OVER the summer, I've bought very few clothes.

I'm tall and, in my youth, was a ‘plus size’, UK 14.

Yes, shopping on the fashionable High Street in the 70s was an exercise in shame.

Rarely did I find even one size 14; ‘standard’ sizes were eight to 12. Hence a lifelong aversion to taking my clothes off in changing rooms, communal or otherwise.

However, a positive has emerged from the strangest summer I've lived through (though not the most frightening - I was at school during the Bay of Pigs, at college during the Vietnam War and received a Government leaflet during my first years of marriage advising me to whitewash our windows and shelter under the table in the event of a nuclear strike).

The upside for me has been the fun of making clothes and mending them.

I have, for the first time, actually worn the elbows out of two tee shirts. They have now been transformed - short sleeved!

I recently attended a virtual seminar, organised by Jill Bruce, Lead Climate Ambassador for WI Essex.

The panel included a year seven pupil and farmer’s daughter, a WI Youth Ambassador, Gareth Redmond-King, Head of World Wildlife Fund, Climate, and two MPs, both on climate and conservation committees.

The two-hour session was fascinating, informative, frightening and hopeful and I would like to share some statistics from another panellist at the seminar:

The UK has more ‘seasons’ and consumes more fashion, clothing and accessories than any other European country.

Each year, the UK uses 26.7kg per capita (a very large suitcase).

This compares to a consumption rate in the next-highest countries of 16.7 (Germany) and 16 (Denmark) and just 12.6 in Sweden.

UK residents also consume more cheap, ‘throwaway’ clothing and keep their clothes less long.

An estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year, much of it acrylics, which contribute massively to ocean micro plastic pollution, by leeching from soil, into rivers as well as from washing.

Which of the three sectors emit more global CO2, air transport, shipping or fashion?

The shocking answer is that the fashion industry emits more than the other two sectors combined!

One cotton T-shirt uses 27,000 litres of water in growing and production (irrigation) - that is three year’s drinking water for a person.

By 2025, two-thirds of the world will face water shortages.

Vast amounts of chemicals are used in standard cotton production, to kill pests and promote growth; communities employed in growing cotton have higher cancer rates than control populations.

But cotton is compostable, biodegradable and far better than synthetics.

So, what can we do?

Look for organic cotton garments.

Organic cotton is rain-fed and uses up to 91 per cent less water (in most growing areas).

It also does not use pesticides or artificial fertiliser.

Other sustainable fibres to look for are Tencel (from wood pulp), bamboo, hemp, wool and alpaca, recycled cotton and, of course, pre-owned items from charity shops.

Synthetic clothing is made from fossil fuels.

Half the clothing consumed in the UK is synthetic and a third of micro plastics in the world’s oceans comes from washing clothes.

The advice is, wash less - only when needed - fill your machine up (half-loads create more friction and shedding) and use a short, low temperature cycle, unless clothes are heavily soiled.

A question we should all ask ourselves is: Do I need it and how long will it last?

Some apps and sites to help identify sustainable brands are goodonyou.eco.app and www.fashionrevolution.org

You can also find useful information by searching for ‘Good Housekeeping sustainable fashion brands’.

In order for the public to make informed choices, the UK needs to lead on a universal clothing labelling scheme, which identifies the carbon footprint and explains source material (eg made from fossil fuels).

The subject of a WI campaign, ladies?