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Shades of Green

By Kirsten Buck, Chief Impact & Culture Officer

On 6th July 2020, three of us at PTHR HQ embarked on a no-new-clothes-challenge. This challenge, mentioned deliberately at the very end of a blog post I wrote entitled “Coffee & Clothes? Let’s Choose Collective Consciousness” urged readers to like the post on social media, and in doing so commit me to the following:

 

“Could you abstain from buying fast fashion and live on no new clothes for a year?…If over 50 of you like this post on LinkedIn and commit to trying this challenge, I will also commit to the no new clothes challenge! Go big or go home, right?”

 

With some enthusiastic rounding up of troops to get these likes (a slightly sarcastic thanks goes to Perry Timms here), I had no choice but to stay true to my promise and do this thing. As a Millennial, I have grown up seeing fast fashion supercede long-trusted stalwart clothes brands. I have purchased fast fashion. Avidly at points. Enjoying the cheap cost point and opportunity to have countless ‘looks’. The acceptance of this challenge really would be a challenge for me; breaking a habit. Could I resist the temptation to purchase something new on my ASOS app for an entire calendar year? 

 

I have always cared about our environment, but focused on other actions to counterbalance the damage fast fashion has on our world. In the last few years the extent of this damage has become unavoidable. Look at this one stat:

 

From growing the cotton to the dyeing process, it can take an estimated 20,000 litres of water to make just one pair of jeans and one t-shirt. 

 

Amplify this by the millions of units of t-shirts and jeans sold per year in the UK alone… it is not sustainable!

 

With fifty-plus likes in the bag, I was delighted that my fellow conscious citizens and colleagues, Perry and Cata volunteered to join me with this challenge. Perry vouched to endure the whole year, and Cata, six months. 

 

We are now seven months deep and hence pause just after the halfway mark to reflect. What exactly did we commit to? Have we stayed true to this? How have we found it?

 

Our no-new-clothes-challenge manifesto outlined below gives a sense of its’ salience to us, with the points in no order of importance, each holding credence:

 

1.

We will endeavour to reuse clothes we have, not purchasing new items.

 

2.

We can borrow items from friends or online rental companies.

 

3.

We can support charities and purchase from charity shops if we must.

 

4.

If gifted an item of clothing, we shouldn’t use this until after the challenge has been completed.

 

5.

If we choose to gift others clothes items, we should consider brands that are sustainable and embrace a circular economy in manufacturing.

 

I will cut to the chase and let you know how Perry and I are doing, and how Cata has done. At PTHR we share insight on sustainable businesses monthly in our ‘Sustainability Spotlight’. Included in this internal comm, was an update on our challenge progress which gave us a nice opportunity to catch up monthly and support each other. Collectively, we have all broken manifesto point ‘1’ (We will endeavour to reuse clothes we have, not purchasing new items.). At first, we felt awful. Weak. Defeated. However each of us made one purchase and dare I say they were essential. Perry and Cata required an item of warmer clothing as we got into Winter, and I needed trousers following a knee surgery. I do not mean to justify our breaking of a rule, but rather highlight that this challenge may not be as clear cut as an optimistic manifesto suggests! 

 

Cata stayed true to manifesto point ‘3’(We can support charities and purchase from charity shops if we must.), purchasing a pre-loved dress to wear at a wedding from a Red Cross Charity shop. Perry received some t-shirts for Christmas but in turn donated clothes to charity shops in a one-in-one-out system. Kirsten received trainers from eco-brand VivoBarefoot and is yet to wear them (manifesto point ‘4’: If gifted an item of clothing, we shouldn’t use this until after the challenge has been completed).

 

So we have stayed true to our commitment but this has not been black and white, or should I say black and green! I would like to think our commitment sits further over to the ‘green’ side of the spectrum though. Perhaps our commitment resembles the muted shade of a fern, rather than a pure emerald green…

 

How will Perry and I strengthen our dedication for the remaining five months? These deviations from our manifesto have made us realise that whilst we could do better, our habits have changed. No longer do we buy something because it is a nice to have (of course we are in the fortunate position we can do so). Rather we hold off… or even more surprisingly, I know, that I personally don’t even have the inclination to buy something new. 

 

Yes, being in what seems like a perma-state-of-Lockdown may have aided our non-compulsion to buy new clothes, however once a bad habit is broken, a better habit can remain!…

 

…Just as the planting of trees in destroyed habitats can replenish ecosystems that can once again thrive, we can change our purchasing habits fuelled by a capitalist system when individuals and brands renew rather than replace! 

 

A well done to Cata for completing her challenge!

 

Our no-new-clothes-challenges continues for Perry and I – we have not been perfect candidates – yet we will push on and envisage sustainable shades of green.