We buy a huge amount of clothes in the UK – over 26kg per year which is around 160 jumpers, jeans, dresses and other similar items per person. That’s 13 new pieces of clothing on average every month!

Buying less clothes would massively reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry which accounts for around 10% of global carbon emissions.

So what can we do to reduce the amount of clothes we buy? We’ve got plenty of top tips but before we start it’s worth acknowledging the complexity of our relationship with clothing and the part that might play in how much we’re buying.

Clothing and us humans

We all wear clothes to keep ourselves warm, dry and to protect our modesty but they’re also one of the most powerful non-verbal means of expressing ourselves. What we choose to wear shows others who we are, who we identify with, our interests and even how we’re feeling. They can even play a part in who we choose as a mate.

Studies have also shown that we use them as a way of creating wellbeing and self-esteem, for some buying clothes gives a temporary ‘feel good’ boost. We’ve all heard of the impulse buy.

Our top tips for Buying Better

Which brings me on to our top tips for Buying Better and reducing levels of consumption.

  1. Do a wardrobe audit. Before you rush out and impulse buy, look at what you’ve already got. Pull everything out of your wardrobe and drawers, you’ll be surprised what you find right at the back. Think how to create outfits with what’s there or maybe by adding one small accessory, or making some repairs.

The most sustainable item of clothing is the one you already own

  1. Swap. If you find clothes that you know you won’t wear again then ask your friends if they fancy doing a clothing swap. Make a fun evening out of it. Maybe they’ve fallen out of favour with that beautiful jumper or dress you’ve seen on them and it could be yours. Or swap your clothes at one of Leeds two community clothing exchanges in Woodhouse and Bramley. When it comes to school uniform use the Leeds School Uniform Exchange map to get and donate great quality second hand uniform.

  1. Do the 'will I wear it 30 times' test. You’re out shopping, tried a few things on, nothing quite fits, you’re short on time, before making an impulse buy – think ‘will I wear it at least 30 times?’. If not, put it back. The likelihood is it will sit at the back of the wardrobe, make your purse lighter and make you feel bad.

  1. Buy secondhand. There are so many places to buy great quality second hand clothes in Leeds, from vintage shops, charity shops to dress agencies. There’s something for everyone and every budget. Search for your closest one on our Zero Waste Clothing map. Whilst you’re there donate or sell some clothes you no longer wear. Way better than throwing them in the bin - did you know that in Leeds 4000 tonnes of clothing ends up in household waste bins per year! What a waste.

  1. Check the brand. If want to buy something new, then consider only buying from brands that have committed to carbon reductions and have signed up to recognised initiatives such as Textiles 2030, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the Better Cotton Initiative or the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP). If they’re not being open about it then it’s most likely they’re not doing anything.

Please let us know about all the ways that you've found of acquiring clothes that you value and enjoy wearing over and again, helping to reduce the amount of new clothes you buy. It makes such a difference to the environment.