The word “sustainable” is quite vague, a little confusing and increasingly overused. In fashion industries, the same applies.
As we are becoming more and more aware of the serious environmental impact the clothes that we wear make, we’ve become more conscious consumers, considering that the fashion industry is responsible for four to ten percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions every year.
But what does the term mean?
It’s a term for clothing that is created and purchased in a way that is sustainable, while protecting the environment and those who produce it. By purchasing sustainable fashion, we are cutting CO2 emissions, addressing overproduction, pollution and waste.
We are also supporting biodiversity, ensuring workers are paid fairly, and are in safe working conditions. These are all crucial to sustainability.
Considering the number of factors that are involved in creating sustainable clothing items, very few brands are currently tackling these complex issues, and many brands have little to no proof of what they are doing to create “sustainable” clothing. This means that when we shop for items that are labelled “sustainable”, it doesn’t necessarily mean the item complies 100% with what it means to wear sustainable clothing.
So, if you’re looking for a more sustainable as possible wardrobe, here’s what you’ll need to know:
INVEST IN QUALITY OVER QUANTITY:
100 billion garments are being produced globally every year. Before purchasing, ask yourself three questions: What am I buying and why? Do I really need this? Will I wear it at least 30 times?
INVEST IN LOCALLY MADE FASHION ITEMS OR DESIGNER BRANDS:
Buying quality over quantity really does make a difference. Instead of only being able to wear an item a few times before it starts looking ragged and old, invest in classic pieces that can be worn for years. Ask local designers or brands what makes their fashion items more sustainable and find out if these brands use upcycled textiles in their designs. Searching for specific items that you need, and doing your research on a specific item that you’re willing to invest in is always the best approach.
SHOP SECONDHAND AND VINTAGE PIECES:
Vintage and secondhand pieces are becoming increasingly popular thanks to social media and apps. Not only does buying pre-loved items often end up being a lot more affordable, but it also extends the life of the garment and reduces the overall sustainability impact as a result. On the plus side, you’ll also be able to find one-of-a-kind pieces that no one else may have.
As consumers become aware of their environmental footprint, the term “greenwashing” is becoming increasingly predominant. Greenwashing is used by brands who use vague, misleading, or false claims to suggest it’s eco-friendlier than it actually is. Words like sustainable, conscious, organic, responsible, and eco-friendly are what you should look for, and check if the brand has detailed its policies to back up their claim.
KNOW YOUR MATERIALS:
Knowing what you are buying is crucial when it comes to making sustainable fashion choices. Not all materials are made the same, for example, organic cotton uses less water than conventional cotton and does not use harmful pesticides.
ASK WHO MADE YOUR CLOTHES:
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the extreme difficulties garment workers have faced globally. It’s essential that the people who make our clothing are paid fairly and work in a safe environment. Ask brands who openly disclose information about their workers about who makes the clothing, and their working conditions.
SUPPORT BRANDS WHO MAKE AN EFFORT TO MAKE A POSITIVE IMPACT:
Safe farming practises is a growing trend within the fashion industry that aims to restore soil health and biodiversity. Hidden chemicals that are used to treat our clothes in the manufacturing process are also a concern because they pollute local waterways and pose risks to garment workers.
REDUCE YOUR WATER FOOTPRINT:
The production of textiles uses 93-billion cubic metres of water yearly – that is an estimated equivalent of 37 Olympic swimming pools. As consumers, we need to become conscious of this fact.
BECOME CONSCIOUS ABOUT “VEGAN” FASHION:
While animal-derived materials like leather and wool come with environmental and ethical concerns, vegan alternatives, often containing synthetics are also harmful to our planet.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR CLOTHING:
Try not to wash your clothes too often or unnecessarily (this will also lower your water footprint). This ensures that your clothes will last longer, and instead of throwing out clothing, try repairing them first.
Saying no to materials like nylon, and elastane is almost impossible. These materials that go into activewear and underwear give these pieces stretch. When purchasing these pieces, avoid over-purchasing and ask yourself the three questions.
RE-SELLING AND DONATING:
When clearing your closet, being conscious of how you dispose of the items will help stop them from ending up in landfills. Re-selling your clothes and donating will ensure they’ll have a second life.