Nothing to wear: Why our bulging wardrobes are bad for the environment as well as our pockets

Although most of us will be feeling the pinch after Christmas we seem unable to resist the allure of the January sales, chasing so-called bargains but giving little thought to the impact that our clothes-buying has on the environment.

According to WRAP – an organisation helping businesses and individuals reduce waste and use resources in an efficient way – an estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to land fill in the UK every year.

But now, psychologists from the University of Sheffield and fashion and business experts from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion are urging shoppers to think about the effect undervaluing our clothes has not only on our purse strings, but also on our planet.

Dr Chris Jones, Lecturer in Social and Environmental Psychology at the University of Sheffield and Lead Investigator of the thought-provoking Project TRANSFER, said: “As the last remaining sale items get snapped up off the shelves and clothing rails we want people to stop and think about their wardrobe and the clothes they already have.

“The escalating desire for the latest trends at the lowest cost is putting a huge strain on the natural environment.”

Through the innovative Project TRANSFER, Dr Jones and the team are challenging shoppers to fall back in love with their existing clothes, asking whether the ‘new you’ needs a ‘new wardrobe’.

“Our wardrobes are a veritable Narnia of forgotten characters and we want to encourage everyone to bring some of these old friends out into the light in 2016,” said Alex McIntosh, Business and Research Associate at the Centre for the Sustainable Fashion.

Project TRANSFER has teamed up with Dr Rob Speranza of the South Yorkshire Filmmakers Network and Emily&Anne Animation to create a short animated film highlighting the pressures people feel to be on-trend and purchase new clothing; fostered by the bombardment of advertising and peer pressure.

Professor Helen Storey MBE, a practising artist and designer at London College of Fashion and co-leader of Project TRANSFER, said: “It is vital that we find diverse means to engage the public in active debate about how our fashion habits affect both people and planet influencing attitudes and ultimately changing behavior.”


There will also be a special public screening of the animation on Tuesday 19 January at 20:45 as part of the ‘Showroom Shorts’ event at the Sheffield Showroom Cinema (15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield S1 2BX).

Dr Jones and other members of the Project TRANSFER team will be available during the evening to discuss their research.

To find out more about the Project TRANSFER please visit:

To find out more about the South Yorkshire Filmmakers Network please visit:

To find out more about Emily&Anne Animation please visit:

Project TRANSFER was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the Retail Sector Initiative.

Additional information


The Project TRANSFER team is working together with a diverse group of retailers from energy, water and fashion retail sectors, with the aim of generating novel solutions to successfully address the challenges of promoting sustainable consumption among consumers. Combining the experiences of commercial partners with academic expertise from a team of psychologists and fashion and management experts from the University of Sheffield and University of the Arts, London; Project TRANSFER is also investigating how efforts to promote sustainable consumption within retail is received and responded to by consumers.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

In 2014 it was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education and in the last decade has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact: 

Sean Barton
Media Relations Assistant
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9852