Would you give up buying new clothes for a year to save the planet?

No new threads for SA's environment-savvy fashion boycotters

13 October 2019 - 00:03 By SUTHENTIRA GOVENDER
Janette Bennett who is concerned about fashion’s harmful global footprint has given up buying clothes to help save the planet.
Janette Bennett who is concerned about fashion’s harmful global footprint has given up buying clothes to help save the planet.
Image: Sibongile Ngalwa

Janette Bennett helped save about 11,000 litres of water last month.

It’s not that she stopped taking baths, doing laundry or watering her garden. The Eastern Cape woman just didn’t buy a new pair of jeans that she says takes up to 11,000l of water to produce.

Bennett is among South Africans who have vowed to boycott buying new clothes for a year to save money and the environment. They are part of a global movement that is concerned about the environmental footprint of the fashion industry leaves on Earth.

Many of them have taken their cue from the global movement Extinction Rebellion, which has encouraged fashionistas to boycott shops for a year.

“As part of Extinction Rebellion’s #XR52 weeks of direct action, we urge people to #BOYCOTTFASHION for a whole year in order to disrupt business as usual, and send a message to government, industry and public alike that enough is enough,” said Bennett.

Bennett, who started a Facebook group called “We’re not buying new clothes for a year”, has not bought any new items since August.

“I haven’t eaten meat for 35 years. I recycle, I do organic gardening. But as the Amazon burnt and pictures emerged of even bigger fires destroying forests in Africa, I wanted to do something more. I’d heard about the high cost of the clothing industry — especially fast fashion — to the environment and the people who work in it. So I decided to stop buying new clothes for a year.”

She took to Facebook to voice her concerns and received what she said was a good response. It prompted her to start the group.

Despite her love for new clothes, Bennett has stuck to her resolution.

“I’ve spent very little since I made my decision, and it’s been only on second-hand clothes.

“It’s about being mindful, about taking a stand against harmful, thoughtless consumerism and consumption.

Bennett sometimes organises clothing exchange parties in her garden, where like-minded people 'shop'. The remaining clothes are donated to various charities

“My trips to malls are much quicker and more focused. I feel lighter, somewhat liberated, with more money in my pocket and more time in my shopping days.”

She sometimes organises clothing exchange parties in her garden, where like-minded people “shop”. The remaining clothes are donated to various charities.

Durban karate instructor Timmy Singh has also decided not to buy new clothes for a year.

“I’m in my karate uniform for most of my day, so it’s not difficult for me to take this decision.

“Actually I have been doing this for a long time, not just with clothing. We have been swapping out stuff with friends and family for a while.

“It’s not just about clothing for me, it’s everything. The Earth is very giving to us, but what are we giving back to Earth? Mostly pollution. We’re hurting animals and each other. The list goes on.”

Peta Daniel of Cape Town has also joined the movement despite her love of shopping.

“Limiting myself was hard at first, but also incredibly freeing,” she said.

“I used to find bargains everywhere, particularly when it came to clothing, and after simply just deciding to make do with what I have it’s like a whole stressful weight was lifted off my shoulders.”

Limiting myself was hard at first, but also incredibly freeing
Peta Daniel

She relapsed once in the two months since deciding not to buy anything new. That was when she bought a pair of “secret socks”. She has since gone back on her path.

Abigel Sheridan, the founder of Chic Mamas Do Care, which supports people in poor areas, said that since starting the group nine years ago, she and her team of volunteers had contributed R6.5m towards literacy, numeracy and early childhood development.

“We sell excellent, gently worn clothing through our charity outlets and hold exclusive swap parties regularly.

“Once a month, in our main Cape Town shop, we host a Swap4Charity event, where participants can exchange their good-quality items for tokens, which can be redeemed against future sales,” said Sheridan.

Ncumisa Fandesi-Ndelu, the founder of a Facebook group, “1 Family 1 Stockpile”, which provides saving tips for women, said she was “all for initiatives to save money while at the same time saving the planet”.

“My advice would be for everyone to look into their closets, and look at the stuff they’ve accumulated over the years and take it from there, mindful of the fact that their choices could cost someone their job and a child their food,” she said.


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