How to do your bit to shop more sustainably

The fashion industry is responsible for 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions each yeari with 87% of the fibre used for clothing ending up in landfills or incineratorsii, and synthetic fibres accounting for some 35% of microplastics released into the oceansiii.

Our customers are rightly demanding ever more sustainable clothing – indeed, in 2020, close to one-fifth of UK consumers bought sustainable fashion itemsiv.

As a clothing business, we recognise the important role we have to play in supporting more sustainable fashion and we are committed to this – from researched and transparent supply chains and use of natural, locally sourced materials to the packaging we use.

Farmer walking in front of Ingleborough
Farmer walking in front of Ingleborough

But how can you do your bit to be more sustainable when buying clothes?

First, let’s think about just what sustainable fashion means.

It’s all about the practices undertaken by companies and consumers to reduce the negative environmental impact that fashion can have on the world.

For fashion to be considered sustainable, it must be as sustainable as possible throughout the supply chain – from the production of the fibres used (in our case predominantly wool), right through to the recycling and reuse of clothing.

How can we be sustainable when buying new clothes?

1. Investigate the brand you purchase

Look for brands that honestly tell you how and where they make their products and how they run their businesses. A sustainable business will produce more sustainable clothing as they will waste less, source carefully and consider the environment in the strategy.

2. Check the label for where it is made

Locally made usually means less carbon footprint as the product won’t have travelled as far to get to you.

Items made in countries with strong regulations on environmental responsibility also tend to be more sustainable – such as the UK or the EU. If it doesn’t say MADE IN XXXX then ask where it is made or don’t buy it.

There’s no law in the UK that says you need to say where something is made (you just can’t lie), so many brands omit this information. Just because a material is made in the UK, it doesn’t mean the finished garment is.

Norber flat cap inside

3. Visit independent shops in person

By doing this, you’re saving the carbon footprint of shipping (especially if it’s a local shop!), and you can also try things on, so you won’t need to send it back for a different size.

Independent shops often really care about both their customers and the environment – it’s their livelihood after all – so the money you spend with them can filter out to the local economy and people.

Glencroft warehouse shop front door

Glencroft’s factory shop in Clapham, North Yorkshire

Should we buy less or focus on buying sustainable pieces?

Both! Buy less and buy well.

A British made wool jumper or a wool t-shirt will cost you more, but it’ll last for decades and still look like new, if cared for correctly. This means less clothing purchases in the long run. If you buy a jumper every winter, consider buying one really good one every five years instead.

UK second-hand sales experienced an uptick in 2021, growing by 27.2% compared to 2020 (Statista), with the Generation Z leading the way in the desire to buy second hand in order to reduce consumption (Depop).

So, think about shopping second hand – it is perhaps the most sustainable choice for ‘new to you’ clothing. Walk to your local second hand shop for the most sustainable choice. Again, wool items often look great second hand, as they hold their shape and colour for years.

Glencroft jumpers second hand
Three Glencroft jumpers over 20 years old and found for sale on eBay

What fabrics are considered ‘good for the environment’?

There are two things that are essential when considering fabrics – what they are and how they are made.

Natural fibres like wool, cashmere and cotton tend to be more sustainable than man-made fibres like polyester.

British Wool logo

However, some of the supply chains to produce these materials are less than ideal. Mass produced cotton uses a lot of water that can cause issues for the land and people where it’s made.

Similarly, cashmere can be produced paying little or nothing to goat farmers and wool can be processed with little attention to the environmental impact of the manufacture.

There are a number of certifications that help to ensure you’re getting a sustainable natural fibre (if you see a certification on a product, google it to check!), as well as choosing only materials made in countries with strong regulations about environmental considerations, animal welfare and worker rights.

Examples include British Wool, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (cashmere).

In the meantime, as a business, we will continue to evolve our practices and explore new ways to decrease our environmental impact – from the LED lighting we’ve recently installed in our warehouse, to our Clapdale Wool Project which will see the creation of a circular wool economy here in the Yorkshire Dales.



How to do your bit to shop more sustainably