- Survey reveals environmental concerns a low priority when buying clothes
- Fashion industry’s carbon footprint higher than that of shipping and aviation combined1
- Only 23% say concern for the environment is the main reason they’d buy fewer clothes
- Most of us (57%) own new clothes we have never worn
- Tearfund launches The Great Fashion Fast to highlight the link between the fashion industry and the climate crisis
Fewer than one in four UK adults (23%) have cited concern for the environment as the main reason why they would buy fewer clothes. And the majority of us (57%) own new clothes we have never worn, according to a survey from international development charity Tearfund.
The survey, which was conducted by Savanta ComRes, also shows the carbon footprint of new clothing was the top consideration for only 4% of clothes purchasers and the same proportion (4%) ranked ethical concerns about how clothing is made as their top priority.
The results reveal there’s plenty of room for adults in the UK to pull their socks up with regard to their wardrobes, to help reduce the fashion industry’s contribution to the climate crisis.
Most people gave saving money (54%) and getting the most value out of existing clothes (43%) as the main reasons they would abstain from new purchases. Only 11% said a preference for ‘pre-loved’ clothing kept them from entering the fast fashion cycle.
Emotional attachment to clothes, however, motivates many people to get more use out of them: 76% of 18-34 year olds would hold onto and re-wear items for sentimental reasons, although only 58% of over 55s feel the same about their threads.
Tearfund ambassador and actor David Gyasi is taking part in the charity’s ‘Great Fashion Fast’ challenge, to highlight the link between the fashion industry and the climate crisis. In March he will join hundreds of others being sponsored to sport only ten main items of clothing for the whole month.
David Gyasi says ‘We buy more clothes per person in the UK than any other country in Europe1, and every item takes resources such as water, land and petrochemicals to produce,’ adding ‘and then, shockingly, three out of five fast fashion items end up in landfill2 where they may take hundreds of years to decompose.’
One of David Gyasi’s 10 clothing items for The Great Fashion Fast will be a much-loved jacket made by a clothing co-operative in Rwanda called Urukundo (meaning ‘love’), who launched their business by gathering and sewing together unwanted scraps of fabric.
Dr Ruth Valerio, Tearfund's director of Global Advocacy and Influencing says `Our throwaway attitude to clothes means we have helped make the fashion industry’s carbon footprint higher than that of shipping and aviation combined1. This is contributing to the climate crisis, but we can all reduce our carbon footprints by making more considered purchases and loving what we’ve already got for longer.
‘Tearfund’s survey has shown that most people are more likely to reuse clothes that have a sentimental value, and what better way is there to invest clothes with memories than to wear them more often!’
To find out more about Tearfund’s Great Fashion Fast challenge, visit tearfund.org/fashion #GreatFashionFast
1: Source: House of Commons report Sustainability of the fashion industry citing Ellen Macarthur Foundation, a New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future (2017) . Textile production produces an estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per year - more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.
2: Source: Clean Clothes Campaign
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Infographic: What do our clothes cost the planet?
Photos - please credit Tom Price/Tearfund - may be downloaded here
Rwanda: Photos 1 & 2: Claire Gatesi, president of the Urukundu tailoring group, demonstrates some of the items made by the tailors at the project. Urukundo means ‘love’ in Kinyarwanda. Photo 3: David Gyasi models a jacket made by Urukundo.
Notes to editors:
About the Survey
Tearfund commissioned Savanta ComRes to interview 2,314 UK adults aged 18+ online from 28-30 January 2022. Data were weighted to be representative of population by age, gender, region, and socio-economic characteristics such as social grade. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comresglobal.com.
Survey results - additional points:
- UK purchasers were asked to rank their top consideration when buying new clothes. These are the top 5:
20% cited value for money as their top consideration
20% cited the price of the item
17% cited the design or style
14% cited the durability of the item / how long it would last
6% cited the brand
The carbon footprint of the item came in 6th place with 4% citing it as their top consideration.
- Top 5 motivations for UK purchasers to buy fewer clothes:
54% said saving money would motivate them
43% said getting the most value out of what they already own
37% said ‘to minimise clutter at home’
25% said they had reduced opportunities to socialise because they were spending more time at home/working from home
23% said concern for the environment (ie reducing carbon footprint or not adding to landfill) would motivate them to buy fewer clothes
- People are most likely to donate their clothes when they no longer wear them, with over two thirds selecting this option (68%). A third (34%) recycle them, and approximately a quarter give them to friends or family (24%) or sell them (23%). Just one in ten (11%) don’t do anything with them.
- Women are more likely than men to donate clothes they no longer wear (74% vs. 62%), whereas men are more likely to recycle them (40% vs. 29%)
- Almost twice as many people say they have a preference for mending clothes (40%) as opposed to a preference for buying new clothes (22%).
- Approaching three in five (55%) say they always or often buy new clothes, with half as many saying this about buying second-hand or from a charity shop (24%). What’s more, three in ten (29%) say they never buy second-hand.
Tearfund is a Christian charity that partners with churches in more than 50 of the world’s poorest countries. We tackle poverty through sustainable development, responding to disasters and challenging injustice. We believe an end to extreme poverty is possible. Tearfund is also a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee. For more information about the work of Tearfund, please visit www.tearfund.org.
About Urukundo (meaning ‘love’)
When this Rwandan self-help group began, with support from Tearfund, they wanted to share tailoring skills among a group of farmers, but could not afford to buy fabric. Instead, they gathered unwanted scraps from other tailors, sewed them into new lengths of material and the resulting patchwork fabric became their signature look. Rwanda is one of several countries to discourage or ban the import of second-hand clothing. Used clothing imported from richer nations has caused the near-collapse of the garment industry in sub-Saharan Africa. Source: BBC