How Dirty is Your Closet? Introducing thredUP’s Fashion Footprint Calculator

New study shows that most consumers don’t believe their fashion habits contribute to climate change. thredUP’s ‘Fashion Footprint Calculator’ aims to raise awareness about the true carbon impact of our closets.

Today thredUP, the world’s largest fashion resale platform, launched a ‘Fashion Footprint Calculator’ to help consumers quantify the ways our clothing habits contribute to climate change (and how small actions — like buying secondhand or washing clothes in cold water — can meaningfully lessen that impact). The tool was inspired by thredUP’s ‘Fashion Waste Awareness Study,also released today, which found that most consumers do not understand how their fashion choices harm the planet.

“While it’s universally known that fashion pollution is a problem, we were surprised to find that most consumers don’t think their individual clothing choices matter. The reality is, to change course, both brands and consumers need to take action and make positive changes,” said Erin Wallace, thredUP’s VP of Integrated Marketing. “We know most consumers want to do better, but aren’t sure how. thredUP’s Fashion Footprint Calculator aims to show how each one of us can play a role in reducing the carbon footprint of our individual closets to collectively create a more sustainable fashion future. The more we understand the impact of our fashion choices, the easier it is to make smart decisions.”

  • Calculate your Fashion Footprint and see how your closet contributes to climate change →
  • Plus, you’ll get eco-rewards to try sustainable brands like Rent The Runway, Christy Dawn and Grove Collaborative.

About thredUP’s Fashion Footprint Calculator

thredUP’s “Fashion Footprint Calculator” aims to educate consumers about the carbon impact of their clothing habits, and how to do better.

  1. Answer a series of questions about how you buy, wear and care for your clothes.
  2. Reveal the total carbon your closet generates annually, along with how you compare to the average consumer.
  3. View the top nine ways to reduce your footprint, along with an “Eco-Directory” highlighting sustainable brands, and the ability to unlock green shopping discounts.

Methodology: thredUP partnered with independent environmental research firm Green Story Inc. to determine the carbon footprint associated with specific clothing purchase, care and disposal habits. Green Story leveraged peer-reviewed research studies, clothing supply chain databases and an independent lifecycle analysis to quantify the carbon emissions driven by each action. They were able to analyze impact down to the garment level — from jackets to jeans — through weighted carbon calculations of common fabrics.

Top Ways to Reduce Your Fashion Footprint (based on Calculator data)

Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world, responsible for 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually — more than the aviation and maritime industries combined — and accounting for more than 8% of global climate impacts. Fast fashion brands are a tremendous contributor, as they overproduce disposable clothing that emits harmful CO2 and exhausts natural resources. But consumers also play a role. Here’s how you can make a difference:

#1. Buy mostly secondhand

  • Carbon Savings: Buying used instead of new prevents 527 pounds of C02e annually (equivalent to planting 6 trees or eliminating over 900 local car trips!)
  • Why: Buying used instead extends the life of clothes, makes the most of natural resources used to produce them and diverts (often non-biodegradable) textiles from landfills. If everyone in the US bought just one used item instead of new, it would save nearly 6B pounds of carbon emissions — the equivalent of taking half a million cars off the road for one year.

#2. Air dry clothing

  • Carbon Savings: Air drying instead of machine drying prevents 447 pounds of C02e annually.
  • Why: 75% of laundry’s total carbon impact comes from machine drying your clothes. Air drying is the most sustainable way to dry your laundry.

#3. Shop mostly sustainable brands

  • Carbon Savings: Shopping mostly sustainable brands like Allbirds and Reformation prevents 233 pounds of C02e annually.
  • Why: Designing garments using sustainable fabrics instead of conventional reduces carbon emissions by about 30%. Look for materials such as recycled polyester, organic cotton, tencel, modal, and linen, all of which are easier on the planet.

#4. Wear dresses at least 12 times (a.k.a. the ‘Royal Rewear’)

  • Carbon Savings: Wearing dresses 12 times instead of disposing of them after a few wears prevents 60 pounds of C02e annually.
  • Why: Compared to 20 years ago, we are buying twice as much and keeping it for half as long. Social media and our desire for constant newness has led to overconsumption and more waste. Dresses in particular are some of the most carbon-intensive items to produce, and are generally the biggest culprits of single-use fashion. Take a page out of Meghan Markle’s book and aim to rewear your favorite dresses— like the Stella McCartney cape dress she was pictured wearing to several occasions.

#5. Wash clothes in cold water

  • Carbon Savings: Washing clothes in cold water instead of hot prevents 43 pounds of C02e annually.
  • Why: By washing clothes in cold water rather than hot, you are saving the energy needed by the machine to heat up the water. Plus, washing on cold can help your clothes last longer by preserving color and preventing shrinking.

#6. Choose mostly standard shipping

  • Carbon Savings: Choosing mostly standard shipping instead of express prevents 24 pounds of C02e annually.
  • Why: Amazon’s two — or even one — day shipping has set a standard that’s bad for the planet. Slowing down your shipping is yet another part of the slow fashion movement. Online shopping actually has a lower carbon footprint than shopping in store — but only if you slow down the shipping. Express shipping often requires multiple packages to be sent out from a single order, and requires more trucks on the road that are only partially full (versus waiting for more packages to be ready to fill them up).

#7. Repair one garment a season

  • Carbon Savings: Repairing a garment instead of discarding it prevents 19 pounds of C02e annually.
  • Why: Besides buying secondhand clothes, the best way to reduce your impact is by extending the life of the clothes you already own. Fast fashion has made us think clothes are disposable, but by investing a little time and TLC into your clothing — such as sewing on a new button or patching a hole — you can extend the life of your garments and minimize your waste. Many items that have a lot of life left in them prematurely end up in landfills (around 10 million each year!). If you extend the life of a garment by one year, you can reduce its carbon footprint by 25%.

#8. Skip dry cleaning

  • Carbon Savings: Skipping the dry cleaner prevents 5 pounds of C02e annually.
  • Why: Dry cleaning requires a lot of energy, and on top of that, PERC, classified by the EPA as a “likely human carcinogen,” is a standard solvent used by most traditional dry cleaners. If your clothes require dry cleaning, consider alternative non-toxic options like GreenEarth solvent or professional wet cleaning. Or better yet — hand-wash or steam them!

#9. Rent for special occasions

  • Carbon Savings: Renting instead of buying for special occasions prevents 3 pounds of C02e annually.
  • Why: Renting clothes offers the closet-flipping fun of fast fashion without the waste. Renting one single garment from a service like Rent the Runway increases its number of wears and reduces its carbon footprint by 30% over its lifetime.

Sources for all Fashion Footprint data available here →

Fashion Waste Awareness Study Results

The calculator was inspired by a survey of 1,000 women across the US around their awareness of fashion pollution, their own role in the fashion waste crisis, and what they can do to lower their fashion footprint. This study found that 92% of women want to shop more sustainably in 2020, and yet 2 out of 3 women say they have no idea how to lower their fashion footprint, causing eco-anxiety and confusion. Based on these findings, thredUP developed a Fashion Footprint Calculator designed to change that. Here are the results:

Consumers are unaware of their impact:

  • Nearly ½ of consumers do not think their individual shopping habits contribute to climate change.
  • 68% of women think apparel brands need to solve fashion waste, not consumers.
  • 81% of women think their fashion habits are less wasteful than the average consumer.

Consumers know more about the Kardashians than the fashion waste crisis:

  • 67% of women — and 84% of Gen Zs — think fashion waste is a problem, but nearly ½ cannot explain why.
  • The majority of women don’t realize fashion is more polluting than both the oil and aviation industries…
  • …and yet 63% of Gen Zs know the name of Kim Kardashian’s clothing line.

Consumers want to make a change, but aren’t sure how:

  • 92% of women say they want to shop more sustainably in 2020.
  • Nearly 2 out of 3 Gen Z say they feel helpless when it comes to fighting climate change.
  • 66% of women say they do not understand how to reduce their fashion footprint.
  • Nearly ½ of consumers don’t realize that shopping secondhand is even better for the planet than composting!

Why consumers say they would choose Fast Fashion over sustainable brands:

thredUP’s Fashion Footprint Calculator shows how to get value and style in a responsible way, and demonstrates easy ways consumers can be more conscious.

  1. Price: 76% of Gen Z say they would choose fast fashion for the value.
  2. Convenience: More than ½ of Gen Z say shopping fast fashion is more convenient.
  3. Style/Trends: 35% of Gen Z choose fast fashion to get the latest style and trends.

About thredUP

thredUP is the world’s largest fashion resale platform, inspiring a new generation to think secondhand first. The company has spent the past 10 years reinventing resale, building a marketplace and infrastructure now poised to power the $50B resale economy and usher in a more sustainable fashion future. Millions of consumers use thredUP as the easiest way to sell their clothes and shop over 35,000 brands at up to 90% off — online, in stores or via “try-before-you-buy” Goody Boxes. Backed by world-class investors, thredUP designed a resale engine that has redistributed nearly 100 million unique garments from closets across America and is now powering resale for the broader fashion industry via its Resale-As-A-Service (RAAS) platform.

Additional Imagery

Happenings from the world’s largest online thrift store