Sustainable Student Series: Be too cool to be unsustainable!
This post is part of our Sustainable Student Series. A collection of stories, opinions, and experiences of Loughborough students on their journey to becoming more sustainable. Want to contribute? Email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As term time draws to an end, tenancy agreements both on campus and off will be drawing to a close too. And we all know what that will mean. Stacks of student waste dumped in or near disposal units or along the streets of student housing saturated neighbourhoods. In the rush of throwing the last parties but also wanting to try and scrape deposits back after a year of sloppy maintenance and living, being responsible with your waste and unwanted items often ends up at the bottom of many student’s to-do list!
But that doesn’t have to be the case! It’s no longer cool to do the bare minimum. As students, we have as much responsibility as the next citizen to play our part in being kind to the planet. And that extends to our relationship with unwanted clothes. Within the UK, our relationship with our clothes has changed. Consumers are a lot more engaged with how sustainable their clothes are and are demanding better practices from the brands they engage with. But has it changed enough?
The fashion industry produces 20 per cent of global wastewater and 10 per cent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping. If nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget.
In our data and information saturated lives, many of us know the impact of various types of clothing habits on national and global scales but sometimes there can be an easy disconnect from our own personal habits and day to day choices with our clothing consumption. And an even bigger disconnect with the clothes we choose to say goodbye to. And yes, every conscious choice towards making sustainability a priority matters but sometimes when important issues are out of sight, they do stay out of mind!
The picture is positive though! According to a WRAP report in 2017, the amount of clothing that is going to landfill has dropped by 50,000 tonnes since 2012 and people are wearing the same clothing items for longer. Garments that last longer reduce production and processing impacts on natural resources but only if new purchases are avoided! In order for our sustainability efforts to have a meaningful impact, we need to get more comfortable with the idea of being more radical about our clothing consumption and what we do with them after they’ve served their purpose for us. Check out how former LSU President Salome Dior turned her old stash into a blanket.
And although things are getting better overall, as students, we can play our part in creating a better future with how we deal with our clothes too. It’s a step but it’ll take a couple more steps before you get to a finished state. The change that is required to address the impact that the clothing industry has in the UK and beyond, from us the consumers perspective, requires constant re-evaluation and negotiation. That’s with ourselves, our habits and our preferences when it comes to clothes.
And this isn’t just for our own sense of merit at having ‘done a good thing today’ but it’s also knowing that it’s actively moving the total estimated value of clothes that are sent to landfill down from the £140bn it was in 2015. It’s helping to counteract the increase in total carbon footprint that our clothing consumption has had over the last 10 years due to the increase in the total amount of new clothes being bought. It’s taking a ‘no’ stance against the unequal distribution of negative social and environmental impacts that the clothing industry continues to have on a global scale
This is for the everyday student, not just the ultra-activist/hypster type. It’s about bringing back to mind what might be out of sight. That might be selling your unwanted clothes on Depop or Vinted or giving them away to charities. It might be disposing of waste material specifically at the tip instead of throwing it in the general waste bin. Or it might be getting creative to make that old top ‘wearable’ again. Making intentional changes to your habits will look different to the next person but it’s something that can be done!
At LboroVintage (LV), we love to bring back to mind what might be out of sight. We’re a vintage clothing business that was started up by two Loughborough University students in 2019 who had a heart for sustainability and community. They wanted to help make sustainable fashion feasible for students and the wider town of Loughborough. We always bring the reason why we do the business that we do back to raising awareness on the issue of sustainability, even if it’s not the most popular of topics.
So whatever choices you make this summer move in day, make the choice that puts our planet and environment first. Just because we might have the privilege of making the lazy choice, shouldn’t mean that we should!
If you’re on campus and wondering what this could look like for you, why not check out Loughborough University’s Give ‘n’ Go campaign to find out how you can make better choices in your waste disposal at the end of the academic year!
Written by Hope Nyabienda, on behalf of LboroVintage
Loughborough University Sustainability Blog