5 ways to reduce your fashion footprint on a budget

Many of us are now waking up to the environmental and ethical issues in the fast fashion industry, but sustainable fashion alternatives can be VERY pricey. There are however plenty of ways you can dramatically reduce your fashion footprint without breaking the bank.

In this article, we break down our top 5 favourite tips:

1. Shop secondhand

The secondhand clothes market is literally booming at the moment, and industry experts have predicted that it may even overtake the fast fashion industry by 2029! According to the same report, shopping secondhand is also the single most important step you can take in reducing your fashion footprint, saving 527 lbs (around 240kg) of carbon emissions per person annually. 

If you are worried about social distancing measures, it’s now easier than ever to find cheap, secondhand clothes from your sofa, with sites like Depop, Vinted, Ebay and Swopz, which allow you to find and exchange secondhand clothes at the tap of a button!

2. Think about how you wash and dry your clothes


According to Energy Saving Trust UK, choosing to wash at 30 degrees rather than at higher temperatures uses around 40% less energy! Washing machine temperatures are a slightly trickier issue in current times, and some things like towels and sheets are recommended to be washed on higher temperatures to effectively kill germs. But for pretty much everything else, we would recommend using cold washes, as this is cheaper for you, and better for the environment!

Washing on lower temperatures is also better for most of your clothes – for instance, bright and dark colours prefer cooler, quicker washes, as do jeans, woollens and delicates. For more detailed info and explanations, you can check out this laundry guide by Persil which highlights how many of your clothes will actually benefit from a cooler wash. 


Avoid tumble drying wherever possible – around 75% of laundry’s total carbon impact comes from machine drying your clothes. Tumble drying can also wear out your clothes more quickly, which is another reason to save money on your energy bills and stick to washing lines and clothes racks. If you are short on space, there are plenty of low-cost options on drying racks of all shapes and sizes to fit in your home.

3. Avoid single-event purchases

We have all done it – an event is coming up, and you *need* to get a new outfit, because you have worn all of your current ones so many times already, and none of them are quite right for the occasion.

There used to be a stigma around ‘outfit-repeating’, but thankfully attitudes are changing, and many celebrities are actively promoting a more eco-conscious approach to fashion through their red carpet looks. So our first tip would be – wear something you already have! In the words of Lisa Williams, Patagonia’s Chief Product Officer:

“The most environmentally sustainable jacket is the one that’s already in your closet…”

If you do really want a new outfit, there are so many options out there. Some websites are now offering clothes rental services, although these can be expensive. A completely free alternative is to swap and exchange clothes amongst friends, or using sites like Swopz, so that you can try out new outfits without spending any money.

4. Learn how to repair your clothes, and upcycle any that are beyond repair!

scissors, old, sewing

Many of us have been learning new skills over lockdown, and this is a great one that will save you money, and save the environment. A survey conducted by sustainable fashion brand Thought in 2019 found that only 1/3 of adults in the UK knew how to repair their own clothes, meaning more than 8 million of us are throwing repairable clothes straight in the bin!

If you are not sure where to start, check out some of these YouTube videos on how to darn socks, sew replacement buttons, and take up hems by hand. You can also find many amazing forums like The Good Wardrobe, which allows people to exchange sewing tips and general advice on sustainable materials and local classes and businesses to support.

Upcycling old clothes

Once you have mastered the basics, why not try something more adventurous and learn how to upcycle and repurpose some of your old clothes! For instance, you could turn an old jumper into a unique new bag, or some old t-shirts into reusable kitchen cloths. If you are looking for inspiration, we recommend checking out the Love Your Clothes website, where you can find plenty of refashioning and upcycling tutorials!

5. Try to shop locally wherever possible

Shopping online has had a significant impact on the environment, leading many retailers choosing to destroy millions of pounds worth of stock due to ordering, overstocking and returns issues. According to a report from 2019, around 5 billion pounds of landfill waste is generated through returns each year, contributing 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere!

Why is this happening? While fast fashion brands working to tight profit margins choose to destroy clothes as this is often cheaper than repairing or sorting them, some luxury brands like Burberry have been reported to burn unsold stock rather than lowering their prices which might devalue the brand – crazy, right?!

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the value of living more locally. Next time you are thinking of buying more clothes, instead of heading straight to the usual sites online, why not check out some of the options on your doorstep? If you are local to Bristol, you might want to have a look at this recent article from the Bristol Post, highlighting some of the city’s top independent clothes retailers.

And if you are looking for secondhand clothes in your local area, look no further than Swopz!

Start swapping your old clothes for free today! >>

We hope you have found some of these tips useful! If you are looking for a free way to swap clothes locally, make sure to sign up for Swopz today and browse our listings.

You can also follow us on social media for lots more articles like this one on sustainability, money-saving tips, upcycling, recycling, local secondhand swapping events and more!

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