STEP 6

use & care

 

It is no doubt that fashion is one of the most wasteful industries and denim was always under attack for being one of the worst offenders. We know a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions are linked to the manufacturing of garments and unfortunately, garments are being worn 40% less than the previous generation. This leads us to the real problem - overproduction/overconsumption.

We produce way more than we need, so much so that some of what is produced (estimated at 30%) is never actually worn, and goes straight to the landfill. Some brands will partner with different organizations to donate their unsold goods, but if an estimated 150 BILLION garments are produced a year, 30% (45 billion garments) is WAY too high a number, so we need to be buying less, choosing well, and making it last, while the industry continues to minimize waste and maximize resources.

Read more on "Waste Solutions for the Denim Industry" written by Simply Suzette here!

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what can you do to make better purchasing choices?

purchasing questions

Before you buy, I challenge you to ask yourself the four questions:

  1. Do I really need this?

  2. What is it made out of and where was it made?

  3. Is there a repair service?

  4. What will I do when I am done with it? Upcycle, restyle, or resale?

At Simply Suzette we we spend our time looking for solutions, which naturally led us to adding more questions and searching for more answers:

  1. Is it designed for durability? (see the End of Life section)

  2. Is this something that I can style in different ways and wear often?

  3. Have I looked for a vintage/second-hand alternative?

  4. Does it have a clear care label, including tips to wash it in a sustainable way?

  5. Am I prepared to keep loving this item even if it slightly changes in colour or feel?

  6. If it ever gets damaged in the future, could it look cool with repair stitches, patches, or embroidery? (we are thinking of our favourite upcycling brands)

Mystery key
 

garment care

On top of the issues that come with garments not being used at all, the Use/Care phase plays a very significant role in the life cycle impact of clothes, and has even been estimated to be the stage with the highest impact together with raw material extraction. Laundry alone accounts for approximately 30% of the carbon footprint of clothing. During this phase, large amounts of water, energy and chemicals are used in washing, tumble drying and ironing, and there is the issue of microplastics shed into the environment. It also is the longest phase of the garment, as these actions can be repeated hundreds of times, further degrading the garment and turning it into waste. It really is a critical stage, where our habits can make a big difference. Additionally, impact varies for different products and depends upon factors such as consumer behaviour, geographical zone in which the product is used, and even the weather conditions in that zone. Let’s look at each one of these issues in detail… 

 

Similarly as in the Finishing phase described earlier, (where jeans are washed to get desired effects) washing, drying and ironing jeans at home requires large amounts of water, energy (mechanical and thermal), and chemicals.

 

Additionally, all this stress reduces the lifespan of clothes, as fibers degrade or shrink, colours fade, and clothes end up not being usable anymore. 

 

The impact of your wash highly depends on the energy mix of your supplier (whether your electricity was made from impactful sources such as coal, or through renewable energy, like hydro), and the temperature that your tap water starts from, which is why we mentioned the geographical area. According to the UK Energy Saving Trust, choosing to wash at 30 degrees rather than at higher temperatures uses around 40% less energy, and reduces the degradation of clothes. According to WRAP, extending the average life of clothes by just three months of active use per item would lead to a 5 to 10% reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints. 

Many of you have probably read terrifying headlines detailing the amount of plastics that we eat on average every year due to microplastics having entered the food chain, and being found in water, vegetables, milk, etc. Remember us mentioning microplastics earlier? What is the difference? 

 

Microplastics are plastic pieces less than five millimeters in length (mostly formed when plastic waste material that has been discarded in nature breaks down), and microfibers are a subcategory of microplastics that are fibrous in shape (mostly formed in the washing of textiles that contain plastics, such as polyester and nylon). According to researchers at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), plastic particles washed off from products such as synthetic clothes & textiles contribute to 35% of primary microplastics polluting our oceans. That is a LOT!

 

How does this happen? During each wash, the fibres undergo a large amount of stress due to the force of the water, the temperature, and the chemicals that are applied through soaps, softeners etc. This causes tiny pieces to break, so small they’re not visible to the human eye, and end up in the water.

There is no need to panic, and yes you should still continue washing your clothes, however there are several things that you can do:

  1. Firstly, washing garments less often is the most effective way to reduce the environmental impact. By washing your jeans every 10x instead of every 2x, you can drastically reduce energy use, climate change impact, and water intake!

  2. Spot-clean your clothes - often a small stain means that we wash 3kg of fabric - this seems unnecessary right? Just use a damp cloth. It also means you can rewear your jeans much faster than having to wait for when you find the time to do a full wash.

  3. Make sure you check the fabric care label to make sure that you’re washing your clothes on the right setting, to ensure that they will not get damaged through the washing cycle. Keep in mind that the number for the temperature is the maximum temperature that the garment can withstand - and not the advised temperature for the wash.

  4. Reduce washing temperature. Higher temperatures encourage the loss of dye and fade black and bright clothes by opening up the fibres. Unless your jeans are truly filthy, cleaning denim at a cooler temperature (30 degrees C or lower), and as little as possible, will help them last longer and look better. Does your older family member believe that you only really clean your clothes with very hot water? You can explain to them that detergents (such as Ariel and Persil) have evolved significantly in the last decades, and for clothes not including baby clothing, towels and bedding, they can effectively kill bacteria and remove stains.

  5. Always wash at full load.

  6. Only use a small amount of detergent on a delicate cycle. Find a list of good detergents here

  7. Turn your jeans inside out, this will protect the most visible part of your favourite pair.

  8. Try to avoid drying and ironing as much as possible. Generating heat requires vast amounts of energy. Hanging your clothes can be a pleasant and mindful activity, which can also reduce your electricity bill. Give clothes a shake and smooth them out before you hang them up, so that they don't dry and set with creases.

  9. Try to purchase eco-friendly fibres, such as 100% cotton jeans, that will not release any microfibers when washed

  10. Consider using a filtering bag or ball that traps microfibres during washing

💡 Find garment care products reccommended by Simply Suzette here

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

Good news! 100% cotton jeans are still produced by most brands. Look out for them, and remember that there is a lot more than just the fabric to inform yourself on.

GINETEX, the International Association for Textile Care Labelling, has developed an internationally applicable logo for sustainable care. Consumers are given information to help them reduce the environmental impact of caring for textile. Look out for Clever Care on your labels. Apparel companies such as G-Star Raw and Stella Mc Cartney are adopting the clevercare.info logo on their care labels.

Want to reduce microfibers getting in our precious water? The Guppyfriend laundry bag, which is also supported by Patagonia, and the Cora Ball, which does not require you to put your clothes in a bag during washing, are the two best known options to reduce microfibers in your wash. Another option is Gulp, a device that traps fibres by connecting between the outflow pipe and the drain. Lint LUV-R and Planet Care are filters that can be retrofitted to machines, although these filters are less effective than the named options. Find the listed products here.

Self cleaning surfaces? Seriously? Well - don’t get too excited yet - there is not a garment available yet that can be bought and used for a lifetime without ever seeing a wash. But, of course nature being amazing, it has developed self-cleaning surfaces, that are a class of materials with the inherent ability to remove any debris or bacteria from their surfaces in a variety of ways. The self-cleaning functionality of these surfaces are commonly inspired by natural phenomena observed in lotus leaves, gecko feet, and water striders to name a few. Research is being done into ways to use this in garments, so stay tuned, because we might hear some surprises soon.

 

certifications

Certifications to look for:

+ Fairtrade

+ B Corp

+ EcoCert

+ Cradle 2 Cradle

+ Fairwear

+ FSC

+ Climate Beneficial

+ Good On You

💡 Bonus Tip: If you’re shopping online, look for digital sizing solutions like body scans to get your perfect fit and avoid the GHG emissions of shipping & returns!

A big thank you to Virginia Rollando for contributing her supply chain expertise!