Sew for sustainability

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

According to the 2020 Circularity Gap Report, only 8.6% of materials were rerouted back into usage rather than single use items. 

In this world, fast fashion is becoming progressively faster. 

Our economy is nowhere near circular enough to be sustainable. The unique art of mending and upcycling clothes is a very important aspect of fighting against these trends that are causing irreversible and disturbing
damage to our environment. 

The fashion industry produces 92 million tons of textile waste per year, and 2.6 million tons of clothing returns just within the United States are routed to landfills every year, according to 

On top of the immense waste produced at an industry-wide level, individuals are consuming and discarding their clothes at record rates. 

The average American person discards over 81 pounds of clothing every single year, while the amount of times people wear each article of clothing they own has decreased by over 35% compared to 2008 according to says the rate of overconsumption leads to an estimated loss of $500 billion annually as a direct result of the amount of discarded clothing. 

One of the best ways for individuals to fight against these worrying trends is to lengthen the lifespan of the clothing that they own, but this involves learning a few new skills. 

Picking up the basics of sewing in order to learn how to mend your own clothes is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to fight climate change through a relatively small act.Although the thought of learning to sew might feel incredibly daunting, the barrier to entry is quite manageable. To perform most basic mending tasks, all you need is a needle, thread and scissors (which can even be purchased at the local grocery store in a small sewing kit that is usually under $10). 

Once you have these materials, learning the necessary skills is easy and free using many resources available on the internet. 

YouTube in particular has a wealth of tutorials geared towards a variety of different skill levels for almost every sewing technique. 

Learning a basic running stitch and how to sew a button back on are two skills that will enable you to mend a variety of garments. 

In addition to basic mending skills, there is an entire world of decorative mending in which the area that has been altered becomes a design element of the garment. 

This can take the form of decorative patches or darning to mend holes, the use of embroidery to highlight a mending seam and using ribbon and lace to decorate an altered hemline, along with many unique and creative alterations.

Those who are already somewhat proficient in sewing or are very eager to take on a new skill or hobby could also consider learning how to alter their clothes to maximize the amount of wear that they might receive. 

Some of the simplest examples of alterations can include things such as hemming or taking in a garment, but this skill set can grow to include fully reworking garments into entirely new and exciting different pieces. 

Alterations can be an amazing solution to a piece in your wardrobe that is no longer serving you in the ways it should. It may be that it doesn’t quite fit right or if you would rather use the material to make it into a new garment. 

By altering and upcycling garments that you no longer want, this can divert many clothing pieces from landfills and put them back into circulation within your wardrobe. 

Unfortunately, the expansive fashion industry creates mountains of excess waste. As much as 84% of garments donated to thrift shops end up back in landfills, so learning to mend and alter the clothes you already own is key in the fight to save our planet.