Clothes Fabrics and Shoes

Why do we buy and keep so much stuff ? How much of it do we really value and use regularly ?

Most people in rich countries seem to wear only about 20% of the clothing that they own. Much of it is bought on impulse, used a couple of times and then left in the ever-growing heap that clutters our homes.

So perhaps the first question to address is “How can we get rid of stuff we no longer value ?” Can we give it to or share with kith and kin, offer it on Freegle or social media, sell it on EBay or donate it to charity shops ? Perhaps we can wear stuff around our homes when anything goes !

When we are thinking of purchasing a new item, let’s think first on whether we really need it. Can we borrow or hire items for special occasions ? What is its carbon footprint ? Many items are shipped around the whole planet before they reach the shops, adding to the CO₂ emitted. Cotton and animal-derived fabrics can entail a high resource use in fertilisers, pesticides and irrigation water. They are sometimes displacing food crops on scarce fertile land areas. Some synthetic fabrics support the oil business, but at the same time they may need less energy and resources to manufacture and may be easier to clean and maintain. Synthetics tend to last longer too. Let’s think before we buy.

Then there are questions arising around washing our fabric items. Can we wash some of our stuff less often ? In a hard water area (like Milton Keynes !) use washing soda (about 100 grammes per load) in with a wash to deal with the limescale and reduce the amount of detergent needed. This also helps to rinse fabrics more efficiently. Use a low temperature washing programme and environmentally safe detergent. Don’t use a tumble dryer – they can use five times as much energy as washing only. Stick to drying stuff on a rack or clothes line.

Do we really need to iron stuff ? Using a slow spin speed saves energy and wear on the washing machine, and also leaves fabrics slightly damper, then hanging them to dry in their final shape, for instance on clothes hangers, is usually enough. Why would anyone ever iron a tea towel ?


Same questions – how many do we really need ? How often are they used ? If we no longer need a pair, can we pass them on.

Vegan shoes are likely to have a smaller carbon footprint.

Choose durable footwear and look after it. There are specialist firms that can fit soles and heels, or do more complex repairs to quality items. A quick online search will find them.

Bottom line

Choose clothes mindfully
Wear and wash stuff with care
Reduce your footprint