As more sustainable brands come to the scene, it is becoming more confusing for consumers to make the right decisions. Here some tips to find out if your favourite fashion brand is truly sustainable!
What is “sustainability” nowadays? Sustainable fashion is most definitely a hot topic that has exponentially grown over the past couple of years, even more so now as we face the challenges of a COVID-19 climate.
Whether it’s as simple as a brand swapping to recycled packaging, or as complex as breaking the cycle of fast fashion and the growth of the secondhand clothing market, I think sustainable fashion refers to not one, but rather many interconnected issues.
That being said, with a plethora of relevant information out there, it can become quite overwhelming for the average consumer. The question is this: What should we look out for when shopping sustainably?
After all, fashion is meant to be a form of expression and reflective of your personality. Meaning, just as every human being is different, fashion, therefore, becomes a unique and different experience for every individual. At its core, fashion is meant to be fun- not to stress you out. So, you can rest easy knowing I’ve broken sustainable fashion down into 5 main criteria for you to consider when shopping.
How do you know whether or not your clothing is sustainable?
What is your clothing made out of? We’re lucky to be living in a day and age where sustainable materials are readily available. Look out for clothing made from natural, rather than synthetic, fibres. Say no to polyester and instead, opt for branding making clothes from recycled nylon or recycled cotton. Recycled materials not only help to reduce water and energy consumption, but also rescue them from ending up in the landfill. There are natural materials such as organic linen and bamboo which have a low environmental impact.
Also, keep your eye out for clothing made from deadstock or upcycled fabric. There’s a big growth in brands helping to combat textile waste by upcycling fabrics into new pieces and therefore maintaining a circular economy.
Did you know that around 35% of materials in the supply chain end up as waste?
#2 A Circular Economy
This has to do with today’s linear clothing life cycle. The process from the minute the fibre is produced, to then being manufactured into clothing, to next reaching the consumer and, finally, to being thrown away or discarded. This process negatively impacts the environment in a multitude of ways including: water waste, fabric waste, carbon emissions, landfill waste and water pollution.
Instead, let’s close the loop and create a circular economy instead. It starts with recycling old clothes and materials, extracting the fibres and re-processing or upcycling them, and designing new clothing. Then comes the fun part, you buy the clothes and wear them. Then, once they’re reached the end of their life, you can dispose of them responsibly, which has become even easier now that many brands have in-store collection points for used or worn-out items. Or even better, you can sell them secondhand to your local thrift store or online through a secondhand platform such as: ThredUp, Poshmark, Grailed, Depop, The RealReal, or Vestiaire Collective.
Remember, the most sustainable option is something you already own. So stop and think before you go and buy something new. Try to buy secondhand or vintage clothes first, then if you’re going to buy new, be sure to look out for the quality, what it’s made from, and where it’s made.
Did you know that fashion is second only to oil as the world’s largest polluter?
#3 Ethical Supply Chain
Who is making your clothes? Ethics come into play when talking about who’s involved in manufacturing clothing. Fashion should always provide fair and equal pay for everyone involved across the supply chain, from farming and harvesting to dyeing to sampling to producing to delivering. Take a look at the brand’s website and see if they mention their manufacturing processes or where the clothing comes from and who is making it. The more transparent they are, the more sustainable the brand. Also, check your clothing tags to see if it’s labeled “fair trade certified”.
Did you know fair trade purchases have sent $740 million to farmers and workers since 1998?
#4 Recycled Packaging
Lastly, another thing that can be considered when deciding if your outfit is sustainable is the actual packaging it comes in. If you shop online, are the boxes from recycled materials, or are they purposely manufactured for the shop? Look out for any packaging that’s recyclable or biodegradable. That means it won’t end up in our oceans or landfills. Glass and paper are much more eco-friendly than plastic. More sustainable brands will oftentimes skip on poly bags and instead wrap their clothing in paper.
If you’re shopping in the store, make an effort to skip the plastic bag and instead use a reusable tote. Sometimes you can even buy one in the store!
Did you know worldwide up to 1 trillion bags are discarded every year?
#5 Giving Back
Does the brand give back to the community or charity in some way? Corporate social responsibility is nothing new, but I’ve noticed many more fashion brands making a larger effort to give back and help protect the environment. For example, 1% for the Planet gives everyone a chance to be a conscious consumer by connecting them with environmental nonprofits all over the world.
I hope you find this guide on what to look out for in a sustainable brand helpful. Whether or not you’re a thrift shopping champion or just starting on your low waste journey, I believe that you’ve already taken the first step by reading this. All it takes to join the conversation is a desire to be a more mindful, conscious consumer. Which of the issues addressed above speaks to you the most? Use that as a starting point to propel you further into living more sustainably and, in turn, helping to save the environment.