Fashion is, and always has been, a cornerstone of our society and economy. For centuries, people have been using fashion to demonstrate their status and personal style while tracking with the trends of the age. That’s why sustainable fashion is so important to our world.
Thankfully, the newest trend in fashion is sustainability—and I have a feeling this trend is going to stick. Fast fashion is showing a lot of negative impacts on the environment, our society, our health, and the quality of our clothing. And women like you and me are getting tired of it! Our generation is becoming more socially and environmentally conscious, which means the movement towards increased sustainability is only just beginning.
What are the concerns with fast fashion, and what can you do to change your world with sustainable fashion?
What are the implications of fast fashion?
Our society is highly materialistic. People are buying clothing just for the act of shopping or to wear once, and then they throw away the clothes. Retailers are constantly changing trends in order to get consumers to keep buying more, which keeps retailers in business but ends up severely damaging the environment.
Compared to 15 years ago, the average person buys 60% more clothing pieces—and keeps them for half as long. People keep buying, which is quickly ramping up the waste produced by the fashion industry.
Fast fashion is doing a serious dent in our environment and way of life. The apparel industry is responsible for 8% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. If it persists at the rate it’s going now, the CO2 emissions from the fashion industry are expected to increase to 2.8 billion tons per year by 2030. That’s the equivalent of 230 million passenger vehicles driven for a year.
How does fast fashion negatively impact the environment and our society?
Cotton only covers 3% of the planet’s agricultural land, but it generates 16% of all insecticides and 7% of all herbicides. Conventional cotton requires 1/3 of a pound of chemicals to make one T-shirt, and 3/4 of a pound to make a pair of jeans. These chemicals are bad for the environment—and bad for your health and skin too!
The fashion industry is notorious for its poor working conditions. Over 50% of workers in the fashion industry are not paid the minimum wage, and there are a number of child laborers forced to work in sweatshops. People are literally dying for our fast fashion.
Agriculture takes up a lot of land and natural resources, especially water. It takes about 2,720 L of water to produce one cotton shirt—which is the equivalent of one person’s water consumption for three years. The Global Fashion Agenda predicts that the fashion industry will use 35% more land for cotton, forest for cellulose fibers, and grassland for livestock by 2030. This means we’ll be using up even more of our natural resources—and the materials just end up wasted in landfills!
Garment manufacturing accounts for 20% of the global water pollution because of microfibers and dyes used in water treatment, which drain off into our waterways and oceans. This is polluting our water, which damages our water supply and kills marine life (which also impacts our food supply).
Nearly 60% of all clothing ends up in landfills or incinerators within a year of being made. This ends up costing about $100 billion. Considering how much goes into making these clothing, that waste is even harder to swallow.
There are over 2,400 substances and chemicals used in clothing manufacturing—30% of which pose a serious risk to human health. The materials you put on your body every day matter. The chemicals can soak into your skin to impact your cells and lead to long-term health concerns.
Not to mention… fast fashion is expensive! You’re constantly buying and throwing out clothing, which can put a serious dent in your wallet. When you consider that these goods have chemicals that could be damaging your health, you have to factor in healthcare costs as well.
Fast fashion isn’t worth the damage it causes.
What is sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion has a lot of moving parts, and it encompasses a wide range of “friendly” clothing options. “Sustainable” refers to clothing that is well made and lasts awhile, which helps to reduce the turnover coming from fast fashion that’s damaging our environment and health.
The goal of sustainable fashion is to prolong the lifecycle of materials, reduce the amount of waste, and increase the value of timeless garments. The main purpose of sustainable fashion is to produce ecological clothing that stands the test of time.
There are seven key factors of sustainable fashion:
- Clean & green
- Quality & timeless
- Fair & ethical
- Secondhand & vintage
- Repair & upcycle
- Rent & swap
- Custom & tailored
Let’s dive into these methods of sustainable fashion to see how they impact our environment, our society, and your wardrobe.
1. Clean and green
Production is the foundation of sustainability. How are the clothing goods actually made?
Sustainable fashion focuses on environmentally friendly practices from start to finish. The material and textiles are eco-friendly and organic, made without chemicals or pesticides. The growing techniques are healthy and natural, with low or minimal carbon emissions. Even shipment is local and low-emission, like using trains as opposed to trucks.
When purchasing, opt for organic cotton—since the majority of chemicals come from cotton growing. You should also consider organic fibers and fabrics like bamboo or hemp. Look for locally made goods that aren’t shipped long distances from countries with fewer regulations.
2. Quality and timeless
When you purchase high-quality and ageless clothing, it will persist through the seasons and numerous wears. You’re not wasting money and materials on a trend that lasts only a season. You’re investing in timeless pieces that will continue to make your wardrobe look and feel high-value.
The more classic the piece, the longer you can keep it and rock it. This reduces waste and textile
Check out these 11 classic wardrobe essentials you need to own.
3. Fair and ethical
Sustainability also refers to socialsustainability. Are the working conditions safe and fair? The best clothing is labeled under the Fair Trade Act, which means that the goods are sweatshop free, in healthy working environments, produced by individuals who earn a fair wage.
Every consumer decision we make is global. What you wear has a direct impact on the lives of hundreds of others across the world. Focusing on ethically produced and traded goods ensures you don’t contribute to the harmful and corrupt practices of a lot of companies in the fashion industry. Do research into your designers and fashion companies to see where and how they source.
4. Secondhand and vintage
There’s a reason (actually, there are six reasons) why pre-loved fashion is the hottest craze in fashion now. You know the clothes you get on consignment are high
Plus, secondhand clothing gives you gorgeous, sustainable pieces—at a fraction of the cost!
If you’re looking to be more sustainable, shopping on consignment is the simplest and most effective way to get started!
5. Repair and upcycle
A lot of clothing is wasted because it’s thrown out when there’s a small rip or pull. Damage is especially common in lower-quality clothing, like fast fashion. But when you invest in high-quality, timeless pieces, repairing your items can extend their lifespan, reduce waste, and keep your wardrobe flawless.
If the damage is too much, like your pants ripped in half, then consider upcycling them! There are a lot of awesome fashion bloggers out there that focus on DIY fashion, taking old clothing items and giving them new life.
6. Rent and swap
There are a lot of services and subscription services that allow you to rent clothing for a set period of time, or you can swap out old clothing for newer styles. This gets a number of wears and uses out of high quality pieces, while allowing you to get the feeling of fast fashion with hot trends and an “ever-changing wardrobe.”
Learn more about clothing rental services with The Good Trade.
7. Custom and tailored
People tend to spend more money on custom, tailored clothing. This higher price point generally means a higher quality material and cut, and the clothing owner is less willing to toss it in the trash.
Although it reduces waste, custom clothing can be a bit on the pricier side. Plus, you can find gorgeous tailor-fit clothing from top designers on consignment.
Keep in mind that the clothing you wear actually impacts your mindset. Feeling gorgeous in your outfit can actually change your thoughts and behaviors. So throw on clothes that make you look and feel incredible!
Sustainable fashion is about reducing waste and choosing high-quality, well-made pieces.
Buying secondhand is the best way to get involved in sustainable fashion. You’re getting quality pieces and saving them from landfills, while upgrading your wardrobe! Plus, it costs a fraction of what you’d pay to go direct to designers.
Start shopping sustainably with Current Boutique here!