Clothes hanging to dry on a washing line outside

It is said that the fashion industry is the second dirtiest in the world, next to big oil! Cotton production is extremely resource intensive, and synthetic fabrics use petroleum products. Globally, 150 million tons of clothing are sold annually, and most eventually end up in landfills. Follow these seven tips to green your wardrobe and, likely, help your pocketbook, too.

Wash Clothes in Cold Water

Most of the energy associated with washing clothes (not including drying) goes to heating the wash water. Washing your clothes in cold water is a great way to save energy, lower your utility bills, and extend the life of your clothes. In fact, warm water tends to fade and bleed colors, causing clothes to age more quickly. Cold water is also more effective in removing stains.

Line Dry

Dryers consume a lot of energy because they both produce heat and spin. Line drying clothes is another great way to reduce energy consumption and extend the life of your clothes. It also helps to keep your home a little cooler to avoid running the dryer on hot summer days when you don’t want the ambient heat.

Do Not Dry Clean With PERC

Most dry cleaners use the chemical perchloroethylene (PERC). Unfortunately, it is also considered a likely human carcinogen, according to several expert agencies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the Environmental Protection Agency. Clothes that were recently cleaned with PERC can off-gas, contaminating the air in your home. The chemical can also be absorbed through the skin while wearing garments laundered in PERC. If possible, avoid buying clothes that require dry cleaning or find a dry cleaner that uses safer methods.

Purchase Vintage or Used Clothes

One of the best ways to save resources is to purchase used products, and the same is especially true of clothing. Many people outgrow or become sick of clothing before it is worn out. Many second-hand stores are run by charities, making them a great way to support local nonprofit organizations and community programs.

Shop Local

Even if the clothes were not locally produced, shopping at locally-owned stores helps your local economy. It is said that if you spend $100 at a locally-owned store, $68 will stay in your community. If you shop at a nationally-owned chain store, a mere $43 remains close to home. Supporting locally-owned stores also helps make your community unique and keeps your sales tax dollars close to home (compared to online shopping).

Beware of the Disposable Fashion Mentality

Some clothes are trendy today and not tomorrow. Fast fashion encourages waste and discourages wearing clothes until they are no longer useful. When shopping, look for clothes that are built to last and avoid fast fashion. Some brands are known for embracing slow fashion and sustainability, such as Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co).

Support Greener Brands

Some clothing companies have shown a large committment to sustainable practices. Patagonia is making jackets out of recycled bottles, and LS&Co is encouraging consumers to wash clothes in cold water, line dry, and donate or recycle. Etsy products are handmade, supporting the artisan community.

Donate/Recycle/Upcycle Used Clothing

A staggering 16 million tons of clothing and textiles go to landfills each year in the U.S., according to the EPA. Donating unwanted but usable clothing is a great way to save resources. If garments are stained or torn, some second-hand stores such as Goodwill and Salvation Army recycle the materials. You can also get creative with worn clothing by making a T-shirt tote bag, cleaning rags, or a sweater pillow.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.