How to have an eco-friendly wardrobe detox

07 April 2017 | OVO Energy

Clothes in landfill | OVO Energy

If, like us, you’re guilty of regularly saying that you have nothing to wear, whilst staring at a wardrobe full of clothes that haven’t seen the light of day for years, then maybe it’s time for a spring clean – the environmentally-friendly way!  

We’ve always been advocates of recycling, cutting waste and being more eco-friendly around the house. This week, The Guardian revealed a key area where we could be helping to reduce damage to the environment - our wardrobes. They predicted that 235 million items of clothing would end up in UK landfills this spring alone. Clothing has been the fastest growing waste stream in the UK in the past decade. So, although we’re a well-dressed country, our fashion credentials may actually be harming the environment.  

If your clothes are perfectly wearable, but just not to your taste, don’t let them have a sad end in a dirty landfill. Instead, we’ve thought of some fun ways you can swap/donate/recycle your unwanted garments.

Give clothes a new lease of life

Don’t write off your old clothes too quickly. If you haven’t worn something in a while, try it on and figure out why. Is the leg length too long? Does the colour not suit you? Is it missing a button?

Some easy adjustments could help you fall in love again with a forgotten garment. You don’t need to be a professional tailor to get creative with your old clothes and many adjustments don’t even require a sewing machine. It’s surprising what a huge difference a set of funky new buttons, a bit of clothes dye or iron-on hemming tape can do. Next-to-no sewing experience required!  

Donate unwanted clothes to charity shops

Oxfam, Age UK, British Heart Foundation - what would our British high streets look like without them? According to the World Giving Index published annually by the Charities Aid Foundation the UK is the most generous country in Europe, measured by the per capita amount of money donated to charity. But according to a study commissioned by UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s, a staggering 49% of people said they didn’t know they could donate their old clothes because they were worn out or dirty.

While it’s true that donations can only be sold in charity shops if they have a second life, that is if they are clean and functional, that doesn’t mean that the charities have no use for the rest. In fact, “we can use or recycle almost anything”, says Fee Gilfeather, Head of Retail brand at Oxfam. Items that can’t be sold in one of their high street shops can be turned into other textiles and find new use as insulation, sound proofing and padding.

And even for the 16% that said they didn’t have time to visit a charity shop there is now a solution: Gone for Good is a new app that lets you take photos of your pre-loved items and send them to the charity of your choice, who will then contact you to arrange a pick-up time that is convenient for you - genius!

Get your colleagues involved

We understand that everyone has busy lifestyles, so how about bringing charitable giving to the workplace? Many companies support their employees’ charitable efforts, so why not speak to your HR department about holding a clothes drive in the office for a worthy charity?

Last December, we did exactly this in our London office for a charity that caught our eye, Smart Works. They provide high-quality interview clothes, offer styling advice to women and give them tips, so they can go into an interview with confidence. Their cause resonated with us so much that we hosted a clothes drive for them in our London office. 

If you want to support a charity like Smart Works that is looking for specific items, not all of your colleagues will be able to donate clothes. If you want to make sure that everyone can still take part, how about hosting a bake sale alongside the clothes drive?


Hold a clothes swap party

We all have that one top in your wardrobe that’s got nothing technically wrong with it - it’s the right size, a beautiful colour and the perfect material for that glorious weather we’ve been having, but every time we put it on we remember why we never wear it. Maybe it’s just not quite the right fit for our body shape, or the colour is just a little bit too bright for our skin tone, but then we remember what we paid for it - so back in the wardrobe it goes, until next year.

So imagine how many tops (and dresses, and trousers, and pairs of shoes) like this sit in your friends’ wardrobes! All suffering the same fate of being taken out once a year, half-heartedly tried on, sighed at and put back for another twelve months in the dark. And now think how many of these pieces that aren’t quite right for your friends’ body shapes would be perfect for yours!

So next time you’re having a wardrobe detox, remember that your unloved items could go to a good home, so put a bottle of bubbly in the fridge, a full length mirror in the living room and invite your friends - you could get a whole new wardrobe for free AND get to brag about your eco-friendly credentials. It’s a win-win! And last but not least - if you haven’t wrestled your best mate to the ground over a practically brand new designer dress your neighbour has never worn, are you even friends?

We love hearing from you! If you have any tips what to do with old clothes, or photos of your latest charity shop find - share them on Twitter or Facebook.

Image courtesy of iStock

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