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Textile Waste and the 100 Day Dress

For a country of 23 million people, Australia is the 2nd largest consumer of textiles per person in the world. A shameful stat. Almost half of Australians believe our country might actually rank between 6th – 12th in terms of textile consumption.

Fast fashion in Australia has become an addiction fuelled by cheap imported clothing manufactured in Third World countries or China. Multi-nationals produce so much clothing at such low prices even workers on the minimum wage could afford to change up their wardrobe as often as they might check their email inbox.

Rather than support companies exploring child labour or textile workers who are similar to contemporary slaves earning pitiful amounts for long hours of work, I would much prefer to support more ethically conscious industries and those that are environmentally aware.

Photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels.com

Disposal of Used Textiles in Australia

1 in 3 garments produced ends up in landfill – unsold!

Citizen Wolfe – Australia

The donations of used clothing does not prevent textiles from entering landfill. Despite 83% of Australians donating unwanted or damaged clothes to charity, 14% of those charity donations end up in landfills.

For every 1 kg of used textiles that are diverted from landfill, 3-4 kg of greenhouse gases may be prevented from entering the atmosphere.

This year I have been working hard to reduce, recycle and re-use. The mantra for the 21st century.

I send my used textiles to a company that purposefully recycles them – e.g. Upparel which has to date diverted 731,137 kg of textile waste preventing 2,924,548 kg of gases.

I refuse to buy cheap t-shirts that lose their shape after two washes, even if they are cheaper than buying a salad sandwich. I refuse to buy new t-shirts at all now.

I question new clothing purchases:

  • Do I really need another cheap cardigan in another colour?
  • Another pair of leggings for yoga?
  • Newer Sweatpants that aren’t covered in ‘piling’?

The answer is NO. I don’t.

Day 1 of the 100 day Dress Challenge from Wool &

100 Day Challenge Wearing Merino Wool

For the past 47 days, I’ve been participating in a dress challenge at the company called Wooland.com – that is, I have committed to wearing the same merino wool dress (washing it overnight every few days of course), for 100 consecutive days. Being odour-resistant, quick-drying and comfy, it has not been a problem to wash it overnight, to change up my outfits around the dress, layering under or over it as needs and weather dictates.

I am so happy with this purchase that I hope will last me many years.

In developing new combinations of existing clothes, I find I haven’t doubled up on any combinations so far, using different tops, cardis and jumpers to prevent repetition.

That is, I have not worn the same outfit combination with the dress twice. This keeps my interest level in the challenge. ie. I have not become bored with wearing the dress and I really like the creative aspect with accessories, but it does present a problem.

This challenge had made me acutely aware of how many clothes are in my existing wardrobe. The challenge screams at me that I have way too many clothes for what I need. This is indulgent and not environmentally friendly or ethical.

I think I hear murmuring in agreement.

Capsule Wardrobes

Admittedly, certain clothes do get a good run with me. One shirt in my wardrobe is over ten years old and another is almost 17 years old. I tend to buy timeless, durable pieces, not trending high fashion that quickly dates. But… even so, I could get away with much much less.

Instead of chucking out half my items to create a smaller capsule wardrobe, which would contribute to landfills, I want to find an alternative that is more environmentally friendly.

A Second Life for Old Clothing

I intend to re-use unwanted fabrics to

  • Make new items from old – cutting down a maxi skirt to a mini skirt or tank top
  • Making a rag rug or quilts from scraps
  • Taking the fabric/scraps to a sewing group to make free recycled bags for the community to replace plastics
  • Making t-shirt yarn from older stretched t-shirts
  • Using excess textiles as paint or cleaning rags instead of buying paper towel and chux
  • Re-purposing unwanted clothes for little children or babies
  • Making dog coats or bandanas for fur-babies
  • Offering to friends or relatives who might wear them
  • Upcycle via a textile recycling program at Zara, H&M etc.

What do you do with your unwanted clothes and textiles?

Have you got an idea on how to re-use or re-purpose them?

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43 thoughts on “Textile Waste and the 100 Day Dress”

      1. Well your very good. I haven’t been blogging long. I’m losing confidence in my writing actually. I write about addiction and my experience. It’s quite hard to find the time to write properly and I tend to rush it. Any tips ?x

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Frankie, blogging is an acquired taste – the more you do it, the more you like it. And it can be a bit addictive once you get started, so writing about addiction is a perfect mix! It just can take a year or so to get really going with a responsive community. Visting other blogs is a fantastic way to gain inspiration, learn what works and build a community as good bloggers always reciprocate with a visit to the commenter’s blog. I will visit you. Through the to and fro you are able to find others you sync with – and thus build rapport. Write from your heart, your experience and what you yourself would like to read. A conversational tone helps until you are writing academically.
          Good luck. I am hear if you need to ask anything.

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          1. That is very good advice. I appreciate your time. Thank you and I will keep at it with these great tips. Look forward to your next piece. 😁

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  1. I was wondering how the challenge was going. Most of the clothes that leave here are dead and repurposed to cleaning rags. I can’t remember the last time I bought new other than a few long sleeve men’s t-shirts. I’m at that stage of life where I want my arms covered all the time. My son will make use of them later. Everything is bought with how will it repurpose in mind. My beautiful work clothes went to the women’s shelter. I’ve seen so much about the results of our waste that it’s hard for me to buy anything but food. Furniture was all given to neighbors in need. That will be the case again later. So many homeless families need what I have when they finally get to start fresh. It’s good that you are pointing it out. I’m glad you are in your cooler season with the black wool dress. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Marlene. I like that you are planning ahead with the objective of re-purposing in mind. You kind of have your own circular economy going! The women’s shelter and homeless are worthy causes indeed, and I am sure the donations were much appreciated. Even if they don’t wear them directly they can repurpose them.
      You mentioned the wool being great for winter, and it is. The surprising thing is that when I started the challenge we had some really warm days. I was down to wearing a light stretch knit t-shirt style camisole and leggings. I sweated and got a bit burnt on my exposed shoulders when I was out walking. So it was hot. When I got back home I had a shower and got into my wool dress and went out for another walk up to the shops (I was on up the coast on holiday), and surprise, surprise, the wool dress was cooler than the camisole top. The dress is made of very fine merino wool as light as a thin t shirt. I had not realised this about wool that is can be cool in summer and warm in winter! Such a versatile fabric.
      Why do you feel you need to cover your arms?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I cover most of myself because we are prone to skin cancers. My sister has had many removed because she won’t cover up. Add the loss of muscle tone and it just keeps from drawing attention to the arms. I tend to prefer collared long sleeve shirts rear round these days. I get most of them at the thrift stores and buy men’s shirts since they are more ample where I need it and have a pocket for my tissue. 🙂 The last 10 years have had their fun with this body.

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  2. Well done. Your self-imposed challenge has made you – and me think. As I think I mentioned earlier, I’d already vowed to buy only from charity shops, except for underwear and shoes. I broke that resolve about two months ago to get a decent rainproof jacket for walking. I doubt if I’ll never need to buy another though.. Your way of re-purposing unwanted items is much more imaginative than mine. They go to charity shops, either as saleable (I hope) items, or to be sold on to the rag trade. Keep up then good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sure that there are loads more ideas for old clothing, Margaret. Pinterest and youtube are most likely full of ideas. I remember my boys used to stuff a pillowcase with their spare clothes to make a impromptu pillow when they were out on school camps. Just another idea for clothes – you could use them as stuffing for outdoor cushions and if they go mouldy it is no problem.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for writing about the 100-day dress challenge. I had heard of it, but not yet come across someone actually doing it. I regret to say that both my husband and I tend to give our used clothes to Goodwill, although the clothes are in good enough condition to sell. Frankly, I only give to Goodwill what I would consider buying myself. Otherwise, the items become rags for cleaning.

    I still have too many clothes but I’m determined to wear them out before I give them up. So many items were bought for the workplace. Now that I’m retired, I’m forcing myself to wear more of my remaining clothes, the items I don’t want to give up because they are so good for traveling or outdoor activities.

    I get very frustrated when clothes “fail.” I had a bunch of stretchy shelf-bra camisole tops that were great to wear alone or under shirts. I bought them from an environmentally conscious, natural fiber company. Well, eventually, the elastic under the shelf-bra wore out on each of them. At first, I cut the bras out, figuring I would wear the camisole over a sports bra. But they just started to look funky. I haven’t bought from that company again. I guess my point is that when I buy clothes, I want them to last for years. I wash all my clothes in the delicate cycle and air-dry or dry on low heat to make them last.

    Well, sorry for such a long comment, but thank you for sharing such good information.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Long comments are very welcome, Marie! I like them. You raise a couple of important points. One that clothes are not so durable these days and this adds to many more purchases – and ultimately more textiles in landfill. I find that some discount department store t-shirts are of appalling quality. They stretch out of shape after several washes! I don’t buy them anymore but it is harder to tell with other products like your cami tops. As the company that sold them was environmentally ethical, do you think you could approach them, suggesting they improve their durability somehow? Secondly, once you retire from work, what do you do with the work wardrobe. I have a friend who has so many high-heeled shoes and only one or two might be worn again now she has retired from the corporate world. Retirement does bring wardrobe changes. That is how a friend put me on to Upparel – she sent a large box of her retired husband’s work socks to them to recycle.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I retired last year and gave most of my work clothes to a charity shop. Fortunately, I’ve always tended to dress casual even at the workplace so I’ve kept a few of my so-called work clothes. I’m focused on getting as much wear out of them as I can. As long as I don’t gain weight, my wardrobe would be more than adequate for the remainder of my lifetime. Except for underwear. I really need to get some new underwear … but even with underwear, I’m wearing them until they go ragged 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Great that you are retired too and looking to keep your wardrobe compact. I gained some weight the second year into retirement- even though I was exercising more. I tend to hang on to underwear past its use by date too. Then they make great painting rags. Some of the older sets are still really comfy so I hang onto them. There is nothing worse than underwear that is too tight!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I went as long as I could into 2022 without buying any clothes.
    But we are back to the office 3 days a week and my old khakis no longer fit well due to the COVID 20lbs.
    So I had to buy a new pair of khakis in April. My old khakis are showing their age and my extra weight is not melting away. I may need to buy a 2nd pair.
    My office had a clothing drive in May where they collected clothes for recycling! The first time I have seen that but they tell me they have done it over the past few years.
    Normally I use old socks to wash the car and then toss them. This year I dropped off the holy socks to be recycled.
    The amount of waste that we all generate is staggering.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a great point, Omnirunner. We sometimes have to buy new clothes when our figure changes. I am unsure whether I can blame Covid or retirement for the increasing spare tyre I now carry. As much as I tried to avoid the senior spread and was in denial that my figure had changed, I had to accept defeat. Genetics and age influences are hard to eliminate altogether. I love that your work had a clothing drive. If I was at work, I would surely do this too! Perhaps I can organize one in my neighbourhood, either for the homeless shelter or for upcycling? You have given me food for thought. Thank you!

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  5. GREAT POST !! – you’re forging ahead, me old china ! 🙂
    I’d love to do that wooland.com challenge but that I have the world’s ugliest ankles and NEVER wear dresses. One day maybe, whose nose ?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Now that I moved house again I have only a suitcase with clothes. I had clothes back from before 2009 bought in South Africa. Worn them up to now and decided to recycle them. There are recycle shops here where can also buy good second-hand clothes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sounds like you have created your own capsule wardrobe, Ineke! Well done!
      When I had little children, it was so great to receive hand-me-downs from nieces and nephews who had clothes with little wear for my kids. Children grown out of clothes so quickly!

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  7. What a great challenge. I have found that I wear a very small percentage of the clothes in my closet. I’m currently going through what I have and donating items I no longer want. I haven’t bought “fast fashion” in ages and it really makes a difference. Many fewer purchases but, when I do, they are of better, long-lasting quality. Update us on your challenge again… that was interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Janis. I love that you don’t buy into fast fashion and I will certainly update you on the challenge further. They have just started a shorter 30 day tops challenge so I do hope more will contemplate doing this. It is a great learning experience to do a challenge with a durable piece of versatile clothing.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I like your ideas for re-purposing clothing you don’t want any more. We have some thrift shops around here that if items don’t sell, they are sent overseas to help those with fewer resources for clothing. If I love an item I will wear it until it’s no longer suitable for wearing in public, then it goes through stages of around-the-house wear and then painting and cleaning wear. The one thing I question is whether you or someone else is thinking about getting rid of things you don’t strictly need, is that really a green choice. You already own it and if you hold back some things that you don’t wear as often, isn’t it a more green choice to keep it and use it eventually rather than tossing or donating it? Might save money too. I only comment on that because I love home improvement shows and nothing annoys me more than the couple that guts a perfectly fine kitchen to put in a green kitchen. Seems to me the greener choice is to live with the not as cool kitchen. Especially when they break up the cabinetry instead of donating it to Habitat or other re-use options.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you, Zazzy. Those home improvement shows could do much more repurposing instead of knockingdown and rebuilding.
      Likewise with clothes. I have a little fight with myself when (donating) tossing out items I don’t use. That is when I try to refashion them as bags or something smaller for kids. We have many charities accepting donations for overseas, but unfortunately those countries receive so much more than they need. Especially in Africa. Especially if the clothes are not of suitable quality. There have been a few documentaries here about the Third World becoming the dumping ground of the wealthy west. They are drowning in our textile waste, so it is not helping those less fortunate much at all. Plus shipping it overseas is not a green solution either, with the energy used in shipping. Banning fashion trends could be a way to wear things for longer. Personal incentives to wear clothes for longer is gradually taking off here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, damn. I had hoped that those things shipped overseas were actually helping people. Although it does seem odd to see indigenous Amazonians wearing coke t-shirts. I wondered, a little, just how much is being dumped on third world countries but I did not know how bad it was.

        I like the idea of incentives, besides cost, to wearing clothes for longer. I have never been driven by fashion and the idea of “last season’s jeans” makes me shake my head. I have seen some people being very creative with used clothing but we just have so much of it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thr only time I have disposed of jeans they have either had zips break or I have lost/put on weight. Some I don’t want to dispose of but they are no longer wearable. Navy cords for instance I wore for about 10 years and they were so loved but threadbare and had to go. Why throw out jeans? Buy straight simple styles and they will last well, hey Zazzy?

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  9. I try and not buy clothes until threadbare. When I do buy I go to the Vinnies. The same with food, I hate it when so many cafes and restaurants provide such huge meals when most times half the plate remains uneaten and gets chucked out.

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    1. Serving supervised portions is fundamentally wasteful and controlled obesity. The fashion industry is no better. But it is easier for men to have simple outfits and wear them out as they are not subject to fashion trends. My husband goes through more clothes than me as his shirts are variously stained with food, grease, mud, butter or whatever he is working on at the time.

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