11 tips for greening the lifecycle of your clothing

When I shop for clothing, I’m more focused on how the garment looks than where it was made, what it’s made of, and what I’ll do with it when it’s worn out.

After chatting with Revital Nadiv, I realize I’m going to have to get more environmentally mindful about what I choose to wear. 

Nadiv is the cofounder of Re-Fresh Global in Israel, an eco-business that offers awareness and consulting in sustainable fashion innovation.

Clothing is an industry that is not sustainable. These are some facts to consider:
– It takes 1,320 liters of water to produce one pair of jeans.
– The average American throws away 80 pounds of clothes every year.
– 13 million tons of unsold items get thrown away or burned by clothing retailers each year.
– About 60% of materials used in the fashion industry are made from plastic.
– The fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Re-Fresh Global created a biotech process to recycle textile waste and make raw materials. This innovative project started in Israel and is currently based out of Berlin.

11 tips for greening the lifecycle of your clothing
Viktoria Kanar and Revital Nadiv are Re-Fresh Global Partners. Photo by Boaz Adaz

Realistically speaking, most of us won’t become sustainable fashion superstars. These tips by Nadiv can help you make better wardrobe decisions.

1. Pay attention to the fine print

Several big retailers, such as H&M and Mango, are using recycled textiles in their garments.

To avoid being misled by greenwashing, make sure you carefully read the label to determine if the item’s recycled content is high enough to justify your choice.

2. Check for a certification label

Many organizations have certifications for fashion companies that are based on sustainability and how they affect the environment. B Lab, Cradle to Cradle Certified and OECO-TEX are some examples.

3. Consider quality

High-quality materials can extend the useful life of your items.

“For example, Eileen Fisher uses mainly wool, which can be worn a long time and can be endlessly recycled,” says Nadiv. Since 2009, the brand has collected more than 1.5million pieces of clothing from customers to either donate, resell or recycle into new products.

4. Choose design for disassembly

Any article of clothing with multiple buttons, metal studs or zippers will end up in landfill because it’s hard to recycle anything with all those accessories attached.

5. Natural is always better

In general, the more natural the material, the less impact it has on the environment because it’s less toxic and easier to recycle.

However, this topic is complex. Growing cotton, for example, uses large amounts of water and pesticides. It also degrades soil, and releases greenhouse gasses. It is better to choose organically grown cotton that is sustainably produced.

6. Localize your purchases

Local designers and manufacturers should be supported. Local designers and manufacturers can provide transparency about the value chain, including where and how it was made. Plus, the garment has a lower carbon footprint since it didn’t get shipped from far away.

7. Rent instead of buying

You can rent a dress or suit online if you don’t want to buy it from a store.

Another alternative: “Some stores let you purchase a garment for a night, bring it back the next day and get 85% of your money refunded,” says Nadiv.

8. Shop thrift, vintage, and secondhand

Before buying something new for yourself or your child, see if you can find a like-new version of what you’re seeking.

You can also join brick-and-mortar thrift stores or download an app for secondhand clothing where tokens are given to be used in-app purchases.

You’ll save money and the gently used garment will be saved from landfill or incineration.

9. Hosting a swap

When you’re tired of a piece of clothing or an accessory, or it doesn’t fit anymore, swap it instead of tossing it.

You can host a clothing swap party for your friends, or download a local app that allows members to create digital closets for other people in the area.

10. Use your old uniform to make new ones

Uniforms are a common uniform for many people. Once the uniforms have been worn out, there is no alternative but to dispose of them. Nadiv recommends finding a company that will accept uniforms for textile recycling.

“There are more than 20 startups in the world today, including ours, that are repurposing textiles,” she says.

11. If you can’t sell or donate it, repurpose it

Donate some used items to charities. Charity will not accept socks or underwear in poor condition and they will be buried, or burned.

Repurpose your socks as often as possible. Your ragged socks can be used as cleaning cloths. Repurpose pieces from an old dress in crafts projects like a patchwork quilt, rag doll or rag doll. Repurpose the shirt’s stained parts as a scarf, tie, or other accessory.