Let’s have a quick refresher on the environmental impacts of clothing production. One t-shirt requires the use of 700 gallons of water, 1/3 pound of pesticides and 14 pounds of CO2, while a pair of jeans will go through an estimated 919 gallons of water in its lifetime.
Replacing your worn-out t-shirts and jeans with new ones impacts the environment, and as you surely know, it hurts your wallet, too. We’re not advising you to stop buying new clothes altogether and try to make your old ones last forever, but if you can get a few extra months out of your clothing, you’ll save money and reduce burdens on the environment.
This post will take a look at some simple strategies for lengthening the life of your garments and outline responsible methods for disposal once your clothing’s time has finally come.
If you run your dryer for five hours per week, it’s costing you about $130 in annual electricity costs. Not only that, but drying garments in the dryer weakens the clothing’s fiber much more quickly than line drying would, especially for cotton items. High-temperature drying can lead to cracks in cotton which reduce fabric strength, drastically shortening the life of a cotton t-shirt or similar item. Avoid this by line-drying instead—it’ll save your clothes and a little bit of money.
Before you dismiss this idea because it seems unsanitary, listen to what Levi-Strauss has to say: “The less you wash your jeans, the better they become.”
Levi’s says that putting jeans in the washer can “tense” up the fabric and make the jeans shorter, altering the fit and feel. Instead of machine washing, Levi’s suggests spot-cleaning jeans and only using the washing machine every few months, and only using cold water when doing so. This will also work to reduce energy costs and reduce CO2 emissions, as heating water for washing is a carbon-intensive process.
Use a Front-Loading Washer
Front-loading washing machines are gentler on clothing than traditional top-loading ones, and they’re more energy efficient, too. They use a third less water, energy and detergent than standard machines, and they don’t contain an agitator, the part in the middle of a top-loading washer that churns the clothes and water together. Agitators cause wear and tear on clothes, so investing in a front-loading washer will lengthen the life of your clothing.
Following these tips will give your clothing a longer lifespan, but let’s face it, that t-shirt you’ve had for 10 years isn’t going to be wearable forever. When there’s nothing more you can do to extend a garment’s life, dispose of it in a responsible way by placing it in a USAgain drop box. We take clothes regardless of condition, with lower-quality items being recycled into new, useful products like insulation for vehicles and wiping rags.
We’d love to know your tips for extending the life of clothing—share ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.