How Long are Clothes Supposed to Last? (GRAPH)

If you’re a regular viewer of my Youtube channel, then you’ve heard me talk about the importance of sustainability and fashion. The fashion industry alone is responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions1, which plays a critical role in global warming.

The effects of global warming are devastating. Some of these include an increase in temperature averages (it hit 72F here in Minnesota this week), more extreme weather events like hurricanes, and a rapid loss of Arctic sea ice, all problems that excess consumption accelerates at unprecedented levels.

Frankly, it’s a trade off I’m not willing to accept.

Credit: NASA

Aside from just buying fewer clothes (yeah, I know, not always easy), there are other ways you can reduce your impact. One way is to only buy clothes with a longer “lifespan” – i.e. you’re not throwing it out after a year or two.

Luckily a week ago I came across Sustainable Technologies for Fashion and Textiles, which contains the latest research about how textiles affect the environment. Chapter 12 is about recycling end-of-the-life clothes, written by Nattha Pensupa of Naresuan University. You can view the full chapter here ($$$).

I can’t directly share the chapter here because of copyright, but what I can share is some of the information Pensupa included. The biggest point of interest is a graph showing the average life expectancy of textile items. Here’s a breakdown.

Average lifespan of textiles (graph)
Behold this shoddy graph I made in PicMonkey!

A few notes about this graph. I didn’t include textiles that would obviously have a longer lifespan due to it being “special occasion” wear. That includes choir robes and formal wear dresses. The longevity of these pieces is most likely due to occasional use, as opposed to outerwear coats or underwear, which are worn on a regular basis (or at least I hope you are, but I’m not here to judge.)

On the contrary, the graph illustrates one specific trend: Natural materials fare better compared to synthetics. That means that on-trend polyester coat at Forever 21 might last you a season or two, but a coat made out of wool or fur could last 8 additional years. Obviously, the better solution is avoid plastic-based materials.

If you’re hesitant to choose natural materials over fear of animal cruelty, however, here’s a good solution: Thrift for these clothes instead. This extends the life of these materials while preventing that money from funding the fur trade, which has its own set of ethical issues.

Personally, I thrift whenever possible since it’s cheap. I don’t exactly have $300 to frivolously spend on coats, after all, unless I suddenly make it big on Youtube (and trust me, that’s never happening). If that’s not an option for you, however, try shopping from local indie brands. That way your money is lining the pockets of individuals, not huge corporations.

What’s your favorite way to shop for sustainable fashion? Comment down below!

One thought on “How Long are Clothes Supposed to Last? (GRAPH)

  1. To answer the ?
    Step aside from ‘fashion’.
    Most of my clothing is middle eastern. My favourite American supplier ‘Shukr’. Ethically produced and mainly natural fibres. Most of my clothing from them is quite old and a lot of the better quality items were made in Syria before the troubles. The downside, as I live at the bottom/top of the world in southern NZ, the garments have travelled a gazillion miles. At 68 I have never left my country.

    Not a Muslim, I just like comfortable clothing and perhaps ‘most’ NZers are colourblind as we are a very multiracial country.

    Am I unusual, but all my clothing lasts longer than five years apart from khuffs (leather slippers, I wear instead of socks) and underwear.

    Great web page (my first visit). Love your You Tube work and how calm you remain even in your recent posts about difficult social issues (I cry).

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