A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
For many of us, questions about the sustainability of our fashion choices are becoming more pressing. Moving to the Netherlands I felt a need for some new clothes to fit the Dutch minimalist and practical aesthetic (think well fitting jeans, a nice shirt and jumper, with a sturdy plain backpack and raincoat), and with the hot weather I definitely understand the desire for a new pair of shorts, however as I learn more about the ethical and environmental impacts of the fashion industry I find myself wanting to reduce my footprint.
Earlier this year I wrote about five steps you can take to live a greener life, one of which was to buy fewer new clothes- here I really want to dive deeper into this issue, and discuss five steps (the 5Rs!) you can use to reduce your clothing waste, specifically in Leiden and Den Haag. I hope you find it helpful, please share any tips or thoughts you have in the comments!
The first stage is to re-use clothes. Consider whether you can trade clothes with friends or resell clothes. Sites such as United Wardrobe and Depop offer a forum for this, as do the facebook groups for selling and trading in Leiden and Den Haag.
Repairing is an underappreciated aspect of sustainability, however it’s key. Skills such as patching holes, re-attaching buttons, and closing seams are very valuable, and can be easily (and cheaply!) practiced. It’s also a fantastic way to customise your clothing, and mean you’ll never have to say goodbye to a favourite pair of tights or jeans again. Sewing supplies can be purchased from the Saturday market, as well as Hema and shops such as Stik ‘n Stof, Cross & Wood, or Nottet sewing centre in Den Haag.
These are difficult and inter-related steps; however both are very important, especially in regard to keeping your wardrobe size manageable (important for international students).
Ask yourself if you need to buy an item, if it can be reused and restyled for another season, or if a similar item can be purchased from a more ethical retailer such as vintage or second hand shop.
This does make shopping a slower process, however the knowledge that you’re making an effort to step away from mass consumer culture does feel good. I really like the online retailer Nobody’s child, as well as the vintage shops on Nieuwe Rijn and the Kringloops (here and here).
The final step is recycling your old clothes. I’ve recently moved and due to limited space, had to get rid of a lot of clothes. As described above, you can sell them on the Facebook groups, but if you don’t have time (or if they’re a little worn out) you can also donate them to fabric and clothing banks. For items of clothing that are worn out and have sentimental value, you can collect squares from them to make a patchwork cushion.
I hope this article gives you some helpful tips for building a more sustainable wardrobe! Feel free to comment below with any other tips or tricks you have, I’d love to know more about it from your perspectives. Check out these articles for more information on sustainable eating, food, and recycling in the university!