Online calculator backed by Emma Watson shows how bad your shopping habit is for the planet: So what is YOUR fashion footprint?
- Online tool uses a quiz asking questions to determine your fashion footprint
- Website is backed by Harry Potter actress and eco-warrior Emma Watson
- Calculated average consumer produces 1,620lb of CO2 from fashion choices
Many of us worry that our fashion habits could be harming the planet. But with all the conflicting advice on offer it can be hard to tell how bad — or good — we’re being.
Is avoiding fast fashion enough, or should we be wearing secondhand? Is a dress made of sustainable fabric but shipped from overseas better than a bog-standard one made locally? Is it really worth spending more on clothes built to last — and if so, how much more?
Luckily an online tool, backed by Harry Potter star and eco-warrior Emma Watson, can help with all of these questions through a quiz that calculates your fashion carbon footprint.
Mother-of-two and author Esther Walker (pictured) said she donates or re-sells everything she gets rid of
From unpicking your shopping habits to examining how you wash your clothes, it works out how much carbon dioxide your fashion habits are pumping into the atmosphere annually. It has found that the average consumer produces 1,620lb of CO2 via their fashion choices.
Six writers with vastly different shopping habits took the test…
THE SERIAL RETURNER
Esther Walker, a 39-year-old author and mother of two
FASHION FOOTPRINT: 588lb of CO2 — nearly equivalent to one person taking a flight from London to Rome.
Esther Walker, 39, said she online shops whenever she feels even remotely bored or unhappy
There must be people who shop sensibly, who sit down once a year with a list and buy a couple of quality items to update their wardrobe. They will not be found, as I am, scrolling like a zombie through Asos, Net-A-Porter or Zara whenever I feel even remotely bored or unhappy.
It’s an illness; you don’t have to tell me — I am always chasing that thrill like any addict seeking a fix.
So when I tried Emma Watson’s calculator I lied, of course. I estimated down and got a fairly respectable result. Then I felt guilty and thought harder about what I’d really bought in 2019.
I’d admitted buying five new dresses and seven tops. But the truth is it was far more. Probably double. Triple. But here’s the thing: I send almost all of them back. Sometimes I find a gem like my grey Sessun cropped sweater or long black Sezane coat, but usually I am disappointed.
So I took the test again, leaving nothing out.
In other areas I like to think my green-cred is solid: I donate or re-sell everything I get rid of. I always cool-wash and don’t use a tumbledrier, which saves lots of CO2. I also buy some sustainable brands, like my Allbirds wool trainers.
So even telling the truth, I don’t feel that bad about my result. The terrible news is I now feel I can go mad and buy even more.
THE VINTAGE FAN
Lara Johnson Wheeler, a 26-year-old writer
FASHION FOOTPRINT: 495lb of CO2 — almost equivalent to one person taking a plane from London to Barcelona.
Lara Johnson Wheeler, 26, said she loves clothes and shopping
According to the quiz, my fashion footprint is 69 per cent lower than the average. Not that I’m boasting. OK, just a little. But I am surprised. I’d be the first to admit some of my fashion habits are, well, questionable.
I love clothes and shopping. Although my wardrobe is made up of secondhand finds, mostly from designer vintage shops such as Vestiaire Collective, Depop and eBay. This means a lot of packaging, which boosts my CO2 total.
Maybe I’m buying less than the average Brit because Topshop, Missguided and Zara cannot match my desire for secondhand Prada mules or the perfect Ganni dress. Still, I tend to buy clothes six or seven times a month.
Also, I lost points because I wash my clothes just after wearing them. This means I average about four or five washes per item a month. But I don’t tumble-dry.
I also get pieces dry-cleaned every month, and try to handwash delicates. I sell or donate clothes rather than binning them, too.
I’m also very specific about footwear. I like Maison Margiela’s split-toe Tabi boots. But these don’t come cheap, so I get them resoled at a cobblers.
I’m an imperfect sustainable shopper, but I’m trying. And isn’t that what counts?
THE GREEN QUEEN
Louise Atkinson, a 55-year-old writer and mother of three
FASHION FOOTPRINT: 376lb of CO2 — equivalent to one person taking an Edinburgh to Amsterdam flight
Mother-of-three Louise Atkinson said she struggles with the musty smell of second-hand clothes
I’ve recently upped my planet-saving game, shunning plastic, switching to an electric car, and taking a Ninja-like control over our recycling bin. But I really struggle with the musty smell of second-hand clothes — and I’m unable to differentiate ‘vintage’ from tat.
Instead I hit the shops twice a year, ideally with a knowledgeable friend who has restricted my many fashion mistakes and reined in my compulsion to overdose on wacky prints. Anything I buy has to be well-made and resilient.
So, I was thrilled to find that my mild dishevelment leaves me at 77 per cent below the average fashion footprint.
I score points for the fact that I don’t have a tumble dryer and we never throw clothes away. Anything useful goes to my sister, the kids’ old school uniforms go to neighbours, and the rest goes to charity. I’m happy to repair clothes, too.
There’s still some room for improvement. I could switch to a cold wash, but I already use a wash bag that stops plastic microfibres getting into the water system. I could reduce my carbon footprint by a further 60 per cent if I bought clothes secondhand. I’d be quite happy to rent clothes if I had that sort of social life, but sorry — I can’t quite bring myself to contemplate the chaos of ‘pre-loved’.
Amber Graafland, 47, a stylist and mother of two
FASHION FOOTPRINT: 1,708lb of CO2 — equal to a flight from London to Kuwait.
Amber Graafland, 47, said she does more than 30 washes a month
Before I took this test, I’d likely have only admitted to shopping once a month. But when I began to list what I’d bought recently a different picture emerged.
Far from being a seasoned shopper buying only investment pieces, I’m a carbon emissions nightmare. If you average out what I buy annually it works out at about an item a week. Obviously, I don’t shop that frequently. Sometimes I binge then lay off for a while.
Online shopping is my downfall. I might not be buying extravagant items, but the odd T-shirt here and a pair of running trousers there soon add up.
This week alone I’ve bought a polo neck jumper from Zara boys for my son, and a denim shirt from Arket — an investment piece.
My biggest December triumph was a beautiful sale-price Victoria Beckham pleated lilac midi skirt. Then there’s my planet-destroying laundry habits. The most washes the calculator allows you to enter per month is 30, but I do more than that. I’ve begun to wash my clothes at lower temperatures and on shorter cycles, but the reality is I need to cut back.
The only area it seems I excel at is ‘disposal’ — or lack of it. I never throw anything away. I gift or donate items instead.
Expensive mistakes are listed on eBay, the profits invested in new items. The rest are nestling safely in my childminder’s wardrobe — or hiding in my daughter’s.
THE ANTI-BINGE BUYER
Dinah van Tulleken, 35, is the Mail’s Style Editor and a mother of one
FASHION FOOTPRINT: 351lb of CO2 — akin to someone taking a flight from London to Frankfurt.
Dinah van Tulleken didn’t include her daughter in her answers
I buy something only when I love it and am sure I’ll be wearing it for years to come. I have a 50-wear rule — if you can’t see yourself wearing it 50 times, don’t buy.
The carbon calculator confirmed my carbon emissions are 78 per cent lower than the average, but being ‘better than average’ slightly misses the point. It could be worse but it’s still unsustainable.
The calculator made me think about recent purchases, such as a £49.99 black midi dress from Zara. Only after I had bought it did I realise it was 100 per cent polyester, not cotton as I had assumed. I have already racked up at least 20 wears, but I know it’s going to end up in landfill.
I also feel like I cheated because I didn’t include my daughter in my answers. I am certainly responsible for her impact, but I rarely buy her new clothes — we’re lucky to get hand-me-downs from her many cousins. The washing machine runs 24/7, though.
The calculator forced me to be more conscious of all my carbon emissions, too. Even if my clothing only amounts to a shortish flight, I take real flights often — which feels hypocritical. It’s time I began dressing better and flying less.
THE TREND FOLLOWER
Eleanor Stennett, a style writer, aged 25
FASHION FOOTPRINT: 1,712lb of CO2 — the equivalent of one person taking a flight from London to Ashgabat in Turkmenistan.
Eleanor Stennett sais she struggles to walk down Oxford Street without visiting Primark
In my industry, it’s easy to get sucked into needing catwalk-inspired looks — so over the years my fast-fashion shopping has increased hugely. I love the fact I can walk into my local shopping centre and pick up designer-inspired items at a fraction of the price. Nothing makes me happier than someone saying: ‘I love that top, is it new?’
For big events, such as weddings, I never wear the same outfit twice. I probably make at least three online orders a month, most of which I end up returning or just leave in my wardrobe for months.
I can’t walk down Oxford Street without nipping into Primark.
In the past, I’ve felt pressure to trial the latest trends, even though I know they aren’t very ‘me’, but now I’m trying to resist.
I also love hunting out hero items in charity shops. One of my best was a floral, midi-length Mango dress for £5. I do mend clothes, and give away what I don’t wear.
But the Fashion Footprint Calculator has given me a scare and shows I must try to be far more conscious when shopping.
The Mail’s Style Editor Dinah van Tulleken (pictured) said the calculator forced her to be more conscious of all her carbon emissions
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