Every garment of clothing in every closet has a lifecycle. The length of that lifecycle is determined by many factors and in turn also determines its carbon footprint. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary carbon footprint is defined as the amount of greenhouse gases and specifically carbon dioxide emitted by something (as a person's activities or a product's manufacture and transport) during a given period. Mass produced fashion items in our modern era have a longer lifecycle with a larger carbon footprint than in the past due to globalization. Items with a more limited lifecycle such as handmade items have less of a carbon footprint. The lifecycle of clothing has an impact on our resources and the earth, but the good news is we, as responsible consumers, can do specific things to shorten or alter the lifecycle to have a lighter footprint.
The complicated lifecycle of a garment makes it so that we, as consumers, can intercept it to make alterations that suit our personal, sustainable goals. In the early stages of a lifecycle steps can be taken to cut down on the carbon footprint made by shipping raw goods, fabrics, and garment overseas. There is a movement toward sustainability that involves consumers making their own garment even going so far as processing fibers and yarns to keep the carbon footprint to its most minimal by creating the garment literally from scratch. Even creating a garment from already-made fabric has a significant impact on the carbon footprint. However, a typical fashion consumer may find it more suitable to make an impact on the later part of the lifecycle of a garment versus the beginning. Once a fashion trend makes it to a consumer’s closet, despite the footprint that was made to bring it there, the choices include recycling, repurposing, swapping, or rummaging. Recycling includes donating to a local store such as consignment, thrift store, school, or church. Keeping donations local ensures that the carbon footprint is kept to a minimum. Repurposing can be done by creating something wearable or useful for personal use such as a throw pillow or using the garment to create rags for use in the garage or housekeeping. Swapping is a growing trend that ensures your garment will be used by a friend or a person in your local community and has an added bonus that swapping guarantees that both swapping partners get goods in return that don’t end up in a landfill. Rummaging is when the garment is sold at a garage sale and used as needed by the person that purchases it. Any of these steps can halt or divert the lifecycle of a typical garment and can create a positive impact that would otherwise be created by the supply chain of clothing.