What sustainable fashion is & how to make your wardrobe eco-friendly.
Updated: Mar 2
Most of us get it – modern society has to develop in more sustainable ways. While we recycle, ditch single-use plastic, reduce food waste, and save water, we tend to forget about the environmental impact of our clothes consumption. Why do we need to make our wardrobes eco-friendlier?
The fashion industry is responsible for a tenth of global carbon emissions and a fifth of wastewater, which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined! It might sound doubtful – how can the production of our outfits even be compared to the huge amount of fossil fuels planes burn every day? Yet, all the facts are here:
Annually, the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water – the same amount of water five million people consume in a year (the whole population of Norway or New Zealand).
One pair of jeans takes around 5,000-10,000 litres of water.
Almost 90% of our clothes fibres are usually incinerated or disposed of in a landfill – just like wasted food, producing methane as they decompose.
Fabric dyes used on any piece of clothes pollute waterways, harming local communities and native wildlife.
Synthetic fabrics can take hundreds of years to biodegrade.
500,000 million tons of plastic microfibers (the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles) are released into oceans every year and later can be found in our food chain – this happens when we wash synthetic fibres such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic.
If we collect all the clothes in the world, it would be enough to clothe the next six generations!
The sustainable fashion movement has been working on switching the modern fashion system towards greater ecological integrity. Any piece of clothing can be called sustainable if it is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in ways that are environmentally friendly. The most confusing part about the definition of sustainability when it comes to fashion is its relation to ethical fashion. While most would link environmentalism to transforming our ways of living, producing, and consuming to reduce overall environmental impacts, others believe sustainable fashion can only exist if social welfare and worker rights are valued or leather and animal fibres are avoided.
Just like the skincare brands, the fashion retailers have been providing a lot of misinformation and giving misleading messages – such labels as sustainable, eco, or green are not regulated, so you can’t know what a brand is really up to. Almost every big retailer chose to include ‘sustainability’ in its recent marketing strategy (Zara, H&M, UNIQLO, etc.), but can brands really contribute to more sustainable consumption patterns if their main objectives are mass production, low prices, and large volumes of sales?
The fast fashion cycle is far from sustainable and the responsibility mostly lies with consumers. No matter how you decide to define sustainability in the fashion industry, any effort to make your wardrobe eco-friendlier will make a difference.
REPAIR, REUSE, RE-WEAR, REMAKE, REPURPOSE – just don’t throw your clothes in a trash bin. Only in the UK, consumers own about £30 billion worth of unworn clothes languishing in their wardrobes. How many times have you left your jeans or dresses laying on the shelf simply because there was a hole in them? Or they didn’t fit the way you wanted? Give your piece of clothing another life by getting yourself a stitching kit or googling alterations shops nearby (also, learn about care & repair tips for your clothing on LoveYourClothes.org). If you’re still not sure your clothes will benefit from alterations, it doesn’t have to go to waste – donate to charity shops and homeless shelters.
EDUCATE YOURSELF. It is hard to remember the downside of shopping when your social media feed is full of influencers constantly promoting mass consumption. Subscribe to those who think and live differently (The Right Project, Sophie Benson, Venetia La Manna, etc.) and get your reading list right – Good On You website has the coolest articles about fashion brands and their environmental impact such as How Ethical Is Dior? or 9 Brands to Shop Preowned.
INVEST AND WEAR LONGER. The executive producer of the sustainable fashion movie called The True Cost started the #30Wears campaign to discourage disposing of our clothes so quickly. When buying something, you should ask yourself, “do I want to wear this item 30 times?”. If no, forget about it. This summer, British people will potentially spend £2.7 Billion on clothes which will only be worn once. Perceive shopping as an investment to something that can last you as long as possible. Also, choose in-store shopping over shopping online – this way, the impulse to buy is easier to control and your decision-making capabilities are at their maximum.
HAVE A TASTE OF VINTAGE. Second-hand clothing is the best way of both recycling and finding a solution to fast-fashion overconsumption. Research nearby garage sales or cool vintage stores – purchasing pre-loved items can be easily seen as boosting your individuality while getting something that couldn’t be found on the high street. The best places to hunt online are eBay, Poshmark, Depop, Dublin Vintage Factory, Selfridges Resellfridges, ThreadUp, and Tradesy. Always remember – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
In fact, the fashion industry is becoming less sustainable – global consumption of clothes and garments will double in a decade if our shopping patterns stay the same. It is hard to resist out passion for fast fashion, but while the retailers are turning a blind eye to the problem, the change can only come with our small behavioural changes and empowerment.