We’ve all been guilty of it; convincing yourself to buy a new outdoor jacket or pair of hiking trousers, even though you already have three pairs, because “this one is more breathable” or has some other “must-have” feature. Well, next time you get the itch to add to your stack of outdoor clothes, take a minute to consider what you are going to do with your old gear first. After all, the reduce, reuse, and recycle notion applies to more than just aluminium cans and plastic bottles.
Most people don’t realise that clothing manufacturers are some of the biggest contributors to waste material. Consider the extra tech that goes into outdoor clothing, like waterproof Gore-Tex membranes, and the environmental impact of all our outdoor gear becomes more apparent. Looking at the wider fashion industry we often see people buying and throwing away clothes just to keep up with the latest fashion trends. So, rather than falling into these habits, try out a few of these ways you can make better use of your old, or worn outdoor wear.
Thrift shops and consignment stores are more than happy to take your old clothes. Consignment stores usually only take quality clothes in good condition, because they’ll typically pay you for the clothes you bring them. Outdoor clothing is generally hard-wearing, so it’s likely that at least some of your unwanted outdoor wear is in good enough condition to sell.
Thrift stores won’t pay you for the clothes you donate, however, they will be going toward a good cause. These guys generally take whatever clothes you give them. Do make sure that you’re giving them clothes in decent condition, though. Clothes that aren’t up to scratch will most likely be thrown away.
Consider shopping for clothes from these kinds of stores, as well, rather than relying on big outdoor retailers. Sometimes you can find some decent outdoor or workwear (surprisingly versatile and hard-wearing for outdoor use) at a bargain price.
Grab a sewing kit
Your favourite softshell jacket just split at the side? There’s no need to throw it away. If you’re good with a pair of scissors and a sewing machine, you can take your old clothing and make it new again yourself. You can even customise your gear with cool patches, which works particularly well on backpacks and rucksacks.
There are numerous videos and articles online that teach you how to sew and repair clothes. Even gaining simple hand-sewing skills can extend the life of your clothes by a few years. Sew buttons back onto your shirts, rips in your jumpers, and even patch up holes in hiking socks.
Invest in timeless, quality clothing
A rule of thumb, before buying your next outdoor clothing item, is to ask yourself “will I wear it until it breaks?” If the answer is yes, spend away. If not, perhaps reconsider.
In general, a move towards well-made, good-quality clothing is essential to becoming more sustainable in your fashion habits. Choose jeans and outerwear that can be styled for day or night and is versatile enough to be worn for different activities.
A good waterproof jacket could last ten years if you choose wisely and take care of it, while heavy-duty winter boots could last even longer. Everyone should have a lasting jacket and shoes in their closet, that they turn to in cold weather (for hikes and camping trips). By saving that little extra to buy a good-quality pair of boots, you save heaps of money in the long run as they’ll last far longer than a pair of cheap fast-fashion sneakers you’ll need to replace in three months’ time.
When all else fails, you can always recycle your outdoor clothes. At least this way, your clothes aren’t going to landfill; they’ll be taken to a recycling plant to be deconstructed and the fabric reused. This is probably the best option for clothes in poor condition when it’s just not feasible to fix them. Supermarkets will often have a collection point for clothing recycling, but if your local store does not have one you can use an online recycling locator.
Some outdoor clothing brands, like Patagonia, will accept their own clothing back for recycling. The company also runs a dedicated gear-repair centre in Reno, Nevada and launched the ‘Worn Wear’ project, a few years ago, which highlights the stories behind the outdoor gear we use and the strange attachments we have with some of our most-loved items.
So, next time you get the itch to add to your stack of outdoor clothes, take a minute to consider what you are going to do with your old gear first.
Featured image: Pixabay