What is Sustainable Fashion?

Sustainable fashion is a term that’s been used a lot nowadays, as more and more people become aware of the negative environmental impact of our clothes. The word “sustainable” can be vague and confusing, so this article will help break down the confusion about that question.

What does Sustainable Fashion Mean?

Sustainable fashion is a movement and process of nurturing change in the creation and use of fashion products toward greater ecological integrity and social justice. It’s an umbrella term for clothes that are manufactured, created, and consumed in a way that can be sustained while protecting the makers of the garment and the environment. It involves reducing CO2 emissions, reducing pollution and waste, addressing overproduction, supporting biodiversity, and ensuring that garment workers are paid a fair wage and safe working conditions.

Considering all these factors involved, there are few brands that can address all these complex issues. Also, sustainability isn’t only about the production of clothes, but it’s also about the consumers’ purchasing habits and the way they consume clothes.

Why is Going for Sustainable Important?

Shopping bags of women crazy shopaholic person at shopping mall.colorful paper shopping bags.
Shopping bags of women crazy shopaholic person at shopping mall.colorful paper shopping bags.

Fashion has been known to be because of harmful environmental impacts for a long time. Sweatshops first popped up in England during the Industrial Revolution, and these early factories were reliant on coal. The industrialization of textiles created a significant demand for cotton, making slavery commonplace.

The rise of fast fashion has been a huge part of problems in the fashion industry, such as toxic pollution, excess waste and carbon emissions, and modern-day slavery. Fast fashion is built on an endless cycle of overproduction and overconsumption. They can make clothes cheap because these brands produce in huge quantities. While companies don’t make much profit from every garment, they can profit millions or even billions because of mass production. These companies can negotiate low prices with factories because they produce in such large quantities, which causes lower wages and lower safety standards.

Even as some fast fashion brands start to incorporate a small percentage of organic and recycled materials in their collections, this level of production cannot be sustainable.

Also, fashion has been a huge part of the climate crisis. Production of textile was responsible for 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent in 2015 alone – an amount that’s more than the missions from all maritime, international flights, and shipping combined. Fashion is also heavily reliant on fossil fuels, as polyester and other synthetic fabrics are made using non-renewables like crude oil. And these garments made from synthetic fibers are responsible for much of the global microplastic pollution.

Tips for Choosing Sustainable Fashion

Making the shift from patronizing fast fashion brands to sustainable fashion is an essential step to help lessen the negative effects of fashion on the environment, health, and welfare. The more people make the switch to sustainable fashion, the less need would the fast fashion brands have to produce non-sustainable products. Here are some helpful tips for choosing sustainable fashion:

1. Buy less and buy better.

If you’re the type of person who likes wearing a new outfit every time you go out, it’s time to widen your perspective. It might be a cliché, but the mantra “buy less and buy better” is the key to being more considerate about the environment. Before buying a garment, ask yourself: “What do you really need?” “What are you buying and why?” “Will you wear it at least 30 times?” Buying fashion items that are flexible, timeless, and long-lasting is a better way to spend your money than going for cheap items that can easily go out of trend.

2. Shop secondhand.

Secondhand clothes on a store

Instead of buying fast fashion that’s cheap and meant to be thrown away easily, you can be more sustainable by buying secondhand to keep clothes out of landfills for longer. Second-hand and vintage clothing are now very accessible, thanks to shops that offer pre-loved items. Not only will you extend the life of these garments, but you will also find one-of-a-kind pieces that no one else will own.

3. Choose natural and organic materials.

Low-impact natural materials like cotton, silk, linen, hemp, wool, leather, and cellulose fibers are generally preferable over petroleum-derived synthetic materials like acrylic, polyester, and nylon. It’s because natural fibers are biodegradable and can be composted back into the soil, unlike synthetic fibers that do not decompose and sit in landfills for a long time.

Whenever possible, look for organic certifications for plant-based fibers and other ethical standards and indications for wool. For cellulosic fibers, prioritize Tencel or lyocell.

4. Rent or borrow for special occasions.

When attending a wedding or a fancy party, it’s more practical to rent something than to buy a new dress or tux. Suppose you have a friend or family member who can lend you something to wear, then much better. According to a study, about 50 million garments are bought and worn just once every summer in the UK alone. The statistics for other countries are not included! Buying something you’ll only wear once is a dirty habit we all need to ditch.

5. Look for items made of eco-friendly dyes and certifications.

The hidden chemicals used to treat clothes are a serious concern, as it pollutes local bodies of water and poses a risk to garment workers. Whether you’re looking at natural fibers or synthetics, it’s essential to consider the environmental impact of the dyes and textile treatment processes. Eco-friendly dyes come with the Bluesign or Made in Green by OEKO-TEX certifications.

6. Look for recycled or deadstock materials.

Using recycled or pre-existing materials to make new clothes is always a wise move. It doesn’t require extracting new resources, but it makes the most use out of materials that may otherwise go to waste. You can look for clothing items that are made of recycled fibers, upcycled materials, or clothes made of deadstock fabric.

7. Upcycle the clothes you don’t wear anymore.

Upcycling clothes is taking old, worn-out, or damaged clothes and transforming them into something new. If you have clothes that don’t fit any longer, are stained, worn, damaged, or out of fashion, they can be repurposed into a new product.

A too-large shirt can be transformed into a trendy crop top or a workout tank top. A pair of jeans too long or too old-fashioned can be cropped to become shorts. You can add embroidery to your old cardigans or add beads and gems to old sandals to add a touch of originality. And if you have old clothes you don’t want to wear or fix, a great alternative for them is to reuse them as kitchen towels or rags.