24 September 2011

Going Green with Your Clothing

Are you looking for ways to maintain the wardrobe you have in order to save money? Are you concerned that throwing clothes in the landfill is a colossal waste of resources plus an environmental disaster? Repair what you have, buy what you need at resale shops, and wash your clothing carefully. If you do these things, you will help extend the life of your wardrobe, save money, and help the environment all at the same time.

Each season I go through our wardrobes and cull clothes that are too small or that aren't worn any more. It gives me a chance to see what clothes everyone needs for the coming summer or winter and plenty of time to shop around for those items.  Time to shop around saves my family hundreds of dollars a year on clothing.

The kids have been doing their own shopping since they were 15, before their fifteenth birthday we did it together. They have their clothing allowance and the list of what they need. The firm rule is if I've put it on the list they must buy it before they buy anything else.  That at least assures they have the basics covered and won't blow all their allowance on one windcheater or a single pair of jeans and have nothing else to wear.

I encourage them to look in our local op shops and the market before they look in the shops and often they'll get everything they need (except for underwear) and have plenty of money left over for the end of season sales.  They have become really good at shopping for their clothes and have become very much "green" shoppers.

How you deal with your clothing can make the difference between being green and not being green.

The obvious solution is to donate your unwanted or un-needed clothing but many people don't take the time to donate their unwanted clothing. Instead, when they decide to clean out their wardrobes, they throw the clothing away. And we are not talking about clothing that has been worn down to the threads but items that still have years more life left in them. These clothes end up in the landfill when they could be put to use by a family.

One way that we can give back to the community is through donations. Charities like the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul and others collect gently used clothing (and other items) from their donation bins or op shops and sell it for a fraction of the cost. People who need items but can’t afford to pay full price or who recognise the value of a bargain can find great deals in their stores and your unwanted clothing doesn’t end up at the tip, the charities raise much needed cash to keep their benevolence available to whoever needs it.

I’ve noticed that one reason clothing may be discarded is because it has faded. You’d think that in the 21st century dyes would be fade-proof, if not fade resistant. You’ve probably seen that commercial for a particular brand of laundry detergent where the clothing comes out looking new after 40 or 50 washes because they used a formula for bright colors. You don’t need a special powder, at an exorbitant price to keep your clothing looking great (Cheapskates washing powder does that for a fraction of the price). All it takes is simply reading the clothing label to learn how to care for your clothes and keep them looking new for years to come.

Here are a couple simple tips to extend the life of your clothes:
* Wash clothing in cold water. Cold water conserves energy. It's a misconception that warm or hot water will clean clothes better and kill germs. In order for hot water to kill germs it has to reach the boiling point. Your hot water may be hot but it's not that hot. And your washing machine will not heat water that hot, believe me. Cold water and detergent clean clothes and kill germs. Cold water cleans your clothes while preventing colours from bleeding. Warm or hot water will fade your clothes faster, bleed colors and cause the fabric to shrink and deteriorate.

* Dry your washing on the clothesline. Yes, it’s probably a “doh” idea but do you always use the clothesline? It works to save energy as well as your clothing. The sun and wind is free so you save money. Plus, tumbling your clothes in the dryer, in the heat, with dryer sheets for softness (another waste of money) all adds up to a rough ride for your clothing. And there isn’t a fabric softener around that smells as good as clothes and linens dried in the sunshine.

* Hang clothing inside out to prevent fading and for faster drying.  Seams, hems and pockets will be thoroughly dry when it's time to bring in off the clothesline.

* If you must dry heavy items like jeans, towels or blankets in the clothes dryer, use a clean tennis ball or two to speed up the drying. The tennis balls will fluff the items, keeping larger items like blankets from knotting up into a ball, and will cause the items to dry faster. They'll also act as a softener so you won't need dryer sheets.

* Fix clothing that has rips or torn buttons before it goes into the washing machine. Instead of chucking that nearly new shirt because it got a rip at the seam, fix it. All you need is a needle and thread to patch it up in a jiffy. Most shirts come with extra buttons for the express purpose of replacing one should you lose it. Iron on patches are handy for quick mending jobs and if you're not all that handy with needle and thread then iron-on hemming tape does a very good job. Mending goes a long way to increasing the life of your clothing and reducing the wardrobe bill.
It's easy to think you need more clothes or new clothes, especially when you have washing and ironing backed up.  Before you buy a single new garment, make sure the washing is up to date, all the ironing is done and everything is put away. Then, if you really need something you know you won't be wasting your money.

And if you want to be really green, you'll check out your local op shops for what you need and bag a bargain.


  1. I got a cloths drying as a wedding gift, I used it mostly when I had two babies under two to get all the nappys dry. and that was when they were sick and I ran out before they were dry on the clothes horses. after that it never got used to I gave it away. I always had a mending basket and the kids knew to put their mending into it. I didnt need to shop much for clothes as we were always give hand me downs, I even go a huge roll of tracksuit material and made the kids heaps of pants. this lasted me for a few years. save me a bundle.

  2. Angela my clothes dryer was a gift too, from my brother. He called in one winters day when the boys were still in nappies and the house looked like a laundry service - clotheshorses with nappies and baby clothes everywhere.

    We lived in Wagga at the time and the winters were long, cold and very wet.

    I still have it and on rare occasions actually use it for drying. But mostly it's extra storage in the laundry - I can fit a lot of soap, toilet paper, even tinned food in it when I need to.

    Aren't trackies the easiest things to sew? And homemade seem to last so much longer too.


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