If you give up meat for a week every time you buy a new pair of shoes, you can expand your garderobe without increasing the carbon footprint. An average pair of shoes has an estimated impact of 11.5 kg CO2e , whereas beef has an emission of 26.6 kg CO2e per one kilogram of bone-free meat .
Fashion, as an industry, is generally perceived as having a huge negative impact on sustainability. However, on average, clothing makes up only 4% of the personal carbon footprint, when food constitutes 20%, housing 19%, and mobility 17% . The numbers differ depending on the country and shopping habits, but unless you are an excessive shopaholic, clothing is most likely not the biggest part of your environmental impact. Nevertheless, on the virtue of the global environmental crisis every half of a percent counts. When clothing itself is not a big deal, consumerism, waste, and clutter are.
Fashion industry encourages us to buy new items every season. Indeed, today we seem to buy 60% more than we used to in 2000 . But the trick is, fashion only looks good if you carefully mix it into your style. Simply buying new things does not make you look better. The blind chase of new trends only creates clutter in your wardrobe and hurts the environment. On the contrast, a well-selected set of clothing that fits you and can be nicely combined with each other can help you with both your style and conservation. By having items of a similar style and matching color palette, you get countless combinations that assemble into stylish outfits.
Hand in hand with consumerism goes waste. Almost 60% of all clothing produced is thrown away within a year and only 1% of clothing is being recycled . The rest is sent to landfill or burned, thus polluting the environment. Choosing items to last is a way to reduce pollution. The clothing from the top brands has better fabric, well thought-through cut, and construction, therefore it is more likely to last longer if you take proper care of it. Investing in such quality pieces would not only make you look better but also reduce the need to buy a new item every season, reducing the waste.
Although second-hand stores reduce the number of clothes going to the landfill, do not fool yourself: shopping second-hand doesn’t have zero impact. You still overtake part of the production footprint. Storage and transportation within the second-hand chain, if done inefficiently, can well make up for the reduced CO2 footprint. Also, cheap clothes are less appreciated and more likely end up in waste. As a result, the footprint difference between first- and the second-hand store might be negligible. Extensive buying, second-hand or not, makes a huge impact and leads to accumulation of clutter.
If you are still skeptical about Marie Condo and question the need of decluttering, here is a sustainability argument for you: clutter in your closet hurts the environment. First, when you have more than you need it is easy to lose the overview. You get into the full-closet-and-nothing-to-wear situation. As a result, you buy new things that are very similar to those you already have. Second, those things are collecting dust on your shelves instead of being used by someone else, which reinforces the need to produce more.
Before you hurry up to donate all your clothing and pledge to never buy anything again, note, that a bigger closet does not necessarily mean a bigger carbon footprint. A considerable part of the footprint comes from washing (up to 3 kg CO2e per load of laundry ). It means, by having a bigger wardrobe you can wash every item less frequent and in bigger loads, reducing the impact of the individual piece and making them last longer.
To sum up, if you are determined to reduce the impact of your closing you can do it in five simple steps:
1) buy responsibly, by defining your style and sticking to it;
2) buy things to last and care for them properly;
3) wash smart, not hard;
4) do not accumulate clutter;
5) sell, donate, or recycle.
I strongly believe that caring about the environment does not have to suck the joy from other aspects of your life. Stylish clothes have the same carbon footprint as any other clothing. Dressing up in the morning should be fun and climate change is not an excuse to look boring!
 Mike Berners-Lee (2009) How bad are bananas?
 Clune et al. (2017) Systematic review of greenhouse gas emissions for different fresh food categories
 E. G. Hertwich and G. P. Peters (2009) Carbon Footprint of Nations: A Global, Trade-Linked Analysis
 D. Drew and G. Yehounme (5 July 2017) The apparel industry’s environmental impact in 6 graphics. World Resources Institute; http://go.nature.com/2jSaZfI
 Editorial (2 January 2018) The price of fast fashion Nature Climate Change 8, 1 (2018) https://rdcu.be/bGuet