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Fashionable landfill… not a good look and it’s time we started caring

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Believe it or not the fashion industry is responsible for emitting more carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

It takes 3,000 litres of water to produce one cotton T-shirt, which if dyed will become part of the 20% of wastewater worldwide that is attributed to the fashion industry.

The numbers are just as alarming closer to home, with Australians responsible for dumping 15 tonnes of clothing and fabric waste into landfill or exporting it overseas – every 10 minutes.

We are also the second highest consumer of textiles per person on the planet, with 90% of the clothing we purchase manufactured overseas.

ethical wardrobe
Swapping zips for buttons is a simple way to start cultivating an ethical wardrobe that doesn’t end up in landfill.

Currently less than 1% of our clothing materials are ever remade into new clothes. And, of the tonnes we donate to charity each year, only a fraction is ever resold, most ending up in landfill.

It may also be worth considering that for every item you added to your cart during a late-night shopping binge, every outfit you were expecting to wear within weeks, all added extra demands on underpaid factory workers operating in some of the worst conditions in some of the poorest countries in the world.

The fast fashion attitude has led us to mass overproduction and ultimately mass waste.

So, what can we be doing within our own homes to help lighten the load?

The creator of Newcastle-based recycled fashion brand Chinchen Street, Bonnie Lee Tipper, has been finding creative ways to repurpose clothing for more than a decade.

The talented seamstress has been regularly transforming op-shop bought, preloved fashion items into much-loved wardrobe pieces since she was a young girl, and she’s convinced every one of us can do the same with a little effort.

Chinchen Street owner Bonnie Lee Tipper offers tips on cultivating an ethical wardrobe. Photo: Peter Stoop

Bonnie shares her top five tips to kickstarting your 2024 wardrobe, and how to avoid dumping your preloved items in landfill well into the future.

  1. Shop your own wardrobe: Look through things you have in storage or haven’t worn in a while – you might even find something wonderful you forgot you had.
  • Mending & Alterations: Don’t toss something just because it has a little damage or doesn’t fit perfectly, instead try mending it or taking it to a professional. 
  • Be mindful when washing: Using cold water, washing fuller loads and air drying are all easy ways to cut down on your environmental impact. 
  • Choose Quality: Buy less and buy better. If you are on a budget, quality second-hand or vintage items are great value for money. 
  • Eco-Friendly fibres: Avoid synthetic fabrics and look for natural fabrics such as cotton, linen or bamboo. These are not only better for the body but also the environment.
  • Know your style: Even if you like bold and interesting clothes like me, you can avoid wasteful shopping by knowing what suits you rather than feeling the pressure to jump on every trend. 

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