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A Quick Guide to Sustainable Fashion (2024)

The adverse effects of global warming, such as deforestation, water scarcity, coral reef destruction, pollution, and intensified natural disasters, are already being felt. If the trend continues, human civilization, and the planet we depend on, will pay a heavy price.

The positive news is that we’re becoming more aware of the importance of using sustainable products and working to reduce our environmental and carbon footprint.

More and more people are looking for ways to live more sustainably, and many have switched to eco-friendly alternatives like wooden products instead of plastic ones, CNG instead petrol and diesel, etc.

However, the fashion industry, the most significant contributor to environmental damage, often does not come to our attention in the same way.

Switching to sustainable and ethical fashion practices will have a huge impact, and is something we can all do quite easily!

This blog is all about sustainable fashion and how you can make it a part of your life:

Five Reasons Why Sustainable Fashion Matters

The fashion industry is hazardous to the environment. It has a massive carbon footprint, depletes water resources, pollutes water bodies, and piles up non-recyclable waste in landfills.

The good news is that sustainable fashion brands are sprouting, letting you stay stylish without affecting the environment. But many are oblivious to such brands. Nevertheless, you can switch to an ethical wardrobe for the following reasons:

1. To Save Natural Resources

Do you know that millions of tonnes of resources, such as oil to create new fibers, fertilizers to cultivate cotton, chemicals to dye the fabric, and so on, are needed to make new clothes every year?

As a result, natural resources are diminishing at an alarming rate and will soon be depleted. Opt for sustainable or recycled clothing to prevent such a scenario. Wearing recycled dresses preserves natural resources and helps cut the levels of garment waste in landfills.

Sustainable fashion - image of a top view of women's clothing items and a sign that says "recycle clothing" on it

2. To Flaunt Your Unique Style

Fast fashion apparel and accessories are made using low-quality materials that fade, tarnish or break quickly. That limits your ability to express your inner personality and uniqueness. Instead, you could consider purchasing long-lasting accessories, such as gemstone ring or pendant set in a genuine metal that will last a lifetime. 

Look for things you love, like a fancy sapphire gemstone and learn where it comes from. Then, check the jeweler’s website to find out what they are doing to minimize the environmental impact of their business. If they’re operating sustainably and using responsibly  sourced materials, splurging on something that will last a lifetime is far outweighs the short-lived benefits of fast fashion and accessories! 

Similarly, buy clothing from companies that promote sustainable fashion. Dress in such clothes and accessories to show off your personality with aplomb while also helping the environment. Conscious fashion doesn’t have to be boring and there are many great brands out there now.

3. To Minimize Your Carbon Footprint

Did you know that nylon, polyester, and acrylic are all manufactured from petroleum and fossil fuels? Also, more energy is consumed, and more greenhouse gases are released throughout the manufacturing process. That, in turn, aggravates the persistent issue of global warming.

Ditch these clothes for those made with natural or repurposed fabrics, such as Tencel, linen, organic cotton, and hemp. These materials need fewer resources, last longer and are biodegradable.

4. To Save Animals from Needless Cruelty

Our fashion preferences like leather coats and belts come at the expense of the lives of innocent animals.

Every year, the fashion industry tortures and kills hundreds of millions of animals. Thankfully, there are fashion brands that rely on cruelty-free practices. You can support such brands to save the environment. Here’s how:

  • For a leather substitute, turn to pineapple leaf goods
  • Embrace recycled polyester and polyester produced from ocean plastic 
  • Purchase silk clothing made from yeast
  • Wear biodegradable shoes made from plants
  • Purchase bio-fabricated vegan woolen textiles

Check out this video by Business Insider to see how waste mangoes can be made into a plant-based alternative to leather:

5. To Ensure Fair Trade and Safe Labor

Do you know the grim reality of textile workers in the fast fashion industry? It promotes modern-day slavery.

Here’s how:

  • Sub-minimum wages
  • Endless working hours
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Prohibition of worker unions
  • Abuse (verbal and physical)
  • Forced or indentured and/or the use of child labor

By purchasing items from firms that practice sustainable, ethical fashion, you will help address such social injustice. 

They provide safe working conditions and pay fair wages. When you wear their clothes and accessories, you will feel amazing knowing where these items came from.

Four Easy to Follow Sustainable Fashion Tips

You may have realized the importance of sustainable fashion by now. You might want to reconsider your wardrobe choices and switch to buying sustainable clothes. Don’t worry. Here are a few tips to assist you:

1. Shop Vintage and Second-Hand

The best way to embrace a sustainable wardrobe is by shopping vintage, pre-loved, and second-hand clothes and accessories. You will not only cut the ecological footprint, but you will also find unique items to jazz up your closet. You’ll find numerous online businesses selling pre-loved goods, making your search easier.

Sustainable fashion - Selection of Vintage cap sleeve dressed on wooden clothes hangers on a rail

2. Read Brand Policies and Values

Read the brand’s values that claim to provide sustainable products before purchasing. Find out how the items are made and under what conditions they are made. Why do all that? Because sustainability is a broad concept that includes more than just purchasing organic materials.

It also entails purchasing from companies that treat their employees fairly and manufacture items in a fair atmosphere. Hence, it is critical to do a background check on any self-proclaimed sustainable brand.

3. Don’t Wash Clothes if They Are Not Dirty.

To be a sustainable fashion consumer, only wash clothes if they are dirty or if you have worn them more than three times. You may let them dry in the sun to prevent them from developing a bad odor.

Laundry not only damages the damages the environment with harsh detergents, but also by consuming water and electricity. So, switch to eco-friendly laundry detergents and save water and energy. Reduce your role in global warming and climate change.

4. Make Conscious Fashion Choices a Habit

  • If you know a friend or relative who is on the same page about sustainable fashion, then offer to swap items with them
  • Reduce the consumption of fast fashion no matter how trendy they seem
  • Repair and upcycle clothes
  • Invest in quality and not quantity
  • Look for brands that are Fair Trade certified
  • Choose organic materials

Questions to Ask on Your Sustainable Fashion Journey

While revamping your wardrobe for sustainable fashion products, ask the seller the following questions:

Is the Brand Certified?

To ensure that the brand follows environmental norms, ethical working conditions, and cruelty-free practices, request third-party certification and license as proof of credibility, fair practices, and durability.

What Materials do they Use for Packaging and Shipping?

Is the business you are purchasing green clothes from also using green packaging? Find out whether the company employs eco-friendly packaging solutions, such as bamboo, recycled cardboard, biodegradable packing peanuts, reused plastic, or other organic packaging materials.

How Do they Deal with Unsold Products?

To understand a brand’s sustainability initiatives, inquire about what they do with unsold items. There will be no problem if people recycle and reuse. However, some brands dispose of unsold inventory by burning it.

Sustainable Fashion - Massive piles of discarded Textile Waste in Bangladesh
Textile waste from the fashion industry in Bangladesh

Such companies also overproduce low-quality clothing that ends up in landfills. As a result, they significantly harm the ecosystem. You wouldn’t want to buy from such companies, would you?

Is the Cost Reasonable?

Yes, sustainable fashion goods are expensive because they require a lot of effort and last for decades. However, it does not imply that you will pay an excessive amount. So, evaluate the clothing quality and ask yourself if it is worth the pocket pinch.

Inquire directly with the brand and request clarification. Or, better yet, do online research and compare pricing from several eco-friendly fashion brands to get a clear idea.

Wrapping Up

I know you are ready to switch to ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion. Start with everyday garments as these are the best way to support green practices. They play an essential part in our everyday lives. Educate yourself and others on the need to embrace sustainable fashion and make a significant difference in the world.

Take a look at this eye-opening video by Journeyman Pictures about Alex James for a deeper understanding of how fast fashion works and how it impacts the environment: 

Alex James is a musician who discovered the unpleasant reality of fast fashion while on tour. He used to get outfits from various brands every day. This caused him to rethink everything about the clothes – the quality of the garments, the conditions under which they are made, and who manufactures them.

He began to look for solutions. Later, he approached activists and designers to develop strategies to minimize the impact of fast fashion on nature. His journey has inspired many, and we hope it will inspire you too!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is fast fashion and why is it bad?

Fast fashion refers to mass produced clothing, shoes and accessories that are made in huge quantities to be sold cheaply and quickly. Most fast fashion is made of synthetic materials, which are made from fossil fuels. They're also often manufactured in ways that create excessive pollution, and are unsafe and exploitative for workers. Fast fashion creates a huge amount of textile waste, which either goes to landfills or is burnt. Read the full guide to learn more about the problem of fast fashion.

What is sustainable and ethical fashion?

Sustainable and ethical fashion items are clothing, shoes and accessories that have been made in ways that reduce their environmental impact, and on humans and animals. Sustainable and ethical fashion can also refer to the ways we use fashion, ways we shop and how we dispose of fashion items. Check out the full guide to learn how to switch to sustainable and ethical fashion.

Can synthetic materials still be considered 'sustainable fashion'?

Yes. When synthetic fabrics are made from recycled materials like recycled polyester fabric or upcycled plastic waste, they can be considered a sustainable fashion choice. This is because they use less resources to make, and are giving a second life to a waste product that would otherwise be causing pollution. Reads the full guide to learn more.

References & Useful Resources

Center for EcoTechnology: The Monster in our Closet: Fast Fashion & Textile Waste on the Rise

Ethical Consumer: What is Fast Fashion and Why is it a Problem?

Environmental Health Journal: The Global Environmental Injustice of Fast Fashion

The Considerate Consumer: Sustainable Fashion Terminology

The Good Trade: What Is Slow Fashion?

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