London is one of the greatest fashion capitals in the world. Look at any part of this crowded city and it’s easy to see that clothes matter to us a lot. When it comes to fashion, London leads.
But, our fondness for consuming new clothes at a high environmental price.
New research from TRAID reveals that 23% of Londoner’s wardrobes are unworn. That’s 123 million items of clothes stuck in our wardrobes, which someone else could be using. This is unsustainable.
TRAID’s new 23% Campaign aims to inspire, persuade and encourage Londoners to put these unworn clothes back into circulation. By doing so, we can also all play our part in advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goal Number 12 – to ensure sustainable consumption and production – in a simple and tangible way.
Buying too much, Wearing too little
In the last 15 years, global clothing production has roughly doubled. And, during the past 10 years, the number of items of clothing purchased per consumer worldwide has increased more than twofold.
It’s projected that the global consumption of clothing and footwear will increase by 63% by 2030, from 62 million tonnes today to 102 million in 2030.
Making more clothes in such an unprecedented short period of time, significantly increases the challenges linked to managing waste and pollution, and reducing carbon, as well as putting enormous pressure on the finite resources of our planet.
Take for example one of our most vital natural resources, water. Clothes production consumes astonishing amounts of water especially in its dyeing and agricultural stages. In 2017 alone, the fashion industry consumed nearly 79 billion cubic meters of water – mostly from countries where local people are already living in a state of near-permanent water stress.
Moreover, the world’s most commonly used natural fibre, cotton, drives the clearing of forested land. It is predicted that by 2030, the fashion industry will use over 115 million hectares of land. Land that could be used to grow crops to feed an increasing population, as well as to preserve forests which play a key role in maintaining the ecological equilibrium of the planet.
The over-consumption of clothes in the UK plays its part in deepening many of these environmental challenges. In 2016, for example, it is estimated that 1,130,000 tonnes of clothing were purchased in the UK, a staggering increase of almost 200,000 tonnes from 2012. And for many retailers in the UK, cotton garments make up more than half of garments sold.
But while we are buying more clothes than ever, paradoxically, we are wearing them for shorter periods of time.
In the EU, the UK is one of the countries with the lowest expected active life for clothing. As a nation we wear our clothes an average of 3.3 years and the main reasons for not wearing our clothes is that they no longer fit or we simply don’t like them anymore. What a waste.
The good news? Londoners want to do something about it
Exactly 3 years, ago, in September 2015, the United Nations member states, including the UK, agreed to implement 17 Sustainable Development Goals to, protect the planet, end poverty and ensure prosperity for everyone by 2030. This is a universal call to action and an invitation to everyone to take part, including governments, local authorities, businesses, organisations and people from all walks of life.
Yet, TRAID’s research has revealed that 72% of Londoners have never heard of the Global Goals.
The good news? When informed how the simple action of passing on unworn clothes helps to accelerate more sustainable consumption and production (UNSDG 12), 61% of people said they felt happy, positive, or empowered by helping to meet this goal. Londoners care.
TRAID’s 23% Campaign will help to put Londoners’ unworn clothes back into use. Action like this could save around 56 million cubic metres of water which would take the entire population of London 15 years to drink!
We know that Londoners have an impressive record of donating unwanted clothes to charities. This is fantastic. But Global Goal 12 is an invitation to take a step further and do more with less. It’s an opportunity to go beyond donating clothes we don’t want, and to be inspired by the powerful environmental and social benefits to pass on the clothes we no longer need. So someone else can use them.
Doing more with less does not have to mean restriction or constraints. Quite the opposite, it is about creativity, originality, caring and understanding of what really matters to us.