Zero Waste Week is a yearly campaign that aims to increase recycling, reduce landfill waste and help people to participate in the circular economy – that is, ‘closing the loop’ so that waste becomes a resource rather than the end of the line. Of course, ‘zero’ waste is near impossible, and no one, including the Zero Waste Week founders, actually expects that. But by striving to get as close to zero waste as possible, together, we can make a huge impact. For 2022, Zero Waste Week is happening from 5th to 9th September, and you’re invited to get involved! As crafters, there are lots of things we can do to reduce our impact on the planet. Read on to learn more and to discover all sorts of handy tips and tricks for sustainable crafting!
Making Fashion Sustainable
Did you know that textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined? But the good news is, making our own clothes and accessories is a great way to combat fast fashion; that knitted sweater that took you three months to finish? Our best guess is that’s not going in the bin any time soon. That crochet top that you made to fit your exact measurements? There’s no way you’ll fall out of love with it. When we craft, we put time, effort and care into the things we’re making, and we’re able to create things that meet our needs precisely – the complete opposite of impulse buying and ending up with a bundle of clothes that don’t fit, we don’t like and don’t want. Slow fashion, therefore, is all about mindful and conscious choices when it comes to clothing, and opting for garments that will last.
Good quality materials will get you a long way, but eventual wear and tear is inevitable – which is wear mending comes in! Did you know that 90% of our clothes are thrown away before they need to be? Mending holes in knitted items is easy, fun and can even add a lot of character if you choose to do visible mending, using contrasting colours. Take a look at our blog post ‘Tutorial: Make do and Mend!’ for a step-by-step guide to darning holes in knitwear.
Madeline Tanoto from Mads Do & Mend is a sustainable designer and maker who teaches workshops and hosts pop-up shops and clothing repair hubs, helping people to learn the art of mending. She recently co-hosted with Make Mee Studio (@makemeestudio on Instagram) to run a six-week drop-in mending programme in Lewisham Shopping Centre, where all sorts of beloved items and clothing were brought to the Repair Station. This treasured doll was knitted over 30 years ago by the owner’s nana – after some darning and re-stuffing at the Repair Station, she is good as new!
The Wonders of Wool
Of course, as much as we prolong the life of our clothes and other knitted items, still, nothing lasts forever. But natural fibres are biodegradable, meaning that once they are discarded, they will break down quickly returning nutrients to the ecosystem. Cotton can take as little as a week to biodegrade in the right compost!
Luckily for us knitters and crocheters, our staple fibre is among these environmentally friendly materials. The Campaign for Wool, a global endeavour initiated by Prince Charles, aims to raise awareness about the unique and hugely versatile benefits of the fibre. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s biodegradable, but it’s got plenty of other tricks up its sleeve too...
– It’s fire retardant! Amazingly, due to the high levels of nitrogen and water, wool is naturally flame-retardant and will not catch fire as quickly as many other materials.
– It’s renewable. Sheep will continue to grow their fleece year after year making it a reliable natural resource.
– It regulates your temperature. The crimped shape of wool fibres mean they form millions of air pockets which can absorb and release moisture – this moisture management keeps you both cool and warm depending on the humidity.
– It’s durable. Wool fibres can be bent back on themselves over 20,000 times without breaking! They are also naturally elastic, retaining their shape long-term and resisting wrinkles.
Impressed? We certainly are! To find out even more about the amazing capabilities of wool, check out campaignforwool.org where you’ll also find a short documentary called Why Wool Matters, featuring HRH the Prince of Wales.
13 Ways to be a More Sustainable Crafter
Be more green when it comes to knitting and crocheting! Here are some simple ways to be more eco-friendly in your crafting:
1. “I use up the leftovers from my grandchildren's cardigans and jumpers to crochet into a memory blanket and add to it periodically. It grows as they grow.” LGC reader, Lyn Mills
2. When you finish a garment, keep a yarn band and a few metres of yarn. Refer to the care instructions diligently to help it last as long as possible, and if you ever need to darn it, you’ll have the right yarn on hand!
3. “Save yarn ends to use as toy stuffing!” LGC reader, Sandra Brown
4. Measure clothes you already have that fit you well and compare these to the measurements given in a garment pattern you want to craft to ensure you make the perfect size.
5. Wool is odour and stain resistant as well as anti-bacterial so doesn’t actually require much washing – air out your woollen knits as much as possible to help them last longer and save energy too.
6. “I collect my yarn ends and then when I’ve got enough, I make a cushion and use the ends for stuffing it.” LGC reader, Christine Long
7. Use your skills to replace disposable and plastic things with reusable versions – think crocheted market bags, cotton dishcloths and make-up pads.
8. Lean away from trends and into your own unique style. Knit that new hat in your favourite colour, not the shade that’s in fashion that season. It might be on-trend for a while, but you’ll like it for longer if you make it for you.
9. “Put all your yarn ends in a bag and between projects make randomly coloured corner-to-corner squares and make a blanket.” LGC reader, Sharon Bryce
10. Have you seen a pretty hideous knitted jumper in a charity shop that’s not going home with anyone any time soon? It might be hideous in its current form, but just think what you, a creative crafter, could do with the yarn! Rescue it, unravel it and re-knit it into something beautiful.
11. Opt for quality yarns that will last. It might cost a little more in the short-term, but you’ll get far more use out of your projects.
12. "All yarn fibres are interchangeable in art – worsted weights can be embroidered with, and embroidery threads can be used in quilting or knitting. Experiment with odds and ends of different weights of threads for some creative fun!” LGC reader, Darlene Krystal
13. Take a look at your UFOs. When was the last time you worked on some of them? If it’s been a year or more, are you really going to finish it? If not, consider frogging them – you'll suddenly have a whole new stash to root through, and save on buying new yarn!