Making sustainable fashion choices in Edinburgh

“Out with the old and in with the new” is the mantra that crops up at this time of year, but this optimistic phrase is deceptively damaging to our world. Wardrobe revamps have become part of the regenerative symbol of spring, leaving a trail of poisonous dyes and discarded fabrics behind them.

The clothing industry has a huge carbon footprint – it takes around 8000 litres of water to produce just one pair of blue jeans. Yet, the environmental impact doesn’t seem to deter us from shopping: more than 1 million tons of clothing are bought each year while 430,000 tonnes end up in landfill annually in the UK alone.

At SHRUB we’re making an effort to reduce these numbers within the Edinburgh community. We run workshops on fixing, making, and altering clothes, as well as operating a Swapshop in our Hub at 22 Bread Street (you can either buy clothes or bring your own to swap for others).

Swapping used clothes is a great way to update your wardrobe while keeping your shopping ethical. Edinburgh has plenty of groups for swapping clothes in the Meadows, Broughton and Leith, Cowgate and Grassmarket, Portobello, and North areas. You can also buy and sell clothes on Gumtree, Preloved, and Depop, among other online platforms.

However, if your clothes aren’t in a state to swap or sell, consider taking part in SHRUB’s informal workshops and learning to mend, upcycle, or repurpose materials from well-loved garments.

Every Thursday evening between 5 and 7pm, volunteers are at hand in 17 Guthrie Street to help members of the community mend clothes with sewing machines and by hand. These workshops are free and open to all, come along to find out more and to get help and advice on projects!

We also run workshops with first year students in Edinburgh to teach clothing repair and upcycling in halls. If you can’t make workshops but want to learn how to reduce your clothing footprint, Love Your Clothes is a great resource for creative upcycling ideas, and tips on mending, stain removal and more.

On a student shoestring budget? In May each year, volunteers from across SHRUB’s working groups collect clothes (as well as any other unwanted possessions) from first year halls and organise a ‘Free Fair’ in September for new students to pick up useful items. Keep an eye out on our blog and social media to learn more.

This year, resist the pattern of celebrating spring by sending old clothes to landfill. If you need to clear space in your wardrobe, prioritise charity shops (the Swapshop is always grateful for donations) or share clothes with friends to promote a circular economy. Why worship the new when the old has got us covered?