Sustainable fashion is one of those buzzwords that get thrown around on social media and the online world a lot. But what does it actually mean? What clothing, fabrics constitute sustainable fashion? Why is it important to buy sustainable? For all of you just getting interested in sustainable fashion, we’ve got some answers for you. Read on for a short primer on sustainable fashion that will answer some common questions that people have regarding this lifestyle choice.
What is Sustainable fashion exactly?
Sustainable fashion in a nutshell is a term ascribed to clothing that is designed, manufactured and distributed through eco- friendly means. The terms encapsulates ethical fashion which specifically relates to the origin of clothes, worker rights and equitable manufacturing processes.
How to shop responsibly as a consumer?
If you are new to the sustainable or eco-friendly lifestyle, chances are you’d like to know some tips to shop more responsibly. And we’ve got some answers for you. Check out our list of terms that can guide your purchasing decisions:
Materials Used in Fashion
First things first, as a consumer, you need to know the materials that you are buying and the impact they have on the ecosystem. Ethical or sustainable fashion is produced using natural materials that are biodegradable, made from recycled fabrics, ethically sourced and do not use animal products. Leather, for instance is a product you should avoid purchasing as an eco-conscious consumer. When in doubt, an easy tip is to look for natural materials like cotton, linen and hemp. Keep in mind thought that not all natural materials are eco-friendly. For example, cotton production uses up a tremendous amount of water which is detrimental to the soil. However, if given a choice, cotton is a better alternative to synthetic fibres like polyester and nylon. Synthetic fibres are non-biodegradable and end up in landfills, leaking chemicals and destroying the soil. If possible, look for organic or eco-friendly certification and choose brand that clearly showcase their commitment to the environment. As a newbie consumer, aside from checking out fashion labels for guidance, you can keep an eye out for eco-labels or certifications to help your buying decisions.
Origin of Fashion
Not all fashion is produced the same. And along the manufacturing process, fashion accumulates a carbon footprint. For instance, fashion produced locally from a fair trade small brand will have a lower footprint compared to imported fashion that accumulates footprint during transport. In addition, some factories extend their eco-friendly practices to their manufacturing facilities, for instance by using wind turbines in their factories instead of fossil fuels etc. When in doubt, as a consumer support home grown national brands and opt for smaller brand that create close to the spot of sale.
Zero Waste Manufacturing & Packaging
Fashion, like many other industries produces a tremendous amount of waste. This waste comes in many forms for example defective clothing that remains unsold, patterns used in constructing products, threads and so much more. Sustainable fashion brands and companies aim to produce fashion that limits or eliminates waste. Further, they aim to make manufacturing more effective so products can be produced without the need for throwing away things. Packaging is another aspect of sustainable fashion. From the paper labels and stickers that are attached to clothes to the plastic that is used in wrapping, packaging and transporting, all of its adds to waste. Sustainable fashion takes that into account by using recycled shipping materials, eliminating use of plastic, using biodegradable materials like paper bags and so much more.
Second Hand Clothing
The best way to practice sustainability in your fashion choices is by simply buying less or not buying at all. But that’s obviously not a perfect or long term option in which case opt for fashion that is higher quality and durable thereby reducing waste caused by throwing away clothes before the end of their lifecycle. Discarded clothing clogs and fills up landfills which is not ideal. And if you do want some variety choose second hand clothing giving it a new lease of life and saving more fashion ending up in landfills. Finally, take care of what you own as mindless consumerism is fuelled by careless consumption and use.
Fashion made from Recycled Clothing
Fashion made from recycled clothing uses existing materials. recycled fibers or repurposed fabric to create new clothes. As a result, new resources are not extracted from the earth which is ultimately unsustainable. As a consumer, you can keep an eye out for clothing made from up-cycled materials or clothing made from deadstock fabric.