Sustainable fashion refers to clothing designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in ways that are less harmful to the planet.
But you might be thinking: “Are clothes bad for the planet?”
Unfortunately, the clothing and fashion industry is one of the top producers of waste and carbon emissions worldwide.
According to worldbank.org, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions. That’s more than all the carbon emissions caused by international flights and maritime shipping combined.
And what’s worse? Clothing companies have been using unsustainable materials in producing their product line.
So today, we will take a closer look at the environmental impacts of the fashion industry and why it is imperative that we need to switch to sustainable fashion.
The Hard Truth about the Fashion Industry
For years, companies and businesses in the fashion industry have been practicing fast fashion to maximize profits.
What is fast fashion, you ask?
Contrary to sustainable fashion, fast fashion refers to clothing design, manufacturing, and marketing methods focused on rapidly producing high volumes of products, regardless of their environmental impacts and social impacts.
The result is tons and tons of clothes that are often low quality, made with materials produced with extensive use of chemicals, fertilizers, and water, and manufactured through wasteful processes.
Negative environmental impact of fast fashion to our planet
One of the main materials in our clothes is cotton.
Growing cotton requires the use of toxic chemicals like pesticides and insecticides. Some cotton clothing manufacturing processes even include treating the cotton with toxic chemicals.
This naturally affects the land and the people negatively. For starters, the soil and waterways are polluted, and animals are harmed.
And with fast fashion, this process multiplies at an exponential level and it gets harder and harder to regulate.
Extensive water consumption and water contamination
According to Sustainable Campus, the fashion industry is the second most water-intensive industry in the world.
Imagine that much water consumption, plus the pollution it does to our water reserve.
How long will it take until there’s no more clean water for the animals? Worse, how much longer until no more clean water is left for our daily consumption?
If we don’t act now, it might be sooner than we expect.
As an example, the Aral Sea, which was once one of the largest lakes in the world, has already dried up because of cotton farming.
Fast fashion creates tons of textile waste
Textile waste refers to cloth trimmings and scraps from production, including some actual finished products and garments that didn’t sell.
Believe it or not, many clothing factories have mountains of textile wastes piling in their warehouses, and most of which are then disposed of improperly.
Where does textile waste go?
They are either sent to landfills or burnt, both methods are harmful to the planet.
Most modern fabrics used in fast fashion also contain plastic and synthetic fibers thatdoesn’t decompose, therefore, causing chemical pollution as well.
In 2018 alone, 17 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfills!
Fast fashion is a leading contributor to global warming and climate change
All of the things mentioned above contribute to the climate change which we are currently experiencing in our lifetime.
As you may already know, the main cause of climate change is the emissions of greenhouse gasses, mostly methane and carbon.
And as we just discussed, fast fashion is one of the main generators of these harmful gasses that lead to global warming.
Global warming is just the beginning. As the world heats up, it will cause unstable and extreme weather changes, wildfires, sea-level rise, and many more.
So what is the solution? Us, the consumers, switching to sustainable fashion as soon as possible.
Why is Sustainable Fashion Important
The importance of sustainable fashion is becoming more apparent as the horrifying effects of fast fashion are becoming rampant.
While fast fashion is killing Mother Earth, sustainable fashion is designed to protect our environment.
Here’s why sustainable fashion is important for the survival of our planet and the next generations.
Sustainable fashion minimize textile waste
Many businesses have already started to shift to creating sustainable fashion and clothing.
There are also some companies and initiatives that are collecting old clothing and textile wastes, using them as materials to create new products instead of sending them to landfills.
Sustainable fashion also encourages the usage of materials that are long-lasting, recyclable, and compostable.
Sustainable fashion reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions
By reducing waste from landfills, we are also reducing greenhouse gasses emissions.
Waste from landfills produces Methane gas, one of the most lethal GHGs, due to the anaerobic process of biodegradation.
GHGs are also present even before clothes are created. It is produced through conventional farming of clothing materials with the use of toxic chemicals.
Sustainable fashion aims to have a carbon-neutral fashion industry through responsible material production, sourcing and recycling.
Sustainable fashion helps conserve water
Sustainable fashion standards require the use of natural, organic, and biodegradable materials which don’t require less water (or none at all) during clothing production.
Moreover, these clothing materials weren’t grown using pesticides and insecticides so it doesn’t contaminate freshwater.
Companies that practice sustainable fashion also include a “water-on-budget” policy in their production to supervise the use of water in their manufacturing factories.
Sustainable fashion is good for wildlife
Ecological integrity is one of the sustainable fashion campaigns. Supporting natural raw materials as resources also means keeping the balance and the biodiversity of an area.
To police these goals, there are existing textile certifications from third-party entities to make sure that a fashion brand is following sustainable practices.
Sustainable fashion establish fair work ethics
Fast fashion works on a fast-paced production in poor working conditions with less cost and underpaid workers. There are also many cases of child labor.
This just shows how some fashion brands are not concerned with workers nor the environment. They are more into profit.
Sustainable fashion, however, prioritizes fair trade and appropriate work ethics.
Because of these, workers are paid fair wage and are given the opportunity to work in ethical fashion production processes.
Furthermore, many sustainable fashion brands that practice sustainable fashion share their success with people and the environment by starting campaigns for positive change that benefit those who are in need.
Sustainable fashion encourages creativity
Some of the companies that practice sustainable fashion use recycled and upcycled materials to create their products.
With upcycling and recycling, fashion designers are thinking outside of the box to make something new out of an old product or waste materials.
Sustainable fashion not just helps reduce waste in landfills but also improves the ability of workers to develop new ways and better fashion ideas.
What to Look for in Sustainable Fashion Products
There are a few things you’ll need to watch out for to make sure the clothes you are buying are made sustainably.
Here are some of them:
Made with Eco-Friendly Materials
Check the materials used in creating your products. Make sure that they came from a natural sources, or made with organic materials and are untreated with chemicals.
Look for third-party certifications on the clothing you are planning to purchase. Some of the gatekeepers of sustainable fashion are GOTS, OEKO-TEX, and Fair Trade.
These entities make sure that clothing and garments are made with the benefit of the environment in mind and undergoes a sustainable production and manufacturing process.
Opt to buy high-quality and durable clothing. While they might be a little expensive, they will have a longer life cycle with proper care, which in turn will save you money in the long run and minimize waste.
Different Types of Sustainability Approach in Fashion
While switching to sustainable fashion is an ultimate goal all of us must partake, we’re not telling you to throw away your old clothes and shop for new clothing produced in the most sustainable manner.
No. Keep using your old clothes, but when the time comes that you will buy new ones, opt for eco-friendly clothing.
Besides buying eco-friendly clothes, here are other sustainable fashion examples:
Recycle, upcycle and redesign old clothes
We all have old piece of clothing collecting dust in our closet. But the question is, what do you do with yours?
The most eco-friendly thing to do with your old clothes to achieve a sustainable fashion style is to find ways to upcycle/recycle old clothing.
You can either donate them, sell them in thrift shops for other people to use, give them as gift, or make new items out of them.
Rent clothes for events
Instead of buying new clothes for a party or a special event like a wedding, why not rent?
This way, you will be able to save money and prevent buying clothes that you’ll never probably use again.
Swap clothes with friends
Got a lot of clothes you’re not using anymore? See if you have friends or relatives that are interested in cloth swaps.
Buy vintage or second hand clothes
Buying preloved or vintage clothes from thrift stores is a great way to save money and help reduce textile waste. Imagine if no one buys preloved or vintage clothes, they’ll probably all end up in landfills.
Sustainability in the fashion and textile industry is a thing we should take seriously today.
Fast fashion has done so much harm to our planet already, and it’s up to us to take action to mitigate the damages it has done to Mother Earth.
And we hope that through this article, you now have a better idea what is sustainable fashion and why we must support this movement for the welfare of our planet and for the future generations of the human race.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is meant by sustainability in fashion?
Sustainable fashion means finding ways to help minimize the environmental impact of the fashion industry, whether by buying eco-friendly clothing, recycling/upcycling old clothes, and other ways of supporting the sustainable fashion movement.
What is sustainable clothing made of?
Sustainable clothing, or eco-friendly clothing, are made with natural fibers and organic materials such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo lyocell, and other eco-friendly fabrics.