Upcycling: How to build a wardrobe that helps the Earth

Illusration of washing machine with recycle logo

Thriving secondhand marketplaces—online and in person—have made it easier for us to upcycle the clothes we don’t wear, giving discarded items new life. But beyond selling or buying secondhand, a few basic practices can reduce our sartorial environmental impact.

WISER WASHING Reduce water and energy use while making your clothes last longer. Wash only what really needs washing: A sweatshirt that’s worn over a t-shirt doesn’t have to land in the hamper. Wash clothes in cold water; in most cases it cleans as well as hot and uses less energy. If you have a clothesline, skip the dryer and hang clothes up to air dry.

ON THE MEND A hole in that favorite pair of jeans? Learn sashiko—the Japanese art of embroidered mending—and give them an upgrade! And sewing on a button only takes a few minutes; reclaim that shirt languishing in the back of the closet. Or, when you buy clothes, do some research. Some well-known brands will mend clothes for you.

DONATE AWAY Once you’ve loved a piece of clothing and are ready to let it go, donate it to your local clothing donation site. Many donation centers will recycle almost any item that’s not suitable to resell or give away.

By caring for your clothes with the environment in mind, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint and be able to wear your favorite outfits longer.

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