When you think of industries that produce greenhouse gasses, the fashion industry might not come to mind as a major polluter. But the garment sector is among the top contributors to climate change. The United Nations Environmental Programme reports fashion is responsible for 2-8% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
The energy-intensive production process and long supply chain link fashion’s carbon footprint. It is worth noting the textile sector consumes more energy than the aviation and shipping sectors combined. The good news is the fashion community is shifting to sustainable practices to fight climate change. As a consumer, you can promote sustainability in fashion by making more eco-conscious choices.
In this article, you will learn a few simple tips for unlocking sustainable fashion secrets for ethical choices to help your environment.
Prioritize Quality over Quantity
It is normal to want to stay up-to-date with the latest fashion trends. However, this attitude creates excessive consumerism, which leads to overproduction and a waste crisis.
Consumers can address this issue by being selective when choosing outfits. Always prioritize quality and not quantity.
Instead of buying volumes of cheap clothing, opt for fewer, high-quality, and versatile clothes. Consider applying the 30s wear test started by climate activist Livia Firth. When buying an attire, ask yourself if you will wear it at least 30 times. Will it last 30 washes and remain fashionable for six months? If the answer is no, do not purchase it. With fewer high-quality clothes, you can mix and match them to create different stylish looks while reducing your carbon footprint.
Go for Sustainable Brands
Between fashion brands, always choose those that implement ethical practices in their production and supply chains. Ethical brands take proactive steps to protect the environment, like reducing water usage and avoiding hazardous chemicals. They also pay their employees fair wages and maintain transparency across the supply chain.
Beware, not all brands that market their clothing as sustainable are ethical. Therefore, research a brand before placing an order with them. Many brands share how they source materials, their supply chain process, and workplace safety policies on their About Us or FAQs pages. Others will showcase ethical certifications awarded by reputable companies, like Fair Trade, Nest, and B Corporation.
Don’t Think of Clothes as Easy Disposables
Fashionable garments consist of synthetic, non-biodegradable fabrics, like acrylic and polyester. When disposed of in landfills, they release microplastics and hazardous chemicals that leak into water sources. Sometimes, the clothes are burned and emit carbon dioxide.
So, buy clothes with the notion that you want them to stay with you. That way, you can avoid buying outfits you wear once and throw them away. Equally important, take care of the clothes you already have. For instance, repair or upcycle a torn cloth, and refrain from washing regularly. Wash innerwear, socks, and stockings after one wear, but skip washing a dress or shirt you wore for two hours. You can hang it in the closet and wash it after the second wear.
Shop Second-hand or Rent Outfits
Oxfam says the answer to sustainable fashion is second-hand. Buying second-hand clothing can help you look chic while protecting the environment. When you purchase pre-owned clothes, you help textile garments reduce the production of new merchandise.
Another ideal way to avoid buying brand-new clothes is to rent. Fashion rental services allow you to rent clothes for some time at affordable rates. You can buy or rent pre-owned garments from thrift stores, vintage shops, and online resale outlets. To make ethical choices when purchasing or renting second-hand attires, consider the following:
- Quality – Refrain from settling for clothes that are past their lifecycle.
- Type of fabric – opt for clothes made of organic materials.
- Shop for items you need.
- Buy from local thrift stores – doing so eliminates the need to travel long distances, thus reducing your carbon footprint.
Get Rid of Old Clothing Responsibly
Just because your clothes do not bring you joy anymore, do not throw them in the bin. There are several ways you can dispose of them responsibly. For example, donate clothes you do not wear to local shelters or thrift stores. That way, your old clothes will find new life in someone else’s wardrobe.
You could organize a clothing swap party with your friends or family. Swapping clothes is one of the small changes you can make to live more sustainably. You will add more items to your closet without spending money and reduce waste in landfills. Alternatively, resell old, designer, or high-end clothes and accessories in thrift stores or online resale shops.
Buy Trans-seasonal Clothes
Trendy, low-quality fashion pieces will only last one season and end up in landfills. You can support sustainable fashion by choosing trans-seasonal pieces you wear throughout all seasons.
Think of wide-leg and straight-leg denim jeans, cotton t-shirts, classic dresses, timeless trench coats, and jackets. For example, layer your look with a denim jacket during any season. You can roll up your jacket sleeves when it is too hot for a full-on coat and roll them down when it is cold.
Hoodies are also ideal pieces for trans-seasonal dressing. The key to looking fashionable in hoodies is by being intentional with color. For instance, you could pair neutral variants these like brown hoodies from Bella + Canvas with luxury jewelry to achieve a high-end look. You can also style your hoodie by layering it underneath a denim or leather jacket or accessorize it with jewelry, stylish sunglasses, scarves, and hats.
Avoid Clothes made from Synthetic Fabrics
Instead of choosing synthetic fabrics, like polyester, spandex, acrylic, or nylon, select cotton, wool, bamboo, flax, and jute. Artificial materials are by-products of petroleum, a high carbon emission fuel. By wearing natural fabrics, you will reduce the amount of microplastics that find their way into rivers and oceans.
Organic fabrics require less water, and farmers do not apply synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to grow them. When you choose organic materials, you reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides. Other new sustainable fashion materials worth considering are:
- Leather alternatives, like Mylo, Mirum, and Pinate
- Recycled fabrics, such as Circulose and NuCycl
- Bio-based fabrics
Building a sustainable wardrobe is the key to reducing carbon emissions in the fashion industry. Moreover, it is easy to dress sustainably. You only need to change your shopping attitude. For starters, buy second-hand, choose quality over quantity, buy from sustainable brands, and choose natural and organic fabrics. Also, care for your clothes, donate old pieces, and pick trans-seasonal outfits.