Earth Day is tomorrow and as always, this holiday offers a friendly reminder to keep sustainable practices relevant in all aspects of your life, including fashion. Sustainability helps the overall well-being of our planet, from an economic standpoint to a socio-economic one and helps us have a more conscious perspective with what we choose to wear. But such a broad term doesn’t give much direction to what steps we can take to participate in the sustainability movement, which is where this post comes in.
Fast Fashion brands have shorten the life cycle of our wardrobe. In other words, we’re so used to just buying cheap for right now, it’s almost like we expect to either toss out the clothes that wear their course or have them fall apart in a few months because of that. Although this strategy leaves more room for trend shopping, issues like material sourcing, production standards, quick turn-over, waste and ethical practices fall short and ultimately lead to an unsustainable wardrobe and loss of money.
But what does sustainable fashion even mean? Is it how we source our raw goods? Or how much we reuse and repurpose clothing? Or how about the quality of the production facilities that make the end-product? I honestly get so confused every time someone tries to lecture me on sustainable clothes, to the point that I just ignore the topic and move on with what I’m doing.
However, through my own search I learned that there is no set definition of sustainable fashion; no wonder so many of us get confused. Instead, sustainability includes how we make and intake fashion. The one definition I did find from Green Strategy is:
More sustainable fashion can be defined as clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components. From an environmental perspective, the aim should be to minimise any undesirable environmental effect of the product’s life cycle by: (a) ensuring efficient and careful use of natural resources (water, energy, land, soil, animals, plants, biodiversity, ecosystems, etc); (b) selecting renewable energy sources (wind, solar, etc) at every stage, and (c) maximising repair, remake, reuse, and recycling of the product and its components. From a socio-economic perspective, all stakeholders should work to improve present working conditions for workers on the field, in the factories, transportation chain, and stores, by aligning with good ethics, best practice and international codes of conduct. In addition, fashion companies should contribute to encourage more sustainable consumption patterns, caring and washing practices, and overall attitudes to fashion. (Green Strategy, June 2014)
To make it easier I’ve taken Green Strategy’s list of 7 forms of sustainable fashion and simplified it.
To help local artisans and small businesses is always a great impact on the surrounding economy, but even with larger brands you can still make an effort to look for clothes that are made from where you live. Just check out the “Made In ______” tag and support locally.
Green & Clean
This impacts all major processes. From how the garment is made to what materials are used to make the garment. A company has full control on the materials they use and they have the decision to use recycled, organic or to change the dying processes of a garment to have less of an impact. Have a look at the materials used on the tag, read the descriptions when buying online.
These are garments that are hand crafted and can include items that are customized. The reason high quality is sustainable is that it extends the life of a garment since its made to last. But remember, high quality doesn’t always mean luxury.
Fair & Ethical
Being people friendly ensures the workers have fair compensation and are treated ethically. This takes a little more digging but if it’s something that matters to you, then it will be worth the search.
Remake, Reuse & Upcycle
Reusing what’s already made. For a company, it is using recycled textiles. For an individual, it is giving new life to an old garment; a simple example is turning jeans into shorts. One of my favorite accounts to follow for repurposing fashion
Rent, Loan, Swap
Why buy items if you are only going to wear them once? Businesses like Rent The Runway and Poshmark give more life to a single item of clothing and offer sustainable methods of shopping, especially for one time grand events.
And of course, my favorite, vintage or thrift shopping. Buying at your local thrift shop or the tons of second hand marketplaces online. Vintage pieces are usually made from higher quality materials and already have a worn in feel to them, so they work well for pieces like jeans, blazers, coats, and shoes.
Now, to get started, pick one or two of these you know you can do and remember that there aren’t many companies that do ALL. Over time, you can start to add others and begin to see a change in your buying behavior.
Sustainable shopping might seem like work in the beginning, but once you realize the impact plus the money you’re saving, it all makes a ton more sense and is a lot enticing to stay committed.
What are some of your favorite sustainable brands or practices? I’d love to know