Sustainable fashion is a phrase that is being used more and more frequently, as people are becoming increasingly aware of the significant environmental consequences of the clothing we wear. It’s important not to disregard the industry’s role in contributing four to ten percent of global greenhouse gas emissions annually, especially considering the pressing nature of the current climate crisis.
So, what exactly does the term “sustainable fashion” mean? In essence, it refers to clothing that is produced and used in a manner that can be sustained over time, all the while safeguarding the environment and the well-being of garment workers. It encompasses actions such as reducing CO2 emissions, tackling overproduction, minimising pollution and waste, promoting biodiversity, and ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions for workers. These factors are all essential for achieving sustainability in the fashion industry.
One way to promote sustainable fashion is to look for second-hand items to buy that others may no longer want. For example, you may want to consider purchasing designer preloved handbags.
With the myriad of factors at play, the current market lacks a significant number of brands effectively addressing these intricate concerns. Even those who do acknowledge the need for improvement. Thus, merely relying on products labelled as “sustainable” falls short; a complete revision of our purchasing habits and consumption patterns is imperative.
To guarantee the sustainability of your wardrobe in the future, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the following information:
Opt for Quality over Quantity in Your Purchases
The phrase “buy less and buy better” may sound cliché, but it holds true considering the alarming fact that the global garment industry produces a staggering 100 billion garments annually. So, when contemplating a purchase, it is essential to keep sustainability in mind. Harriet Vocking, the chief strategy officer of Eco-Age (a sustainability consultancy), suggests asking yourself these crucial questions: What is the purpose of your purchase? Do you genuinely need it? Will you wear it at least 30 times?
Support Environmentally-Friendly Fashion Labels with Your Investments
When it comes to making conscious buying choices, it is important to consider supporting designers who prioritise sustainable practices. This can be achieved by choosing brands like Ahluwalia, Connor Ives, and Collina Strada, which incorporate upcycled textiles into their designs. Additionally, narrowing down your search for specific items can contribute to a more sustainable approach. For example, you can look for brands that produce activewear, swimwear, or denim using eco-friendly methods, such as Girlfriend Collective, Indigo Luna, Stay Wild, Fisch, Outland Denim, and Re/Done.
Explore Pre-owned and Retro Finds
Considering the availability of secondhand and vintage items through platforms like The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective, and Depop, it is worth exploring the option of purchasing pre-loved items to enhance your wardrobe. By opting for these items, you not only contribute to the longevity of the garments and minimise the environmental footprint of your wardrobe, but you also have the opportunity to discover unique pieces that are exclusive to you. Take cues from influential figures like Rihanna and Bella Hadid, who are renowned enthusiasts of vintage fashion, for inspiration.
Instead of purchasing a brand-new outfit for upcoming events like weddings or BBQs this summer, there is now a simpler option available to us: renting clothing. In the United Kingdom alone, it has been revealed that a staggering 50 million garments are purchased and worn only once every summer. This wasteful practice needs to be swiftly abandoned, considering that every second, the amount of textile waste equivalent to a garbage truck is incinerated or disposed of in landfills.
In today’s environmentally conscious era, the phenomenon of greenwashing is on the rise. Greenwashing refers to the practice of brands making ambiguous, deceptive, or untrue assertions to create the perception of being more environmentally friendly than they actually are. To avoid falling into the greenwashing trap, it is essential to look beyond popular buzzwords like “sustainable,” “eco-friendly,” “conscious,” and “responsible.” Instead, we should scrutinise brands for concrete policies and actions that support their claims.
Know Your Materials
To make more eco-friendly purchases, it is important to have a clear understanding of the environmental effects of different materials. A helpful guideline is to steer clear of virgin synthetic fabrics like polyester, which accounts for 55 percent of global clothing production. These synthetics are derived from fossil fuels and can take many years to decompose. Furthermore, it is essential to recognize that not all natural fibres are equal. For instance, organic cotton requires much less water compared to conventional cotton and eliminates the need for harmful pesticides.
When searching for certifications, it is advisable to look for the Global Organic Textile Standard certification for cotton and wool, the Leather Working Group certification for leather, and the Forest Stewardship Council certification for viscose. These certifications guarantee that the materials used in clothing production have a reduced impact on the environment. Additionally, considering the recyclability of textiles made from recycled materials is essential, as this helps to minimise their overall environmental impact.
Embrace the Ethical Side of Fashion: A Mindful Approach to
Vegan alternatives, commonly composed of synthetic materials like PVC, are often seen as a solution to the environmental and ethical concerns associated with animal-derived materials like leather and wool. However, it should be noted that even plant-based alternatives usually contain some level of synthetic components, although advancements in their composition are expected in the future.
Seek Out Scientific Objectives
If you want to determine whether brands are genuinely committed to minimising their environmental footprint, a useful starting point is to verify if they have made a commitment to scientific objectives. For instance, brands like Kering, which owns Gucci, and Burberry, which has joined the Science-Based Targets Initiative, should have set goals aligned with the Paris Agreement to reduce their CO2 emissions.
Championing Brands That Make a Positive Difference
Eco-conscious brands like Mara Hoffman and Sheep Inc. are now exploring the potential for fashion to make a positive contribution to the environment instead of merely minimising its negative effects. Regenerative agriculture, which encompasses farming techniques like no-till farming and cover crops, is gaining traction in the fashion industry as it strives to revitalise soil health and promote biodiversity.
Be Wary of Hazardous Substances
Paraphrased text: The use of undisclosed chemicals in clothing treatment poses a significant problem, contaminating nearby water sources and endangering the well-being of garment industry workers. When purchasing clothes, it is advisable to look for the Made in Green by OEKO-TEX and Bluesign certifications, as they establish guidelines for chemical usage throughout the manufacturing process.
Minimize Your Ecological Impact by Conserving Water
Considering that the textile industry consumes a staggering 93 billion cubic metres of water each year, which is equivalent to 37 million Olympic swimming pools, it becomes crucial for us to be more aware of the water footprint that our clothing leaves behind. As previously stated, organic cotton requires much less water compared to conventional cotton, and the use of low-water dyes further helps in reducing water consumption.
Maintain and Preserve Your Apparel
To minimise the environmental impact of your clothing and prevent it from contributing to landfill sites after only a few uses, it is crucial to prolong its lifespan. One way to achieve this is by avoiding excessive washing, which not only reduces CO2 emissions and water consumption but also helps your clothes last longer. Additionally, instead of discarding worn-out garments, consider repairing them to extend their usability.
Avoid Microplastic Pollution
Investing in a microplastics filter, such as a Guppyfriend washing bag or a Cora Ball, can help mitigate the release of thousands of microplastics into our waterways and oceans during the washing of synthetic garments. While it is challenging to completely eliminate the use of synthetic materials like nylon and elastane in activewear and underwear, these filters can significantly reduce the harm caused to marine life by preventing the ingestion of these microscopic particles.
Give Your Wardrobe a Second Chance
When you decide to declutter your wardrobe, it is important to be mindful of how you handle your clothes to prevent them from being dumped in landfills. Opting for options like reselling your clothes, organising clothing swaps, or donating to charities and organisations that accept second-hand clothing ensures that your garments get a new lease on life. Additionally, for any items that are worn out beyond repair or reuse, it is advisable to explore recycling programs dedicated to handling such specific items, if available.
Circularity is Important
The topic of establishing a circular fashion industry has gained significant attention recently. This concept revolves around creating a system in which all clothing items can be effectively reused, recycled, or naturally decomposed if they are biodegradable or compostable. Although achieving a fully circular fashion industry is still a distant goal, it is vital to consider whether your clothes can be reintegrated into the system through any of these methods when aiming for sustainability.