Each year, 13.1 million tons of clothing are discarded in the United States alone. That is correct! You can only image how much waste is discarded globally.
Clothes have devolved into cheap disposable things as a result of rapid fashion and low-wage manufacturing prospects in developing countries. We retain them for one season and then replace them with a new wardrobe.
While following new trends is stylish, it comes at a cost. The textile industry’s synthetic chemicals and dyes contribute over 20% of industrial water contamination. Additionally, a large amount of water is wasted throughout the clothing manufacturing process. For example, cotton production consumes 2.6 percent of the world’s water.
The harm does not stop with the environment. Clothing factory workers face appalling working conditions and earn next to nothing.
Each year, millions of our beloved creatures are slaughtered for their fur and skin.
This is only a few of the reasons why we must embrace sustainable fashion. Sustainable apparel allows you to appear fashionable while also benefiting the environment, people, and animals.
Sustainability issues in the fashion industry
The fashion sector raises a slew of challenges. Consider the following examples of the most significant ones:
After the oil business, the fashion industry is the second largest polluter on the planet.
The fashion industry continues to wreak havoc on the environment on a daily basis. The majority of garment companies discharge untreated hazardous effluent directly into rivers.
This form of garbage contains a variety of substances, including lead, mercury, and arsenic. These chemicals pose a serious threat to aquatic life. Additionally, they contribute to a slew of health concerns for the millions of people who live near those rivers’ banks.
Not only are toxic compounds created during the manufacturing process, but also throughout production. Cotton fertilizers substantially pollute runoff and evaporation waters, contributing to global water contamination.
And, since the fashion industry continues to pollute water, it is also a significant consumer of freshwater. Tons of freshwater are used in the dyeing and finishing of our garments.
Additionally, the global fashion business is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of synthetic fibers used in our clothing, such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon, are derived from fossil fuels. These fibers need significantly more energy to manufacture than natural fibers.
Related: What Is Fast Fashion?
While the fashion business may boast about creating thousands of jobs worldwide, the annual wages offered to workers are far from impressive.
The majority of clothing firms manufacture their garments in third world nations where labor is cheap, and even when they pay workers the minimum wage, it is insufficient to fulfill their basic necessities.
To keep costs down, large fashion labels frequently shift their manufacturing operations to Third World nations, where everyone willing to labor, including children, is hired.
Due to these countries’ high levels of poverty, children are compelled to labor in order to contribute to the family budget.
For example, in South India, a program employs 250,000 girls from impoverished families in textile factories for three or five years in exchange for a minimal wage and a lump sum payment to cover their dowry.
As is the case with the majority of child laborers, these girls are overworked and live in appalling conditions. Additionally, they are denied their fundamental right to education.
Worker health and safety
Along with low earnings, fashion industry employees work in hazardous conditions that endanger their health.
The majority of apparel manufacturing facilities are created sloppily and cheaply. Typically, personnel operate without ventilation, ingest harmful compounds, and breathe fiber dust or blasting sand.
Additionally, workers are exposed to pesticides, lead-based dyes, and chemical poisoning over an extended period of time, putting them at risk for respiratory ailments, poor memory, seizures, and excessive depression and palpitation, among other conditions.
Animal cruelty is a major issue in the fashion business. Animals are subjected to torment in exchange for their fur, skin, or hide. These creatures are grown and slaughtered in captivity for their skin and hide. Snakes and crocodiles are grown solely for their skin, which is used to produce shoes, handbags, and other accessories.
Each year, millions of fish die as a result of water pollution caused by pesticides used in cotton production and dyes used in textile processing.
Related: Fast Fashion Facts
What is sustainable & ethical fashion?
Sustainable fashion has a negligible environmental impact.
According to Green Strategy, “sustainable fashion” is described as “clothing, shoes, and accessories that are created, sold, and utilized in the most sustainable manner possible, taking both environmental and socioeconomic factors into account.”
Ethical fashion is concerned with sourcing, manufacturing, and designing clothing in a way that optimizes advantages to the industry and society as a whole while reducing adverse effects on the environment, people, and animals.
Thus, sustainable and ethical fashion encourages morally sound and acceptable practices in the manufacture and sale of clothing. This entails making prudent and efficient use of natural resources such as water, land, and soil. Indeed, the usage of renewable energy sources is preferred.
Additionally, sustainable fashion assures the most ethical working conditions feasible on the field, in factories, throughout transportation, and in stores.
Related article: Sustainable Living.
How can I be more environmentally friendly when buying clothes?
Increase your knowledge
Adopting ethical fashion is only achievable and simple if you are aware of what it requires. Therefore, conduct research to determine what sustainable fashion is, why it is critical, how to get started, and where/what to shop.
Conduct research on your preferred brands to determine their stance on sustainability and ethical fashion. Are they making a concerted effort to incorporate sustainability principles into their manufacturing processes? Are they ethical in their material procurement and treatment of employees? Are they involved in initiatives or projects that promote employee development, as well as environmental and animal protection?
Additionally, seek for certifications and badges indicating that firms have adhered to particular ethical standards.
Embrace second-hand clothing
Reusing clothing is an excellent technique to promote sustainability in the fashion business. Rather than purchasing new clothing, which pushes businesses to make more, try purchasing used clothing.
You can purchase used clothing at vintage/secondhand clothing businesses or accept stuff that has been passed down or traded between friends and relatives.
Secondhand clothing is inexpensive, distinctive, and even vintage, and cannot be found elsewhere. Clothing exchanges with friends and family members can also be quite enjoyable. Bring your buddies together and exchange clothing that you no longer require or wear. Often, you’ll find more variety and higher quality than you’ll find in most retailers’ high-priced, low-quality clothing.
The majority of thrift retailers contribute a portion of their revenues to charity. Thus, by purchasing secondhand clothing, you are indirectly supporting a good cause.
Invest in high-quality, ethical apparel
Every now and then, there will be something you require that you cannot purchase or obtain secondhand.
When shopping for new clothing, choose brands that adhere to strict ethical standards and encourage sustainability.
Second, invest in high-quality clothing that will last for years and will not go out of style in a matter of seasons. This manner, you will avoid having to replace them after a few uses.
Make prudent fabric selections
Certain fabrics are significantly more environmentally friendly and sustainable than others. Learn about the many fabrics available and their impact on the environment.
Recognize the origins of these materials so that while shopping for clothing, you can choose ethical and ecological fabrics.
Make an investment in trans-seasonal clothing
Fast fashion is frequently fueled by a desire to dress appropriately for each season. We want to have summer dresses, spring jeans, and winter boots, among other things. This requires you to replace your apparel when the seasons change.
To avoid this type of wasteful purchasing, purchase only clothing things that you know will work for you throughout the year, regardless of the season. Purchasing an entire summer clothing each year will be wasteful if you live in a cold, wet city.
Rather than that, choose for timeless pieces such as jeans, T-shirts, classic dresses, timeless coats, and jackets.
Take care of the clothes you already own to prolong their life
If you get high-quality clothing, it is more likely that it will last longer, and if you take care of it properly, it will last even longer.
Take appropriate care of your clothing and you will avoid having to replace them on a regular basis. Store cashmere properly, wash denim inside out, and do anything else you can to guarantee your items last longer.
This is beneficial not only to the environment, but also to your wallet.
Either learn how to fix clothing on your own or hire a professional tailor
There is no reason to discard a dress simply because the zipper has broken or the slit has ripped. Learn how to repair it and, if you are unable or lack the time to do so, hire an expert.
Do not use the absence of a button as an excuse to purchase something new. Simply because something is broken does not mean it belongs in the trash; repair it.
Prioritize the quality of your work over the quantity
Purchasing high-quality, ethical clothing may cost significantly more than purchasing a low-priced high-street item. It is, nevertheless, worthwhile in the long run. It’s preferable to have a single thing that will last years rather than three that will last only a few months.
Purchasing ten high-quality goods per year, rather than sixty lower-quality, less eco-friendly items, will significantly minimize your carbon footprint. Therefore, conserve money, purchase fewer products, and invest in high-quality items.
Donate your outgrown clothing
I’m fairly certain you have a suitcase stuffed with clothes you no longer wear in your closet. Or a section of your closet filled with clothes you haven’t looked at in a long time. Rather than piling them up there, give them to someone in need.
Donating your unwanted clothing to a worthwhile cause encourages other people to purchase secondhand clothing, which in turn encourages more people to promote sustainable fashion.
Additionally, to keep your clothing clutter-free, adhere to the one-in, one-out rule. Therefore, if you purchase something, donate something from your wardrobe.
Where to buy sustainable clothing
More and more firms are paying attention to and emphasizing the importance of providing sustainable products. It’s currently somewhat easier to locate stunning ethical fashion goods that you’ll adore. Five of our favorite ethical fashion brands include the following:
Everlane is dedicated to providing you with ethically sourced apparel that you can wear all year. With Everlane clothes, you can quickly transform everyday essentials into bright, fashionable design statements that will stand out in any season.
PACT clothing is produced in full accordance with fair trade principles. PACT’s gear ranges from leggings to undergarments, tees to hoodies, and will leave the entire family looking and feeling fabulous. Their apparel is considered to be extremely durable.
ThredUp is the go-to shop for a new sustainable wardrobe that won’t break the bank. ThredUp is an online thrift store that offers up to 90% off select items. The brand sells garments from ethical fashion brands at extremely low pricing. Each piece of clothing is rigorously inspected to ensure it is in pristine condition prior to reselling.
4. People Tree
When it comes to fair trade clothes, People Tree, based in the United Kingdom, is a pioneer. The brand’s whole collection of clothes is created entirely of eco-friendly and organic textiles. Additionally, the company adheres to strict fair trade policies. People Tree’s attire is elegant, timeless, and seasonless.
Are you looking for comfortable, fashionable eco-friendly tees and sweatshirts? Take a look at Kotn. The tees are crafted from Egyptian cotton that is very soft, fine, breathable, and sustainable. The brand’s items are casual enough to wear on a daily basis. Along with making environmentally sustainable products, Kotn ensures that its employees receive fair and equitable compensation and work in a safe environment.
Related article: Sustainable Fashion Brands
Which fabrics are the most sustainable?
All fabrics are not created equal. Certain chemicals are extremely hazardous to the environment and should be avoided at all costs. When shopping for sustainable clothes, be sure to inquire about the fabric used to create the garment.
The following are a few of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable fabrics:
While cotton is a naturally biodegradable material, it is also one of the most environmentally damaging fabrics. It requires a lot of water to grow and the majority of people use hazardous pesticides. Always choose organic cotton when shopping for cotton apparel. This form of cotton is grown without the use of pesticides, resulting in less harm to employees and neighboring flora and fauna.
Hemp is unquestionably one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable fabrics available. It’s breathable, toasty, wicks away moisture, and is antimicrobial. Hemp also has a long lifespan and, in fact, becomes softer with each wash and usage. Hemp is biodegradable and requires little water to produce, making it an extremely sustainable crop.
Linen is an excellent biodegradable, environmentally friendly textile derived from flax. It is extremely resilient, breathable, light, absorbent, antibacterial, and mothproof.
Bamboo has grown in popularity as a fabric due to its incredible properties. Bamboo is a simple plant to grow and grows quickly, making it easy to replace. It lasts a long time, is naturally antimicrobial, repels odors, is non-abrasive, and extremely soft.
Many people adore nylon, particularly for swimwear. However, it is derived from oil and is composed of plastic fiber. Fortunately, recycled nylon is an excellent ecological substitute. Due to the fact that recycled nylon is composed of recycled plastic, it is ideal for sustainable bikinis, rainwear, and other goods.
Peace silk is ethically obtained silk that is mindful of the silkworms’ welfare. Normal silk is produced by boiling silkworm cocoons with the worms still inside. However, with peace silk, silkworms are allowed to mature into moths and then their empty cocoons are retrieved to generate peace silk. Peace silk is beautiful because it is cruelty-free and has the same sparkle and gloss as conventional silk.
Wool is another natural fiber that is naturally produced by sheep, goats, and alpacas. It’s really toasty, of superior quality, and biodegradable. When purchasing wool products, make certain that the firms you support practice cruelty-free manufacturing and produce their garments sustainably.
Related article: Sustainable Fabrics
Which fabrics are the most harmful to the environment?
- Elastane (aka Spandex or Lycra)
What makes these fabrics among the worst is that they are created from fossil fuels mined from the ground in an environmentally destructive method. Additionally, fossil fuels are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, resulting in air pollution.
Additionally, these materials shed microfibres when laundered, and once discarded, they take hundreds of years to disintegrate.
Is clothing harmful to the environment?
Not all clothing is environmentally harmful. What makes garments awful is the way the materials are sourced and the working conditions in which they are created.
Some of the materials used to make clothing are sourced in ways that have a negative impact on the environment, such as using pesticides and/or excessive amounts of water to grow them, consuming excessive amounts of energy to process them, or even requiring the destruction of trees and the slaughter of animals to make them.
Another reason why clothing is detrimental for the environment is that it generates garbage. Nowadays, people buy more garments than they need and discard them at an alarming rate, to the point where our landfills are overflowing with clothing. The majority of these garments are made of non-recyclable materials that take hundreds of years to disintegrate.
Read more: Fashion Waste Statistics
However, there are businesses and brands who are sincerely committed to removing these harmful concerns caused by clothing through the adoption of ethical and sustainable fashion.
As individuals, we can also make changes to our shopping and dressing habits to have a less negative influence on the environment.