People are getting more interested in upcycling clothing. Recycling is more commonly know and often practiced by fashion consumers. It's a great way to be more sustainable with clothes. What about upcycling?
Upcycling is much more environmentally friendly than recycling. It's less expensive, use fewer resources, water, and energy. Upcycling creates stylish and unique pieces of clothing with a more responsible alternative. And many garments can't be recycled at all.
There are many big differences between upcycling and recycling clothing. Upcycling is considered much better as it makes more valuable items out of old textiles. It extends their lifespan and delivers products that can even be recycled at the end of their lifecycle.
The green movement is rising in the textile and apparel industry. Conscious consumers are asking for more sustainable fashion pieces.
They are aware of the disastrous social and environmental impact of the fashion industry. It accounts for more than 8% of all carbon emissions globally each year. It creates high amounts of pollution, waste, and exploits tons of natural resources and local communities.
Upcycling clothing helps by reducing the ecological footprint of our wardrobe. And it supports local businesses, industries, and artisans involved in the collection, sorting, manufacturing, and shipping of textiles.
Here is why upcycling clothing is better than recycling.
Recycling converts waste into new materials. Waste is broken down before creating new objects. It's a more conscious alternative to conventional waste disposal. It minimizes the environmental impact of clothes by reducing the amount of textile waste ending up in landfills.
Clothing and other textile wastes are piling up in landfills at an alarming rate. The fashion industry, overproduction, and overconsumption of cheap disposable clothing aren't sustainable.
16.9 million tons of used textile wastes are generated each year in the United States. That amount has doubled over the last 20 years. And the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing every year.
Read up my article on 10 ways to keep your clothing out of landfills to understand how you can help.
Discarding your old clothes responsibly is the way to go forward. Selling used clothes when they are still very valuable is one possibility to give them a second life. Donations to charitable organizations also help tremendously.
Using textile recycling programs from businesses or organizations is another great solution. You can drop off your old items at the following places that have direct relationships with textile recyclers:
You can also reuse, repair, repurpose, and upcycle clothing. It's one of the most simple steps and highly beneficial to the environment.
"First, unless you are adding value, and the new item is worth more than the material it was made from, it is not upcycling. Second, recycling tends to involve a mechanical or chemical process to create a new material. Upcycling tends to focus on retaining the value of the material in the state that it is in."
- Kresse Wesling, co-founder and Environmental Designer at Elvis & Kresse
Upcycling clothing allows repurposing old clothes into new pieces of clothing that are more beneficial and worthwhile.
Instead of throwing old clothes away, upcycling uses parts of or the entire old garment to make something valuable without breaking it down completely.
Read up my article on what does upcycled clothing mean to learn more about the definition of upcycling clothing.
Upcycling clothing means slicing and stitching old clothes and other textiles to create new clothing of greater worth. It provides a new life to used pieces in our closet by creating something extraordinary and unique.
It has a huge positive impact on the environment. The process of upcycling clothing demands a lot less energy than recycling. It reduces textile waste, pollution, and the demand for new clothing production, which is extremely wasteful and damaging.
Not all textiles can be upcycled. But upcycling clothing is a more efficient process with a lower environmental impact than recycling clothing. And upcycling is often applied to old clothes that cannot be recycled.
Fashion was local and slow before the industrial revolution. People used to upcycle clothes very often just a few decades ago as a way to preserve old textiles.
The rise of fast fashion made clothing disposable over the last 20 years. The amount of waste we produce each year is close to 10 times higher than in 1960.
Upcycling clothing is very beneficial to the planet as a whole. It creates value out of old textiles when their usefulness would have ended otherwise.
It's a fabulous approach to be more responsible for the clothes we buy and wear. Instead of promoting the throwaway culture, upcycling encourages consumers to buy fewer clothes but higher quality.
Upcycling in fashion also supports local communities. You can shop for upcycled clothing at local sales, fashion fairs, shows, auctions, flea markets, farmer's markets, and town markets.
Being on the verge of a global human and environmental crisis, it's now more important than ever to reduce the fashion industry's impact with better raw material sourcing, manufacturing, distribution, consumption, end of life, and waste management.
Let's create a sustainable fashion future by extending the life of clothes, recycling, and upcycling.
Whenever possible, repair, reuse, repurpose, and upcycle your clothes instead of buying new ones.
It's very convenient to shop for new pieces for your wardrobe in fast fashion high-street chain stores or online. But upcycling clothing is fun as well.
Taking better care of the clothes you already own and giving them a new life has a huge impact on the environment. Upcycling has the benefit of creating something truly unique and valuable from old pieces.
"When you buy a shirt at the mall, there are 6 identical shirts available in each of the 4-5 sizes. With upcycling, the designer doesn’t often have the luxury of reusing the same pattern with multiple garments - it just won’t fit the fabric. As a result, most upcycled items end up being one-of-a-kind."
- Maury Argento, Filosano founder
We have to change our behavior for the better to build a sustainable fashion future. Taking better care of clothes makes an enormous difference.
It's an outstanding way to preserve the environment. Instead of throwing old clothes away, you can upcycle them at home without extra machinery and save resources.
Have you ever tried upcycled clothing out? Do you think it has a future in the fashion industry?
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks four languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.