Fridays for Future, climate strikes, electric mobility, share economy, video conferencing instead of travelling: The global pandemic has put a magnifying glass on many issues facing our society. This includes the textile industry, which has been left sitting on its collections because shops were not allowed to open, orders were cancelled or people simply consumed less. After all, they came across just as well in sweatpants and blazers in the home office video conference as they usually did in their full business outfits.

Making consumption more sustainable and fairer

The moment to look at the whole thing from a different perspective: Consumption is good and promotes economic growth, but too much consumption is destructive for us and our environment. Social and ecological criteria have returned to the discourse on the fashion industry in the context of Corona. Each and every one of us has the opportunity to make this important pillar of the global economy more sustainable and fairer through our own consumer behaviour.

Extended life for clothes

1.3 million tonnes of clothing are sorted out of German wardrobes every year and have to be disposed of. Only one percent is recycled, the rest is incinerated. How can we change this? All parents are familiar with the “passing on” of clothing for children. It would be madness to buy everything brand new as fast as the kids grow. So we exchange, pass them on and buy used ones. The next month the whole game from the beginning, ideally until the growth spurts of the kids are over. By passing on the clothes, they are given a longer life and the best possible use. Simply by extending the lifespan from one to two years, 24 percent of CO2 emissions are saved.

tonnes of clothing are sorted

Incidentally, the author also wears a blazer from the flea market in her photo, which cost as much as a train ticket in Cologne: around three euros. And I am the third person to wear it. Before that it was worn by my flea market saleswoman and before that by her friend. That is a few CO2 emissions less than if the three of us had bought a new one.

Second Hand – a question of attitude

During my first forays into flea markets I was surprised to see how many outfits suitable for office and everyday use are sold there. Until then, I always thought that the second-hand look was not for me, because I don’t like torn jeans, wool jumpers, 80s fashion or worn-out sandals – always with that flea market basement smell that everyone knows. The experience on site has taught me better: I can find everything I need, even in the second-hand version.

So Second-Hand is not a question of style, but of attitude.

And if I don’t need something all the time or forever, then I go to the clothing store “Kleiderei”. This store concept in the German cities Cologne and Freiburg, in which the staff put their heart and soul into drawing attention to the problem of fast fashion and wasted clothes, also has wedding outfits, carnival costumes or the right beach bag for the holidays, which I only need once a year. Because there I can rent clothes instead of buying them. And thus help to extend the life of existing clothing to a maximum and offer an alternative to fast fashion. So my various streaming and sports subscriptions are joined by a clothing subscription.

Many things are rarely or never worn

How, borrow clothes? Yes, exactly. And that even in the most hygienic and fashionable way. This shop is practically my infinite wardrobe. If I miss something at home, I look there. If I can’t find it, I move on and look in second-hand shops, at friends’ homes, at flea markets or online in classified ads.

On average, a garment is only worn four times before we sort it out. Almost half of them are worn even less often or never. Because no matter how promising the blouse in the shop looked, or the suit was the best colour in the light of the shop. At home we realize: Somehow not. And then at some point it is too late to exchange it or we decide to wear it after all. But we never do.

bought per year

60 new parts a year

On average we buy 60 new parts a year, which equals about 200kg CO2, which corresponds to a water consumption of 180l per day per person. So we can use it quite often for bathing, can’t we?

But we don’t do that because we can see right there how much water we are using. With the fourth new shirt a month, this is not so immediately visible. We have to take a closer look.

Less CO2, less water consumption

When clothes are borrowed or worn second hand, several people wear the same clothes one after the other and therefore more often. This greatly reduces the CO2 and water footprint. By the way, just like consuming less animal products. But that is a different matter.

The Second-Hand principle works not only for clothes, but also for furniture, electronic products, bicycles and all the other bits and pieces you need in life. For me, most things are Second-Hand – and all the more valuable for me. Always with history, always with a slightly greener background than new.

But also those who prefer to wear their clothes new have the opportunity to make a statement about Fair Fashion. After all, sustainable and fair fashion has long since arrived in the fashionable age and is far removed from the hemp look: instead, for example, sneakers made of pineapple leather or upcycling fashion from plastic bottles.

A symbol for sustainably produced textiles: the green button (der grüne Knopf)

Incidentally, we at TÜV Rheinland also contribute to sustainable wardrobes: with the Green Button (only available in German). The Green Button is a global seal with state surveillance. It identifies socially and ecologically sustainable textiles that are marketed by responsible companies. On the one hand, the audited company must demonstrate human rights, social and ecological responsibility. On the other hand, the product itself is checked according to certain social and ecological criteria.

So it does not always have to be second hand, but just give it a try. And if you see me in the company or at a conference, feel free to ask me which of the pieces I am wearing right now are Second Hand or Fair Fashion. Let’s see how many we can get together 🙂

In this sense:

Style you have, clothes you borrow! (*Slogan of the concept clothing store “Kleiderei”)


Anna Linn Zafiris

Anna Linn Zafiris

Head of Social Media

When she’s not posting pictures of vegan food or street art on Instagram, she can usually be found on one of her bicycles, at flea markets, strolling around Cologne or at the yoga studio. If you can’t find her there either, she is travelling and exploring temples or volcanoes in faraway countries.

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