Guardarrr #25: No-money sustainability strategies

Esta es la versión inglesa de mi boletín, puedes encontrar el mismo texto en castellano aquí.

On Tuesday I gave a talk at casal de barri Espai Antoni Miró Peris with the same title as this newsletter, promising strategies to green-up people’s wardrobes at zero cost. So, in case any of them came here looking for the minutes and for me to put in writing my thoughts on the topic right now… and also to entertain you, here are the five key points that I wanted  to convey in that talk:

0. Nothing has a zero cost (and those costs aren’t randomly distributed either)

Whilst preparing, I realized that I had done a bit of misleading advertising promising zero cost strategies. Yes, I was going to talk about how to make our wardrobes more sustainable without buying new things but, as any economics manual for secondary education will tell you, everything has a cost, even if it is only the opportunity cost of time. Hence, my actual proposal was to change the perception about the type of cost that a more sustainable wardrobe requires, moving away from the idea that it is possible to just buy your way into one and trying to convince people that it is worth investing time and energy in greening-up one’s wardrobe.

There is also an important “but” that we all have to take into account: household maintenance, cleaning and tidying are still feminized tasks in households formed by heterosexual couples. Hence, for many people, my invitation is nothing but a suggestion to increase even more the burden of their second shift, and I’m not here for that. As Laurie Penny writes in Meat Market (2011), “the entirety of Western society is traumatized by our complex relationship to the economics of domestic labour,” and hiding this conflict under disguises of mindfulness and sustainability is sinister. So here you have my permission to ignore the rest of this post if it just sounds like more work.

With that said, here are the strategies:

1. The frequency of use

Bringing the attention to the frequency of use to minimize the ecological footprint of textiles is the whole raison d’etre of Guardarrr, you already know that the radical idea of wearing the same clothes over and over again until they fall apart fascinates me. The simple act of repeating encourages us to acquire less, to better understand the materials and our needs, and to cultivate contentment (instead of trying to fill our internal black holes with more things).

2. Laundry

It’s pure physics: the more friction, detergent, and temperature, the more wear and tear. Hence the answer is to wash less, use shorter cycles and colder water. If the garment does not have stains or smell bad after you have put it on, return it to the closet. For the vast majority of everyday clothing, a half-hour cold cycle is sufficient. Do full loads. Take special care with clothing that has elastane and resist the urge to wash sportswear at 60ºC. Take special care with wool. Consider washing certain things by hand. Detergent can be purchased in bulk. Fabric softener is a scam. Line dry outside if possible. Rethink the need to use the iron. Your electricity bill will also be delighted with you.

(I have already written a couple of laundry rants here: Breathe deeply, it’s clean enough and Yes, there are garments that I’ve never washed.)

3. Storage

The choice between hanging and folding depends on individual preferences and available spaces.

Putting several garments on the same hanger is dangerous because the ones below tend to disappear and be forgotten. Changing all the hangers to be the same is very pleasing to the eye but (a) it is a financial investment and (b) the old hangers are usually not recyclable, although they can typically be relocated with new people.

Vertical folding has four great advantages compared to stacking folded garments: (I) everything is visible at a glance, hence you more likely to wear it all and not buy more of what you already have, (II) you can take the desired garment out easily without collapsing the whole shelf, hence less frustration with your wardrobe and its contents, (III) in everyday use it is more beautiful and organized, resulting in a better known and loved wardrobe, preventing the idea that there is nothing there and you have to go shopping, and, the most important from the point of view of sustainability, (IV) the process of folding forces us to look and touch each garment carefully, this is the moment when we notice the rips, stains, pilling and general wear and tear (which is much better than noticing a rip while in a hurry and returning the garment to the back of the closet where no one will ever see it again)

I have a very intense hatred of the “normal” wardrobe shelves so deep that they only serve to create chaos and lose things back there. I do not know who is responsible for this general aberration but the only solution is to find boxes that serve as pseudo-drawers and contain the (vertically folded) garments.

4. Fixing

The de-pilling implements can be useful to extend the life of the garments, but you have to be careful since you lose a part of the garment with each shave, and they become visibly finer with time. Pilling is painful issue since it is the predestination of the garments, you never know which ones will be the problematic ones and the fault is not yours but the choice of materials, basically somebody being either incompetent or stingy. In addition, in my clumsy little hands the fabric shavers have also served to accidentally cut the clothes and then having to darn them.

Starting to darn is scary since you think you will damage the garment even more while wasting your time. My hopes are in the visible mending movement will save us from the foolishness of associating mending with poverty or eccentricity, and that we all will start darning with abandon. However, as with all fixes, here too is having the serenity to accept the things that cannot be fixed and the wisdom to recognize the difference between the fixables and the unfixables. In other words, one need to discern which garments are worth darning and re-darning, and which ones are going to fall apart again immediately.

Darning, like sewing and pattern making, knitting and crocheting, and other techniques of mending and creating clothes, are all about time use and investment in new skills. The investments required will depend on the chosen technique and creative goals but the potential returns are wonderful: (a) an acquired skill, (b) a created artifact, and (c) a deep pedagogical experience: one who has spent hours struggling with a hemline, a waistband or a sleeve will now see them with much higher appreciation.

And, in the end, I would like to live in a world where almost all of our things are so valuable that, if we didn’t have the skills to fix them, we would happily pay to a professional to fix it. Also, that the garments were designed thinking about their durability and the ease of the most common arrangements. Ah, imagine…

Coloquio post-función después de la obra “El silenci dels telers” | 20 de noviembre 18:00 en Centre Cívic Vil·la Urània, Saragossa 29, Barcelona.

Intercambio de ropa Green Saturday o Vermutet & Wardrobe Restart XVI | 27 de noviembre 11:00 – 14:00 en Ateneu Roig, Torrent d’En Vidalet 32, Barcelona.

Taller de visión del armario perfecto con collage | 19 de enero en Centre Cívic Trinitat Vella – Espai Foradada, Foradada 36, Barcelona.

Intercambio de ropa | 22 de enero en Centre Cívic Trinitat Vella – Espai Foradada, Foradada 36, Barcelona.

300 millones de años separan el papel y el plástico, siempre y cuando el supuesto papel no esté cubierto de plástico.

Residuos: Es la hora de los sistemas de devolución y retorno + dada esta situación de vertederos globalizados, incluso una responsabilidad más allá: Un cementiri de roba al desert d’Atacama, la cara oculta de la “fast fashion”.

A mí los titulares supuestamente alarmistas me consuelan ya que me hacen sentir menos loca: La destrucción del ecosistema provoca un efecto mariposa de catástrofes encadenadas que nos golpearán brutalmente a todos.


The great conflict between diverting all our attention to “micro-consumerist bollocks” and not being crappy people littering everywhere: Surface Tension + Your cotton tote is pretty much the worst replacement for a plastic bag + The truth about recycling coffee cups / The Truth About Paper Cups.

When the fast fashion market keeps growing and so does the resale market… are we still just buying more and more? “While consumers may be voicing concerns about sustainability […] they do not necessarily act on those concerns” + Secondary fashion sales are booming, with the global market for pre-owned apparel generating a whopping $40 billion per year.

You probably know by now that I have a weak spot for wool, but knowing what exactly the production of each commodity entails is often painful but required: Toni grew up on a sheep farm, now she never wears wool.

And that’s it for this week! I hope that you enjoyed reading and would be very happy to hear from you, regarding textile care strategies or anything else… in the comments below, via Facebook or Instagram, or via e-mail at luize.ratniece [a] gmail .com

Guardarrr is a weekly bilingual newsletter dedicated to sustainability and mindfulness in fashion. It is written by Luīze Ratniece, a sociologist and textile activist based in Barcelona. Guardarrr is both a tool for reflection and a crowdfunding channel for the wardrobe tracking app that Luīze is building. If you read this newsletter and value it, please consider going to the paid version to fund this project for a monthly equivalent of a coffee + pastry. Each subscription warms my heart immensely and helps going on, thank you so much for being here with me!

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