How Much Clothing Should You Buy Per Year To Be Climate-Friendly?

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Move over, Paris Fashion Week: A 2022 report from Berlin’s Hot or Cool Institute is swinging the fashion world’s focus toward the Paris Agreement. The report analyzes the fashion industry’s carbon footprint when it comes to manufacturing and consumption. And unfortunately, the findings fall woefully short of the agreement’s goal to combat climate change. 

But if you love regularly updating your wardrobe, don’t despair; the report doesn’t condemn all clothes shopping. But they do have a yearly cap on how much we should be buying (plus some tips for stretching this allowance farther).

Fashion’s Role In Climate Change

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty adopted in 2015 that aims to limit global warming to “well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.” Meanwhile, the fashion sector is well on its way to doubling its carbon emissions by 2030. 

Rising carbon emissions reflect a changing fashion industry that prioritizes speed and quantity over sustainability and quality. Earth.Org reports that of the 100 billion garments produced yearly, 92 million tons end up in landfills. If this trend continues, that number could end up closer to 134 million tons by the end of the decade.

Being Satisfied With Sufficiency

Of course, consumer efforts to reduce global carbon emissions can only go so far in the wake of corporate manufacturing. But the report does present some feasible options the individual shopper can try, like following a “sufficiency lifestyle.”

The report defines this as habits and behaviors “that follow the choice out of free will to limit expenditure on consumer goods and services, and to cultivate non-materialistic sources of satisfaction and meaning.” Or to put it simply: buy less—and when you do buy, buy better. 

Assuming we implement no other solution at any stage of the garment life cycle (more on that later), the report finds that the highest-income countries would need to reduce their garment consumption by up to 75% to achieve the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree reduction target. What, exactly, does that mean for your shopping habits?

Dressing For The Paris Agreement

The magic number is five.

According to the report, limiting the purchase of new garments to five items per person per year would allow consumption levels to fall in line with the Paris Agreement’s end goal.

Don’t think you can manage only buying five new pieces of clothing a year? You’re not alone, and there are other steps you can take to offset your closet’s carbon footprint so you can feel better about buying a little more.

For example, extending the life of a garment by just nine months can reduce its carbon footprint by 25%. Washing your clothing in cold water and avoiding one out of every three washes also minimizes your carbon footprint in terms of energy, detergent, and water used. 

Additionally, the report suggests buying secondhand clothes and responsibly disposing of used garments by recycling or upcycling. However, it emphasizes that reducing clothing consumption to five items per year would have a larger impact than all the other solutions combined. 

While this type of reduction might take some getting used to, we’re planning to use this as an excuse to invest in timeless, high-quality pieces to stretch our five yearly clothing items a bit farther—care to join us?

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