First of all, what is sustainable fashion? Sustainable fashion is a term referring to products created in a way that minimizes environmental impact and is ethical. There are many factors that make a brand sustainable, like reducing CO2 emissions, supporting biodiversity, reducing pollution and waste, and ensuring that the workers are paid fairly and have a healthy workplace.
With all this in mind, there aren’t many brands handling these issues in the fashion industry. Even the brands that are admit that it could always be better. However, there is another perspective to address; the consumer.
For consumers, sustainable fashion is not just about the brand. It means knowing about what you buy, asking yourself if you will wear that piece of clothing to the extent it was made for, and what philosophy you are supporting through your purchase.
If you want to make sure that you are as sustainable as possible, here’s everything you need to know.
Shop vintage or second-hand items
With the rise of second-hand and vintage clothing and their accessibility thanks to sites like The RealReal, ThredUp, and Depop, buying pre-loved items to add onto your wardrobe will extend the life of these pieces and reduce environmental impact.
2. Choose sustainable materials
Knowing the materials and its impact is imperative when making purchases. But, to know which materials are sustainable, you have to know which ones aren’t. For example, polyester is a material derived from fossil fuels and takes years to break down. Buying new fur and leather can also be unsustainable, simply because it’s not great for the environment and animal rights. So what are good options? Choose organic and natural materials such as cotton and organic linen, but keep an eye out for where those materials are sourced from. Even natural fibers like cotton can have extremely negative environmental impacts.
3. Quality over quantity
Stray away from fast fashion. As an alternative to spending money on multiple bad quality pieces, invest in one or two high quality ones instead. When shopping it is good to have a few things in mind; “What am I buying and why? Do I really need the item? Will I wear it for more than a couple occasions?”
4. Invest in sustainable fashion brands
Investigate brands and designers promoting sustainable practices. Make sure it is not greenwashing: brands that falsely claim to be eco friendly to appeal to the general public. Brand transparency is crucial. Sustainable brands will state where their products are sourced, how they are made, and who makes them.
5. Know how to wash your clothes
Sustainable is not only about buying sustainable, but the environmentally friendly upkeep of your wardrobe. Most washing machines have an eco-friendly option built in that you can use to wash your clothes, but you can also wash your clothes at 30 degrees (usually the ‘cold’ setting on your washing machine). This will reduce the washing machine’s energy use by up to 40%. Another way to be sustainable is to let your clothes air dry. The dryer can be harsh on clothing and shorten its lifespan.
6. Repair your clothes
When a shirt or a pair of pants rip or a heel breaks, you don’t always have to throw it away and say, “Well, I’ll just buy something new”. Learn how to repair your clothes by watching a couple of videos. If you’re not up for the task, pay a professional to do it. While it may cost you some money to get your clothing repaired, it can cost the Earth even more.