We all have the power to impact our world and environment through fashion sustainability.
Did you know that the clothing and textile industry is the second largest cause of pollution in the world after oil? The United Nations reported that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also responsible for 20% of the globe’s water waste, 24% of insecticides, and 11% of pesticides. That’s a lot of bad-ness for the environment!
The reasons for fashion waste are complex and interconnect:
- Some companies don’t care how their clothing is made. Their goal is to produce as much fast fashion as possible and get it on the shelves. They waste a lot of water, materials, and textiles to mass-produce clothing, and they fill their materials with toxic chemicals that are bad for the environment and bad for your health.
- Companies don’t always know how much stock to make for the season, because they aren’t sure if a new trend will actually make its way to the streets. Leftover stock of unsold items tends to go to waste.
- Certain clothing types, like polyester and other synthetic materials, actually damage the eco-system during production and in landfills. More and more clothing is being made of these synthetic materials, which is releasing more chemicals and toxins into our environment.
- Consumers are throwing out old or out of season clothing, and those textiles end up in landfills. In fact, consumers throw away an average of 70 pounds per person annually, even though 95% of those textiles could be recycled.
When we buy fast fashion or throw out our clothing, we are directly contributing to the textile waste problem that’s rampant across the globe.
Thankfully, though, people are sitting up and taking notice. Consumers are no longer okay with the immense waste the fashion industry is producing. Countries and governments are angry that so many resources are getting wasted, rather than utilized. In response, fashion companies are standing up and answering consumer needs and government demands.
Learn more about sustainable fashion here.
Which companies and countries have recently taken a stand against textile waste?
What can you, as a conscientious consumer, do to improve your world (and your closet)?
How are companies taking a stand?
There are a number of companies that are starting to take sustainability more seriously…mostly because consumers are demanding it. It won’t be long before customers will stop buying from irresponsible brands altogether, and sustainability will be the norm in fashion.
Brands like Athleta and Everlane have especially made a name for themselves in the world of sustainability. Stella McCartney is a leader in the designer world for their sustainable fashion as well. Burberry has also become “the most sustainable luxury brand,” due to their eco-friendly initiatives like their pledge to stop destroying unsold clothes.
Interestingly, the majority of sustainability efforts are coming from small to mid size companies. Startup brands that aren’t beholden to major boards or investors can take more “risks” in creating eco-friendly and ethical clothing.
With a few exceptions, a lot of the larger brands still seem slow on the uptake. That’s likely because true sustainability is a multi-faceted approach. It requires every facet of the supply chain to be fully optimized for sustainability. The larger the supply chain, the more challenging this is.
Customers aren’t necessarily buying sustainable clothing just because it’s sustainable. They still want quality pieces they look good and feel good in…but society is growing more conscious about where goods come from. They want their fashion retailers to keep making gorgeous pieces—but just in a more eco-friendly way. As this consciousness grows, we anticipate more fashion retailers will accommodate sustainability at every step of the supply chain.
Which countries are making waves?
Companies are becoming more eco-friendly, but it’s really not enough. Society (and government) needs to hold these organizations responsible. Someone needs to ensure that fashion retailers are as environmental and eco-friendly as they claim to be…and someone needs to change the narrative for what “fashion” is.
This needs to come from a cultural change on a nationwide, if not a global, scale.
A lot of fashion is created in the West but produced in the East. That means Western countries need to make global moves to change fashion trends in a way that will have an impact across buying and production. We’re seeing that sort of international, interconnected network start with the United Nations new regulations and reports.
The United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion is in full swing, and we anticipate it will create a revolution in the fashion world. Different countries and U.N institutions have implemented sustainability initiatives, but this Alliance now marks a comprehensive and extensive approach to sustainability from start to finish. The Alliance includes a number of specialized agencies that care about climate change and the environment, as well as ethical fashion initiatives and practices.
The U.N has a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and fashion is one sector that needs a lot of attention and development. The Alliance promised to take massive action to change the way fashion organizations can and should run in accordance with ethical, environmental, and social practices. From events to initiatives to accountability groups, we anticipate that this Alliance could completely alter the way future moves forward.
What can I do to promote fashion sustainability?
1. Buy pre-loved clothing.
The best way to cut down on textile waste and protest the fast fashion world is by buying pre-loved, secondhand clothing. By purchasing clothing that has been sold or given away, you’re giving a renewed life to these textiles. You’re prolonging their use, which minimizes the textiles ending up in landfills. You’re also reducing the amount of clothing you purchase “fresh” from retailers, thus doing your part to take a stand against the fast fashion world that fills their clothes with synthetics and chemicals.
2. Choose timeless pieces.
Trends and styles are fun. We’re all about changing up your look and trying out different looks. But you can still be “trendy” without indulging in the fast fashion world that’s stirring up so many environmental issues.
Choose high-quality, timeless pieces for the majority of your wardrobe. These will last longer in your closet, which reduces waste and helps you save money. Plus, quality pieces are made with fewer chemicals, so they’re better for your health. These designer pieces also look and feel better, which can instantly boost your mood and confidence.
3. Focus on eco-friendly retailers.
Buying from retailers who have a brand mission for fashion sustainability can make a huge difference. In the short term, you’re not buying toxic clothing that could be damaging your health and the environment. In the long term, you’re showing the fashion industry that sustainability is a key driver for consumerism—so more companies will want to move in that direction.
If we all bought from sustainable-focused retailers, every fashion company would have to move towards sustainability to stay in business. Let’s put the pressure on companies to do more and be more!
4. Watch your waste.
If clothes aren’t your style anymore or they don’t fit, don’t throw them out! 9 times out of 10 you can recycle or reuse those items. So don’t contribute to the 70lbs of textile waste each person has per year. Take responsibility for your clothes and waste.
For your gently worn items, consider selling them! Check out the 5 best websites to sell your designer clothes online. If you can’t sell your items, consider donating or recycling them. A simple Google search can tell you where you can donate or recycle your clothes in your community!
Building a sustainable world
Fashion is the fabric of our daily lives. It’s something we put on, wear, and use every single day. To neglect how it impacts our world could very well be the downfall of our society. And that’s why so many people and organization are taking a stand. Consumers are becoming more conscious of their fashion choices, forcing companies and governments to create new missions and initiatives in tandem.
Sustainability starts with you. Every piece of clothing you buy determines the course of the fashion industry. So choose sustainable. Buy eco-friendly, ethical clothing and preloved items that have a story to share with this beautiful world of ours.