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Should the high street be more environmentally friendly?

Last Thursday fashion chain H&M became the latest retailer to step up its green-friendly activities when it announced that it is going to launch a global green scheme, where it offers customers vouchers for donating their unwanted clothes.

With the likes of H&M now prioritising green issues, can we expect to see more of this on the high street?

When you hear the words ‘eco-friendly clothing’, you probably think it’s all about shapeless sacks and horrible quilted coats made from your nan’s beloved dog blankets. However, despite the negative connotations it seems that the high street has welcomed eco-friendly fashion with open arms.

You may have heard of a brand called People Tree, whose fair-trade fashion-friendly clothing is now stocked at high street power houses such as Topshop and New Look. From patterned tea dresses to embellished silk tops, the high street now offers trendy options as well as providing an environmentally clear conscience.

Despite the introduction of eco-friendly clothes a 2011 report from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), shows that we still throw around one million tonnes of unwanted clothing away each year. So what makes H&M’s new venture worthwhile?

Well customers will be rewarded a £5/€5 voucher for every bag of unwanted clothes they bring into any UK or IE store. This voucher can then be used with purchases that amount to £30/€30 or more.

H&M aims to reduce the environmental impact of garments throughout the lifecycle and to find technical solutions to reuse and recycle the textile fibres from these unwanted clothes. This initiative is set to start from February 2013.

Although green schemes aren’t new in the world of retail - many high street chains have brought out their own ‘environmentally-friendly’ lines. Remember the Reclaim to Wear collection introduced by Topshop earlier this year? Or what about major British retailer Marks and Spencer’s Indigo Green capsule collection, which featured garments made from organic, recycled or Fair-trade fabrics?

Going green has been a consistent trend on the high street in recent years. For example, Marks and Spencer launched its green programme Plan A in 2007, setting out 100 commitments to achieve by 2012. It then expanded this programme to achieve 180 commitments by 2015, with the ultimate goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable retailer. M&S has since achieved 138 of its 150 commitments so far this year, with the launch of its Shwopping clothes reuse and recycling programme and the opening of its Sustainable Learning Store at Cheshire Oaks.

So this begs the question; who will join the green revolution next?

Readers' comments (2)

  • A lot of brands are putting emphasis on the fabric when in fact it is the manufacturing and shipping processes that are most damaging to the enviroment.

    It's all well and good having recycled/fairtrade/organic materials but when you're manufacturing the product in the same huge, fossil fuel powered industrial estate as all your other products before shipping it half way across the world it becomes, at best, a token gesture.

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  • Eh ??? . Sounds more like a scheme to encourage MORE consumption, not less....bring in old tat from last year (which didn't wash well, went out of shape, went bobbly, is now deemed 'passe' by the magazines) and buy even more of the same.......
    Just a PR spin and nothing to do with #eco whatsit at all.

    True 'eco' spin is to stop buying and re-use/recylcle what one has. I write this as today the 18 yr old female in our house had a 'clear-out' (done purely because she has run out of space) and 5 sacks of stuff sit in the hallway destined for the charity shop. Fo me, as a child of the 70's, this is terrible 'waste'....for her, this is normal as stuff is so cheap in real terms now.

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