the pandemic and the social restrictions that have come with it have seriously reduced the levels of air pollution seen in major cities. 

Our carbon footprint has already been affected by simply working from home, but what about if we could reduce it further by taking some active steps and simply buying less?

The fast fashion industry is one of the globe’s top polluters, and with the closure of all major high street retailers, many people have organically reduced the amount of clothes shopping they have been doing.

But, what exactly can we actively do to be as sustainable as possible during the Covid-19 pandemic?

First things first: don’t shop online 

Easier said than done, obviously, but staying away from the constant Instagram ads and retail apps calling your name is without doubt the best way to be more sustainable during lockdown.

Fiona O’Malley, Director of Communications and Fundraising at World Vision Ireland, says that when it comes to fast fashion, simply shopping less is the first step in reducing your carbon footprint.

“The fast fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year,” she says.

“Clothing production has doubled from 2000 to 2014, with more than 150 billion garments now produced annually, and 73 percent of all textiles ending up in landfill or incineration.”

This is due to the sheer amount of cheap clothes there are currently available to buy in the world – as well as the demand created by those of us who continue to buy them.

Instead, why not turn your online shopping hand to some secondhand stores still operating? Most charity shops in Ireland are unfortunately closed, but the likes of NCBI is still selling clothes online via the Thriftify website. 

Clear out your wardrobe – and donate your unwanted clothes 

“The general rule of thumb I would use for decluttering is – if you haven’t worn it in a year, give it to charity,” says Fiona

“If you haven’t worn it in a year, it’s obviously not a key piece of your wardrobe or something you’ll miss. A wardrobe clear-out is a great way to give old clothes a new home, create more space in your wardrobe, and support wonderful charitable causes.”

While donating in person may not be possible right now, selling unwanted clothes on sites like Donedeal, eBay, or Depop is still an option.

Upcycle, upcycle, upcycle! 

Contrary to popular belief, one does not need to be an artistic god to get a bit creative with old clothes.

Most of the time, all you’ll need is a needle, some thread, and determination to give your garments the lift they need to feel  brand new again.

YouTube, Pinterest, and even TikTok have got a load of how-to videos sure to make learning some basic sewing techniques that little bit easier.

If you don’t want to throw it away, make it new again. Or at least, alter it a bit to suit your tastes.

Organise a clothes swap

Just don’t actually swap anything until the social restrictions are lifted.

Get a load of friends together, hop on Zoom or Houseparty, and do a virtual clothes swap where you show off your unwanted clothes and maybe even bag some finds yourself.

“You can share pictures of the clothes you never wear and see if someone else is interested,” says Fiona.

“Then just label the clothes and put them away in a bag until the next time you meet in person – a great addition to the lunches we’re all planning after the lockdown, and something nice to look forward to, when this is all over.”

Not that difficult to be sustainable now, is it?