David Attenborough is probably not impressed with your #OOTD

Photo: Getty Images 

Thanks to social media, we are wearing our clothes less than ever and it’s not good news for our Blue Planet. Yikes says Laura Craik

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By Laura Craik on

Awwww, Blue Planet. Nature. Tranquil waters. Ickle fishies. There is no greater salve to the soul than David Attenborough’s Sunday night panacea, a fact evinced by viewing figures proving it’s the most-watched TV show of the year. As we sit dipping our proverbial Hobnob into our proverbial tea, the last thing on our mind are the purchases we made a mere 48-hours beforehand. Far easier to disassociate our own shopping behaviour with the destruction of marine life than sit there feeling guilty.

Earlier this week, fashion designer Stella McCartney (who is known for her focus on sustainability) backed a report by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation which claimed that half of high street fashion is disposed of within a year, and that 50 per cent of the clothes sent for landfill in the UK could be recycled. It also claimed that in the last 15 years, the amount of clothing purchased has doubled, but the number of times an item is worn has fallen by 36 per cent. “Today's textile industry is built on an outdated linear, take-make-dispose model and is hugely wasteful and polluting," said Dame Ellen MacArthur, a round-the-world sailor and environmental campaigner. Few would disagree.

Besides, back in the day when Instagram was but a twinkle in Kevin Systrom’s eye – when @kevin himself was but a twinkle in his mother’s – people still liked buying loads of clothes, and wearing new things on big occasions

Inevitably, some people are blaming Instagram. In particular, they say the hashtag #OOTD (it stands for Outfit Of The Day, for those not au fait with the shallows of 21st century life), is driving them to purchase ever more clothes, shoes and accessories for fear that they be shamed on the grid for all eternity for wearing the same thing twice. Hmm. If I had to bet, I’d say this behaviour was limited to a fairly small portion of people: roughly a quarter of the UK population is active on Instagram, but not all of them are clothes obsessives. Besides, back in the day when Instagram was but a twinkle in Kevin Systrom’s eye – when @kevin himself was but a twinkle in his mother’s – people still liked buying loads of clothes, and wearing new things on big occasions. 

Does Instagram make every day the equivalent of a big occasion? For some people, sure. But surely the main reason people are wearing their purchases less frequently, and buying new things more often, is a potent, irresistible combination of availability and price. Yes, in the nineties and early noughties there was no Instagram. But nor was there next-day delivery. There was also no Primark, no ASOS, no Missguided etc. According to market researchers Mintel, 80 per cent of women aged 16-24 claim “low prices” are the main driver of their shopping habits. 

Clearly there is a problem. Fashion creates greenhouse emissions of 1.2bn tonnes a year – larger than that of international flights and shipping combined. It costs the UK economy an estimated £82m a year to landfill clothing and household textiles. 

Whatever the reason behind it, there are things that we can do. Rather than feeling guilty the next time we watch Blue Planet, a more useful exercise would be to be more mindful, and think of what part, however small, we can play in preserving it. The report suggests renting clothes rather than purchasing them (via excellent sites like the US’s Rent The Runway and the UK’s Girl Meets Dress), a concept that has been around for a while, but perhaps is now due to become more mainstream. Donating all clothes that are truly past it to a textiles recycling bin is a good place to start, as is finding a new home for those with life still left in them (such as passing them on to friends or donating them to charity). Wearing our purchases more often, treasuring our clothes, looking after them and thinking twice before we replace them are all little changes that can make a difference. After all, shopping is supposed to be a joyful thing – it just needs to be considered. 


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Photo: Getty Images 
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Laura Craik

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