Why Should You Support Sustainable Fashion?
With so many problems going on these days - climate change, plastic pollution, deforestation, loss of coral reefs & biodiversity, water scarcity, just to name a few - the fashion industry is not necessarily top of mind for most people as either a problem or solution.
Unfortunately, we have got some bad news for you - the clothing industry is dirty and a significant contributor to environmental & human damage.
The good news is that sustainable fashion addresses many of these issues in ways you may not expect.
The fashion industry is known as one of the most polluting industries in the world.
Making a conscious decision to shop with sustainable and ethical brands will make a difference to the planet and its people.
Luckily, as our consumption has increased, so has our interest in being better consumers.
A study published in Forbes Magazine found that 87% of Americans surveyed said they would be interested in buying products with social and environmental benefits if given a chance.
So, across the board, shoppers are looking for companies to do more to protect the world we live in.
What exactly is sustainable fashion?
To sum it up, the sustainable fashion movement aims to create ethically made and environmentally friendly clothing.
Sounds simple, right?
How often do you hear the term sustainability? We bet not as much as you should be, especially within the fashion industry. Sustainable fashion is also called slow fashion.
The term is used for fashion products that are manufactured and produced with eco-friendly materials in an ethical way.
In other words, it's environmentally and socially responsible, conscious and accountable for every piece of fashion product released into the world.
In the fashion industry, there is a vast comparison in products created a decade ago VS today. Sustainable fashion brands are making their fashion items with environmental friendliness in mind.
They use all-natural and organic fabrics like cotton, wool, silk, bamboo and cashmere.
Do you see any harmful impact on the environment and nature caused by the use of these materials? Textile recycling experts are answering that with a NO!
With a great turn of events, sustainable fashion has become a necessity and a trend.
To this day, fashion brands tend to reduce their carbon footprint and any other environmental issue starting from production to the ending point of selling to the consumers.
Do you know what's great? Awareness for sustainability is following. People are becoming eco-conscious with their purchasing and the type of clothes they buy.
The ultimate target is to have a system that works without any adverse effects on the planet.
The problem is, being "ethical" tends to go hand-in-hand with profit loss, so brands and companies are reluctant to do it.
The only way they will switch is if consumers start only buying ethically, forcing them to change their practices or lose business.
Why is sustainable fashion so important?
It may surprise you to learn that the fashion industry is one of the world's biggest polluters.
In fact, the industry is second only to oil when it comes to pollution, responsible for 20% of global industrial water pollution.
On top of that, textile mills use 20,000 chemicals, many carcinogenic, to make clothes.
Most of those clothes are made from plastic, creating a catastrophe in the making with microfibres in our oceans.
For the people who make these garments, sustainable fashion also means better working conditions, fairer pay, and fewer illegal sweatshops.
Fast fashion has always been one of the biggest culprits in the industry. To meet demands for new styles and trends, clothes along with high fashion dupes are cheaply made.
Let's consider this process of making a shirt as an example: A cotton t-shirt is to be sold at a competitive price. The cotton gets picked, spinned, weaved, dyed, then finally sewn and finished.
Can you imagine how many workers it takes to pull off the job? At some point, a child can be among the workers, being in an unsafe environment and paid a non-livable wage. For fast fashion to sell you this cotton t-shirt at the lowest price, they have to pay an extremely low cost to make it. Now, answer us: Why does sustainable fashion matter?
It is crucial to shop green and know the origin of every item or product you buy. Sustainable fashion not only focuses on the materials but the process of reaching the final product.
That's how the term "Traceability" was created to help buyers learn more about their clothes. In addition, sustainable fashion is helping improve ethical trade and labour laws.
The Fair-Trade Act is implemented to ensure fair, safe and ethical working conditions and manufacturing. It also ensures that companies invest more in protecting and caring for their employees.
The only way to break this cycle of death, destruction, and pollution is to aim for sustainability.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sustainable Fashion
Why is sustainability so important?
Sustainability improves the quality of our lives, protects our ecosystem and preserves natural resources for future generations.
Going green and sustainable is not only beneficial for the company; it also maximizes the benefits from an environmental focus in the long term.
Is slow fashion sustainable?
Slow fashion is about quality instead of quantity—garments that can last years or even a lifetime. Slow fashion is sustainable and doesn't view products as disposable.
Slow fashion is ethical and looks at the connections between things—raw materials, the environment, human labour, etc.
How do you define sustainability?
Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In addition to natural resources, we also need social and economic resources. Sustainability is not just environmentalism.
Why is sustainable fashion expensive?
Cutting corners allows businesses to make a lot of items quickly and sell more at a lower price point.
The alternative—having a sustainable supply chain—means producing less and selling at a higher price point. So much harm is behind the price tag of unethically made items.
The Problem: Fast Fashion
Fast fashion strives to make trendy clothes as quickly and cheaply as possible.
However, while shoppers may enjoy the wide selection of inexpensive items that are churned out almost weekly, there's a whole lot of hidden costs beneath than $2.99 price tag.
Take your average t-shirt. Perhaps the shirt is 100% cotton. It's natural. How bad can it be?
Conventional cotton production requires an incredible amount of resources. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, it can take up to 2,700 litres of water to produce a single cotton t-shirt.
To put that into perspective, that's two and a half years of drinking water.
To protect conventional cotton crops, farmers cover the plants with toxic insecticides.
The cotton industry accounts for 16% of the world's pesticide consumption.
With all the resources required to produce conventional cotton, it's no wonder many fast-fashion retailers have embraced cheaper synthetic fabrics.
So it's more likely than not that our t-shirt is a blend of cotton and a synthetic fabric like polyester.
It may use less water, but synthetic fabrics are derived from harmful fossil fuels.
According to Forbes, nearly 70 million barrels of oil are needed each year to satisfy fast fashion's demand for this harmful material.
The damage doesn't stop with production.
One of the biggest issues with cheaply made clothes is that they're, well, cheap. But, on the other hand, fast fashion products are meant to be poorly made, so you have to replace them in a few months.
According to Newsweek, Americans throw away an average of 80 lbs of clothing every year.
This is where materials become a real issue. While cotton is natural and will decompose fairly quickly, polyester won't. It can take up to 200 years for polyester to fully decompose.
So why is fast fashion bad?
Honestly, there are millions of reasons, but we think they can be broken into three main areas; the fabric and environmental impact of production, the people who make your clothes, and the societal norm of overconsumption.
To briefly explain:
- Planet: The majority of fabrics made worldwide are made from synthetic materials derived from oil. This is a non-renewable resource and has a heavy environmental footprint. Other issues can involve water-intensive production and toxic dyes that pollute waterways.
- People: Far too often, brands chase after the lowest product price, not ensuring safe and ethical practices for all workers involved. This results in enforced, unpaid overtime, minimum wage not being paid and workplaces that are not safe
- Overconsumption: Clothing production has doubled since 2000, with the demand for new clothes exponentially increasing, consumers buying new clothes faster, but keeping them for only half as long, resulting in excess clothing being sent to landfill
It's no wonder that we, as customers, are becoming increasingly concerned with how our clothes are being made and demanding change.
There needs to be an overhaul in the way we consume clothes and the types of brands we support, shifting our focus from the brands that create the cheapest clothing to those who have transparent supply chains and are making improvements within their fabrics, people, and packaging, ensuring they're making clothes to last, not just for the season.
What makes clothes sustainable?
Companies can't just say their packaging is made from recyclable materials, so, therefore, they are a sustainable brand. But, unfortunately, it doesn't work like that.
Sustainable fashion permeates every aspect of the industry.
From the farms where the cotton is grown, which is eventually weaved into the fabric, to the treatment of animals that are sheared for their wool, sustainable fashion is only sustainable if every part of the process is accountable.
Stopping fast fashion doesn't mean we have to give up buying clothes; we simply need to be better buyers.
The sustainable fashion movement focuses on creating products that are ethically made and environmentally friendly.
When trying to figure out if a brand is sustainable, it's good to ask these two questions: Is it good for its workers? Is it good for the planet?
When shopping sustainably, you want to buy from companies that ensure living wages for all workers. In addition, companies should guarantee they don't rely on child labour or slave labour. It's also a good idea to see if this company has a fair-trade certification, or something comparable, to help ensure workers are being protected.
As to the environmental impacts, look for brands that use sustainable fabrics and manufacturing methods. When it comes to sustainable shopping, it's about quality, not quantity. Well made items will give you a better bang for your buck and are much less likely to end up in a landfill after a few wears.
A big thing to look out for when shopping sustainably is greenwashing. Greenwashing is a term to describe a company that attempts to appear sustainable while failing to meet the above criteria.
Transparency is a great way to hold companies accountable. If they're plastering their ads with eco-friendly buzzwords but don't want to tell you how their jackets are made, it's time to look somewhere else.
As a rule of thumb, if a pair of shorts cost less than your morning cup of coffee, there's no way they were sustainably made.
According to the UN Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, sustainable development is "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
The only clothing that is made from environmentally friendly materials uses natural resources responsibly and does not hurt anyone in the process – it can be considered sustainable fashion.
Why Support Sustainable fashion?
It's better for the planet.
The fast fashion industry leaves behind a huge environmental footprint. From the landfill impact and power and water consumption to the pesticides and insecticide used in growing cotton and the chemicals that are making their way into the water supply and affecting the health of those in the supply chain, it's safe to say fast fashion is a real problem for the environment.
However, in choosing sustainable fashion, you can say no to supporting the negative environmental impact that the fashion industry is causing, and in turn, reduce your own environmental footprint.
A study from 2015 shows that 97% of what goes into making clothes are new resources, with only 3% of it being recycled materials.
This adds up to an annual resource input of 98 million tons – including oil to produce synthetic fibres, fertilisers to grow cotton and an endless list of chemicals needed to dye & finish fabric.
Recycled fibres have proven to be a much more sustainable option, as they reduce pressure on virgin resources and tackle the growing problem of waste management.
As a reference, for every 10,000 tons of ECONYL® raw material used for our swimwear, 70,000 Barrels of Oil & 57,100 tons of Co2 are saved compared to the production of virgin nylon.
Sustainable Fashion Saves Animal Lives
This may not be news for you, but the fashion industry loves to kill for fashion. A common misconception is that leather, for instance, is a by-product of the meat industry.
However, this is not always the case. It's estimated that the leather industry alone is slaughtering and killing over 430 million animals per year.
Not going into more detail here as it's a topic for itself, but if you wish to educate yourself more on animal suffering in the fashion industry. PETA has a plethora of articles on this topic.
Sustainable fashion brands have started to embrace the use of cruelty-free alternatives increasingly, and there's one for nearly every piece of fashion materials - polyester made with trash from the oceans (sounds familiar, doesn't it?), bags created from recycled seatbelts, plant-based compostable sneakers, silk created from yeast, and bio-fabricated vegan wool.
But one of the most demanded leather alternatives these days comes from pineapples. The fabric is produced using the leaves of pineapples in the harvesting process, giving by-product waste a new purpose.
Sustainable Fashion Supports Fairer & Safer Working Conditions
Believe it or not, but modern-day slavery does exist. Minimum wages (if at all), endless working hours, unacceptable health & safety conditions and the prohibition of workers unions is what reality for most garment workers in the fast fashion sector looks like.
Moreover, verbal and physical abuse is still common practice in many parts of the industry.
A few informative documentaries exist on the social injustices of the fast fashion industry. Check out "The True Cost" or "Fashion Factories Undercover" to learn more about it.
Eco-ethical brands advocate for providing humane working conditions, health care and fair wages for their workers, which are typically above average. Generally, they show a larger purpose towards creating economic opportunities for those in need to end poverty.
We all want to feel great about our clothes, which includes knowing under what conditions they were made.
The well-being of people involved is just as valuable as the environment and animals.
Sustainable Fashion Teaches Us How To Love Our Clothes Again
It is just so easy to look at a gorgeous, finished piece of clothing in a store and forget that there's a story and lifecycle behind it.
The truth is, we are detached because the industry encourages us to be so. But being aware of all the downsides of this industry will hopefully lead to more conscious consumerism.
One that is planet, animal & people friendly.
It's time to recognise the impact of our buying decisions, not as an inconsequential part of our modern lifestyles that changes with every season, but as an environmental and human responsibility that could greatly affect the future of our planet.
At the end of the day, we can choose if we want to be part of the problem or part of the solution and to quote Anne Lappe, "Every time you spend money, you cast a vote for the kind of world you want".
The Effects of Fast Fashion
You've heard us use this term a lot, fast fashion.
Sure its name can give you a hint. But allow us to explain what it actually means.
Fast fashion is a term used to refer to inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by retailers in response to the latest trends.
People often look for well-known brands to keep up with the latest styles and fashion trends by purchasing products at a reasonable price. As a result, consumers just buy whatever they want without paying attention to what they're wearing, where it was made, and how it was made.
Therefore, everything comes with a price. Let's look at some numbers:
- Studies show 150,000,000,000 pieces of clothing are made each year.
- Used clothing thrown in landfills ends up to be around 2500,000,000 pounds each year.
- The textile industry produced 2,100,000 tons of CO2 emissions.
- One t-shirt needs 700 gallons of water to produce.
- The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the world's total carbon footprint.
- Approximately 76% of companies don't know the type of woven, knit or dyed fabric.
- 93% of companies don't know the origins of the raw materials used in cloth-making.
Hasn't there been enough damage? The excessive use of water consumption, negative carbon footprint and use of harmful chemicals and materials continue to this day.
With that being said, consumers are becoming more aware and informed of the future effects.
Both fashion brands and buyers are evolving and paying more attention to the tiniest details regarding the origin of materials and the quality of eco-friendly clothes.
Consumers hold so much power, by choosing to purchase clothing made from sustainable fabrics or businesses that have ethical practices, you're casting a vote for the type of world you'd like to see, you can boycott brands who aren't up to scratch and jump into their inbox to let them know why you will no longer be supporting them.
And this adds up and forces brands to make a change.