Dying cloth

054: Dye an item of clothing, don’t discard it

Cost of taking action: £/$/€ 10 OR LESS

Dying can give an item of clothing a whole new lease of life at little cost

This action is a nice easy one that can save you money, reduce landfill, and contribute to the preservation of resources. It is borne out of my own experience recently when I noticed that a pair of trousers looked faded in the knee area, but were otherwise perfectly good. The fading made them look old and untidy, but dying the trousers a dark green solved that problem and saved me buying a new pair.

Why is this kind of action important

Search “fast fashion” for more articles about this, but in brief, in the developed west in particular, we churn our way through far, far more clothing than we need to, and much more quickly. Fast-profit manufacturers and distributors provide us with clothing that:

  • is often made from artificial materials
  • is of low quality
  • intentionally lasts a year or two and is then discarded
  • produces profits for the final retailer but no fairness in the supply chain
  • consumes massive resources including water, in areas where this can be ill-afforded
  • involves long distance supply chains
  • incurs high manufacture and distribution carbon emissions footprints
before and after dying a dress

By making clothes last longer, reusing them, repurposing them and then finally recycling them, we can reduce the massive environmental impact of the fashion industry. Did you know that this industry accounts for as much as 4% of global carbon emissions – that’s equivalent to the carbon emissions of the UK at least three times over!

What’s involved?

You can buy good permanent fabric dye quite cheaply online through the likes of Amazon, or at a local craft store or haberdashery.

The processes involved are not difficult; however you will need to follow the instructions on the dye packet very carefully and of course be careful to avoid splashes and spillages!

Natural fabrics such as cotton and wool will give you the best and most permanent results.

There are some general instructions at this link, but as mentioned above, follow the instructions on the packet.

Related ideas

Building on this, here are a few ideas to get more from your older clothes and the dying process:

  • try getting creative with traditional tie-dye or with layering, or even printing
  • get children involved, it’s a fun thing to do and educational too
  • cotton sheets, quilt covers and some curtains are also good for restoration
  • old cotton white sheets could be dyed and then used to make boxer shorts
  • kids’ clothes get too small before they get worn out; dying makes “hand-me-downs” like new!

How it helps

All of this will help to:

  • reduce carbon emissions from the purchase of new clothes
  • conserve important resources and water
  • limit the money going into unethical, unfair, fast-fashion supply chains
  • reduce fabric material going to landfill
  • save you money on new clothing purchases
  • educate your children and others about sustainability
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