The fashion industry has reached a turning point: consumers are demanding for more ethical and sustainable products, and brands are beginning to answer to said demands.
It is not a secret anymore that the fast fashion industry hides inhumane working conditions and irreversible damages for both the environment and the people, which involves not only workers, but also consumers. In fact, the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of wastewater worldwide and it accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions.
On that account, fast fashion collections might look appealing at first sight, but their backstories are definitely not. To quote Livia Firth, “fast fashion is like fast food: after the sugar rush it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth”.
Many people think that making sustainable fashion choices comes down to shopping from ethical and eco-friendly brands. That is absolutely right, yet there are so many more alternatives as well. In this article, you will find different ways to shop and search for sustainable fashion.
Shopping for second-hand clothes is one of the best things you can do for the planet. Because you are not promoting the production of new clothes, you are saving up all the natural resources (like water and energy) that would have been needed to make those new garments from scratch.
In addition, that also means saving the chemicals and dyes that are often involved in the making of these clothes as well.
Moreover, when shopping for vintage clothes you are extending that garment’s lifecycle, which if you think about it is a revolutionary act to the buy-and-toss mindset that continues to be promoted by the fast fashion industry.
If you are interested in conducting an LCA (Life Cycle Analysis), we recommend you to check out this article.
Shop from local brand
It has become a regular habit to shop for clothes online and get them delivered right to your doorstep without leaving the house. While it sounds fantastic to the average consumer, the environmental impact behind these purchases is not that positive.
When building a sustainable wardrobe, it is crucial that we consider where said garments are made and how far they will need to travel in order for us to get them. In other words, shopping from local brands and local thrift stores helps cut down on shipping emissions.
Just like we pay attention to the food we feed our bodies with, we should also watch out for the fabrics that we choose to protect it. When we talk about sustainable fabrics, we refer not only to the fibers that have been used to create said textile, but the chemicals that were used to dye it too.
When looking for eco-friendly alternatives, one should prioritize natural, biodegradable fibers (such as wool, hemp, cotton, linen and silk) over synthetic, non-biodegradable ones (like nylon, polyester and spandex).
Sustainable fabrics are better for us and for the planet, but they also tend to be products of higher quality, which directly translates to longer durability. This is actually one of the main statements regarding sustainable clothing, which is prioritizing quality over quantity.
Another eco-friendly alternative is looking for clothes made of recycled materials. For example, many ecological brands opt for recycled polyester made of plastic bottles recovered from ocean waste, instead of using virgin polyester derived from petroleum.
Transparency and traceability
When it comes to sustainability, it not only matters what is in your clothes, but also who made them. Aside from looking at the garment’s label to learn about the materials that were used to make it and their environmental impact, one should also pay extra attention to the people behind each item.
The Fashion Revolution movement has come up with a series of questions that sum up the sustainable fashion lifestyle and help track the background of our clothes. When shopping for new garments, one should be able to answer these questions: Do I need it? Who made it? Where was it made? And what is it made of?
Standards and certifications, for example, can be helpful for both labels and consumers as well. They help support a brand’s statements regarding their manufacturing process, suppliers, producers and workforces. And they also provide transparency to the label, which is a key element when it comes to ethicality and sustainability.
If you would like to learn more about this matter, take a look at our latest article “Fiber Tracking Technologies - The Who, How and Why”.
As we said earlier, fast fashion is not only about hyper-trendy, short-lived designs. It’s about toxic, polluting fabrics and cheap labor too.
In comparison to fast fashion brands and the synthetic textiles they use, many sustainable labels have opted for suppliers who use regenerative farming and grazing practices, including crop rotation and no-till farming.
In order to have a positive impact on the planet and reverse climate change, regenerative agriculture involves rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity. As a consequence, these practices help improve the water cycle and carbon drawdown.
Regenerative fashion refers, therefore, to the clothes that are made from the fibers recovered from said farms. This is how to accomplish and communicate a sustainable supply chain in fashion.
Swap, rent and recycle
As we said at the beginning, there are plenty of alternatives that you can opt for to shop sustainably. Aside from the previous ones, there are still other choices consumers can make, such as swapping, renting and recycling their clothes.
It is surprising how many people think of their clothes as disposable items. Yet, it is not so shocking when it comes to your attention that in 2018 the Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) estimated that 11.3 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfills only in that year.
Swapping, renting and recycling/upcycling your clothes can help reduce textile waste and extend these garment’s lifecycle. In addition, these alternatives tend to be slightly more accessible than others, so more people can take them into consideration when shopping more sustainably.
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