What should you wear during a climate emergency

My research into tree-changers found that people who move from the city to the country need to update their wardrobes. Their new life context means that the clothes they used in the town are no longer appropriate for their new lifestyle. The same is true for the climate crisis.

Our context has changed. We need to consider more than just the look of a piece of clothing, its novelty, or whether we like it. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that if we want to avoid a world where it is too hot to live and unpredictability, we must do all we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The fashion industry is responsible for as much as 10% of global emissions. This is more than the combined contribution from international aviation and shipping. The fashion industry also contributes to biodiversity loss, landfill issues, and unsafe work practices.

Australia’s carbon footprint from fashion consumption and use is the largest in the world, a questionable distinction in an increasingly materialistic society.

This is an area in which our choices can have a big impact. Individual action may not be able to solve all the problems above, but it can help us move towards structural and systemic changes needed to live sustainably.

When we respond thoughtfully to these issues, we live according to our values. This is an essential factor for living well, flourishing, and being happy.

Read more: New home, new clothes: the old ones no longer fit once you move to the country.

Lessons from wartime

It is not the first instance that people have changed their clothes to meet the needs of a crisis.

During World War II, fashion styles in Australia and the United Kingdom changed. In order to conserve resources, shorter skirts, and minimal detailing became the norm.

The people adapted their aesthetics and appearance to the dire situation and wanted to “do what they could” to contribute to the war effort. It was a collective need in desperate times.

This wartime reaction reflected both the values and priorities of the society at large as well as those who made up that society. In other words, buying less was part of a system of values that contributed to the Allied win.

It is evident in novels and other writings from that era that it wasn’t always easy. At times, it could even be frustrating. The public was in agreement that the war effort was essential. The shared commitment to war became a value that made sacrifices personally worthwhile and satisfying.

During the Second World War, a change in skirt length and minimalism of detailing saved precious resources. (c), Imperial War Museum IWM 2937, CC BY NC

So what can we do today?

The most useful thing that we can do in our current context is to wear fewer new clothes for longer and buy fewer.

Australians are big shoppers, averaging 56 clothing items per year. This makes Australians the second largest textile consumer in the world, after the USA. It is also 60% higher than what we purchased even 15 years earlier. In the last two decades, the cost of clothing has decreased, and the amount of clothing has increased.

We can enjoy the feeling of worn-in, repaired, or altered clothing if we start to move away from the slavish devotion we have to novelty and newness. It is comforting to pull on a worn-out garment, especially if it has been washed and aged. It is a joy to extend the life of a garment by creative mending. This is especially true when it aligns with your values.

According to the Hot or Cold Institute in Berlin, a wardrobe consisting of 74 pieces (including shoes, but excluding undergarments) is sufficient for those living in tropical climates and 85 for those in four-season climates. This includes most Australians. We can replace our wardrobe within seven years if we purchase 10 to 12 new pieces a year.

It is better to buy second-hand than new because you don’t increase the current emissions. Even if we purchase second-hand, we shouldn’t buy more than what we need.

Author: admin

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