Can curing our shopping addiction help cure the planet?

Happy Talk: Could you give up buying clothes for a year? How about doing laundry? Christine Manby goes cold turkey, and finds it’s more than just time and money she saves

The more we buy, the more we wash, and the more microfibres end up in the sea – so how do we stop our pants ending up on our plate?
The more we buy, the more we wash, and the more microfibres end up in the sea – so how do we stop our pants ending up on our plate?

To be human is to be a problem for the planet. We all know that by now. We consume too much. We travel too much. We simply are too much for poor old Mother Earth. But it isn’t too late. We can cut back. Stop flying. Stop eating meat. Stop buying clothes.

Five years ago, I had a year off buying clothes. Before I started, on the advice of a minimalist lifestyle website, I took the somewhat counterintuitive step of emptying my wardrobe of the things I no longer loved. It seemed like an odd thing to do. I was going to give away clothes when I’d just committed to not buying any new ones for 12 months. However, getting rid of the items of clothing I no longer wore – too small, too big, too tatty – helped me to see that I still had a wardrobe full of perfectly good stuff. Discovering that I definitely didn’t need to go shopping helped me to stop panicking that my self-imposed ban would be any kind of hardship. Of course, it wasn’t a hardship. To my shame, I found three dresses that I had barely worn, each of which had seemed like the answer to everything when I handed over my credit card.

At the end of my year of not buying clothes, I fell off the wagon and went slightly mad in the sales but it definitely changed the way I shop in the long term. Limiting my clothing choices made life easier, not harder. While I occasionally yearned for the new, new thing – I didn’t stop looking at fashion blogs – I enjoyed the freedom of having a sort of uniform. I saved a lot of time that I would have spent trawling the high street.

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