consumerism lifestyle shopping waste

10 facts about your clothing footprint

Okay, ‘clothing footprint’ is an awkward term, but it’s a useful catch-all for the land, water, chemicals, resources and emissions embodied in our clothing. It includes growing the fibres, manufacturing the garment, washing it, and then finally disposing it.

WRAP has just released of its rummage around laundry basket, and here are ten facts about clothing, water and waste:

  1. The average Briton owns £4,000 worth of clothes
  2. 30% of the clothes in our wardrobes haven’t been worn in the last year.
  3. We spend an average of £1,700 on clothes every year, and £130 on washing them.
  4. 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes into landfill in Britain every year.
  5. Those clothes would be worth £140 million if sold on rather than binned.
  6. Half of the population admits to throwing clothes in the bin.
  7. Two thirds of us wear second hand clothes.
  8. 57% of shoppers say they consider durability and quality of the clothes they buy, while only 21% say they consider fashion trends.
  9. Producing and washing clothes makes up 5% of Britain’s carbon and water footprint.
  10. The carbon footprint of a British household’s clothing for the year is equivalent to driving 6,000 miles in a car.

What can we do to reduce our clothing footprint? Buy good quality clothes, keep them longer, wash them slightly less often, dry them outside and recycle them when they’re worn out. We can also buy secondhand, and give away or swap things we don’t wear any more rather than dump them.

9 comments

  1. And simply buy fewer clothes. I saw the stat about average spending on clothes I was somewhat stunned. My wife and I sat down for a couple of minutes and tried to work out how much we have spent on clothes over the last few years. Excluding gifts from relatives (since the stat we saw explicitly excluded gifts, it was simply about household spending on clothing), we each estimated that we would spend no more than £100/yr (combined) on clothes (including shoes).

  2. I’m with Byron. It’s crazy what people spend on clothes! I may be extreme having spent about €10 in the last 3 years on clothing incl. shoes. I wear stuff ’til it falls off me and then I use the rags for cleaning for a while or the strips to tie up plants to stakes or as mulch cover around trees. In the meantime people give me their cast-offs. The only clothing I need to buy is a packet of underpants every few years. I feel that the fashion factor is greater than people like to admit. They don’t even realise that they are being led by advertising.

  3. Quite. I’m also slightly puzzled at how the average is so high. I can only presume that it includes expensive trainers and jeans. I’m not sure how much I spend myself, I’ve never counted it up, but I suspect it would be about a tenth of the average. I try and only buy things that I know were made in good conditions, which means I sometimes have to pay a bit more for items that I get new. I get plenty of things secondhand too.

  4. I regularly assess with customers how much of the monthly household budget is spent on different areas, including clothes, and it is quite eye-brow raising (although I don’t) at what some people regularly spend. Perhaps they aren’t moving in circles where such things are challenged. I like your suggestions to reduce the clothing footprint – relevant for those that care – and perhaps more that do and act on it will provide some stimulant for those that don’t.

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