Almost every day we hear another story about impending environmental disaster: deforestation, water scarcity, and species dying out. Concern for the future of the planet is top concern for many, and people are taking a closer look at the connection between what they’re doing and its impact on the environment. This includes the clothes we wear. The fashion business is, unfortunately, one of the most polluting industries out there. The holiday party season is fast approaching, but no one wants their Christmas outfit ideas to harm the planet. And then there’s other details like jewelry. We’ve all heard about blood diamonds, so does that mean pearl engagement rings are the way to go? Keep reading to learn more about why sustainable fashion is so important.
The first step to understanding fashion is to recognize what goes into it. Creating fashion is a long and complex process. The raw fiber must be produced, dyed, and treated before being manufactured into the finished product. Petroleum is made from polyester, consuming a precious resource that is already in short supply. Cotton is a natural fiber, but because it is often grown in unsuitable climates, farmers shower it (and themselves) with poisonous pesticides. Deadly toxins abound in fabric dyes as well, again compromising workers’ health. As for animal fibers like cashmere and wool, goats and sheep die of exposure from being shorn too early in the season. Mining for gems and gold is a dirty and dangerous business that destroys entire ecosystems. The people who make our clothes often do not earn a living wage, and slave labor and child labor are a sad reality of the fashion industry.
Another component that must be taken into consideration is how much fuel and other resources go into transporting all this fashion to the consumer. Making fashion is called the upstream side. Then there’s also the downstream side to consider: the polyester microfibers that wind up in our drinking water, and the oceans and landfills that are overflowing with single-wear clothes. It is a terrible truth that the equivalent of a truckload of textiles gets incinerated or dumped every single second.
Because sustainability has become a buzzword, fashion makers have been quick to jump on the eco-conscious bandwagon. But are they really changing their practices? Not necessarily. The consumer must be vigilant about unscrupulous marketing practices, aka, greenwashing. Just because an item sports an earth-friendly tag doesn’t mean it has been produced using sustainable processes. Fast fashion is one of the worst offenders, with brands like H&M guilty of making false environmental claims over 90% of the time!
If you really want to do your part for the planet, invest in classic, quality pieces that are made to last and will look beautiful and stylish for years to come. Choose natural, organic fibers over synthetics. And do your research. Read up on how the items you’re considering buying are produced. Third-party verification can help simplify the process. Look for labels like GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), Cradle to Cradle (C2C), and FairTrade Certified.
Another option is to shop consignment. When you buy secondhand, you can find gorgeous designer duds at a fraction of the original cost. Finally, wear what you already own. Every item you keeps out of landfill is a win for the planet.