A Peek Inside The World Of Sustainable Fashion: How You Can Make An Impact With What You Wear
Have you ever thought about the amount of water required in the production stage to make the shirt you wear? Or the quality of life workers have that helped create your favorite pants? Well, there's a method to the madness, and as consumers, there is power in knowing how our clothes are made.
Over the years, a large percentage of the fashion industry has fallen short in supporting the environment, utilizing their resources, and treating their employees. I hope to shine some light on what sustainable fashion is all about and how you can better equip yourself to shop smart and find creative ways to preserve clothes you already have.
So What Is Sustainable Fashion?
In simple terms, sustainable fashion is the life cycle of a clothing item. Sure, you may find yourself wearing that new hat for the first time on a special occasion, but how many times will you wear it before it starts to fall apart? Sustaining the hat could mean finding ways to repurpose the fabric, getting as many wears out of it as you can, or even donating it to a thrift store. In essence, sustainable fashion is about creating, preserving, and repurposing clothing ethically and environmentally conscious.
Another term you’ll often see about sustainable fashion is “slow fashion.” Slow fashion is the creation and consumption process of clothing produced at a slower rate to help cut down on waste and carbon emissions. Compared with “fast fashion” being a marketplace designed to push out trendy and often lower quality items to gain profit.
Fast fashion should be a thing of the past, but there’s a lot of work to be done. We live in exciting times with a growing list of tools that can help equip consumers to live sustainably and support workers. So while many major outlets and supply chains continue to do their own thing, don’t fret! The real power is in how we choose to use our money. If we start being more thoughtful about our purchases and trace back the steps that brands are taking to be responsible, we’ll be more confident in our actions.
You see, if we stand up for our values and don’t settle, it forces supply chains to shift gears and reevaluate how they approach sustainability. We can ask the tough questions and challenge the status quo.
What Are The Benefits Of Sustainable Fashion?
There are a wealth of benefits to sustainable fashion, but I will share a few that will enlighten you as a consumer. Many of the brands I’ve come across are incredible and well worth the support. Every product gives back to a good cause and has inimitable features you otherwise wouldn’t find in mainstream fashion. It’s the best of both worlds!
It’s Better For The Environment
Most people wouldn’t associate fast fashion with issues like the earth’s declining biodiversity or plastic pollution. But there is a link. Think about it. Companies usually wrap their products in shipping packaging that is not recyclable or biodegradable. This is harmful to the environment, and there is no good excuse for it.
If you search “sustainable packaging,” you’ll discover there are a bunch of different alternatives available. Many sustainable shipping companies collaborate with small businesses and use recycled content and post-consumer waste to make up their packaging. It’s a total gamechanger! Some even have a carbon-neutral shipping initiative. It allows a consumer to neutralize their emissions at checkout. This is made possible through companies that focus on calculating their carbon footprints and matching them with an offset project.
Needless to say, there are so many cool opportunities to pitch in and make the planet a greener and healthier place. All it takes is a little research and some curiosity on what kind of programs are out there.
You Support Ethical Labor Practices
When you buy sustainably, you are planting the seeds to have a more circular economy. You’re investing in a future that's committed to save and protect the planet. On the flip side, you are also helping prevent exploitation and guarantee laborers safe working conditions that won’t jeopardize their health or wellbeing.
What quality of life does the worker have? Do they receive a fair living wage? Do they get ample time off to spend time with family? How about the benefits like health insurance and retirement options? These are all relevant questions to ask yourself when you are researching the ethics of a brand. Standing for a mission you love and resonate with will make purchases more authentic, and you’ll feel good about what you’re wearing.
You Get Higher Quality
While it’s perfectly acceptable and encouraged to seek out bargains and discounts on clothing items, it’s never okay to provide a good deal at the cost of a worker’s quality of life or the environment. We have to be careful when we’re looking to save money because even though it seems beneficial, it does come at a cost. We have to remember that someone always pays the price. Whether we are paying for convenience or premium quality, keep ethical practices at the forefront of your mind. There are countless brands out there that care about their employees and the environment.
In sustainable fashion, there is a common theme to pursue quality over quantity. You may be paying a slightly higher price for an item you need, but chances are you’ll get to keep it for a lifetime. As consumers, we can build confidence in knowing that what we purchase is supporting a good cause, will serve us well, and is saving us time and money in the long run.
You Contribute To Preserving Resources
Preserving resources is without a doubt a high priority. For example, some companies will enforce water conservation practices or even opt to use rainwater! Now more than ever, we need to focus on taking care of what we have. It’s encouraging to see sustainable businesses getting more creative with how they lessen their carbon footprint. Some will repurpose the leftover fabrics they have from designers or textile mills.
If there is a surplus of fabric, making new products out of what’s leftover can be very helpful in mitigating waste. Some will also source deadstock fabrics or stick with natural fiber fabrics produced with hemp, cotton, or bamboo. If these types of fabrics end up getting thrown out, they are naturally biodegradable.
Natural fiber fabrics are also great because they’re usually dyed with non-toxic dyes and require way less water in the production stage. Because synthetic fabrics can shed micro-plastics, using the more eco-friendly options can help solve this problem.
Whether you are getting 30 wears out of your t-shirt or shopping for brands with green initiatives; you’re paving the way for future generations to make sustainable fashion the new standard. So remember, this is not about making drastic changes. It’s about the possibilities and the small but meaningful actions you can take to move in the right direction.