A Guide to Sustainable Style
Nov 02, 2023 11:04 PM EDT
Credit : cottonbro studio from Pexels
Over the last few years, consumers have become increasingly aware of key social and environmental issues affecting multiple industries, including fashion and clothing. With more access than ever to information about sustainability and ethical practices, dressing mindfully has become a key topic of conversation in the fashion world.
While this is positive in terms of keeping consumers informed, the influx of consumer-directed news on sustainability topics can leave people unsure as to how they can make a difference—while many others assume it is either too expensive or complicated. That said, it's worth noting that even if you use just one of these fashion sustainability tips—it all counts.
1. Textile Choices
While there's no such thing as a completely sustainable textile, some are better than others. To meet demand for more eco-friendly fabrics, many brands have recently made changes to textile production methods, offering responsibly sourced lines such as recycled cotton and bamboo clothing for women, men, and children.
That said, even some "natural" fabrics, such as plant-based rayon (viscose) and conventional cotton, can negatively affect the environment, so to be sure which is which, it's worth doing your research first: many environmental non-profits offer comprehensive lists of sustainable fabrics on their websites.
2. Buy Sustainable, High-Quality Items
The maxim of "quality over quantity" applies to fast-fashion brands, whose stock is often made of poorly constructed items made using unsustainable materials. Purchasing five cheap tee shirts may appear cost-effective at first glance, but in the long run, it's less effective than buying one or two quality items.
Most of us have faced the disappointment of buying a garment, only to face problems such as loose buttons or shapelessness after a single wash. Here are seven ways to tell whether a garment is of good quality:
1. Thickness equals durability: check your garment by holding it up to the light.
2. You can also test this by gently pulling and releasing the fabric to see if it holds its shape.
3. If the fabric pattern matches at the seams, this shows the item has been sewn with care.
4. Gently pull the seams to see that the threads holding the garment together are secure.
5. If spare buttons are included, this is another good sign.
6. All buttons should also fit their buttonholes properly without slipping or becoming stuck.
7. Ideally, zippers should be made from metal (rather than plastic). Check for a YKK mark.
3. Beware Greenwashing
With many brands using greenwashing tactics (misleading information about sustainable practices) to encourage consumers to buy from them, it can be difficult to know whether a brand is genuinely sustainable or simply jumping on the eco-warrior bandwagon in a bid to get more customers. Terms like "eco-friendly" sound promising, but when they only relate to a fraction of the overall process, the negative tends to outweigh the good.
For example, a clothing company might claim to use organic cotton while underpaying its workers, or they might claim to reduce carbon emissions while polluting rivers elsewhere. The best sustainable companies offer transparent information about their supply chain, making it readily accessible to consumers on their websites.
4. Avoid the Landfill
Instead of putting worn-out clothes straight into the trash (this contributes to landfill waste, which can be harmful to the environment, especially if the items are non-biodegradable), consider some other options:
• Repairs: If there is a small tear to the item or a missing button, these can be easily fixed with a few simple sewing skills, or alternatively, a tailor can do this for you.
• Customization: In some cases, you can even use minor flaws in clothing as the chance to add contrasting stitching, patches, or other types of creative embellishment; you can even re-dye clothing to change its color or experiment with tie-dye.
• Selling: In addition to eBay, there is now a range of second-hand clothing apps online.
• Recycling: Check with your local recycling plant to see whether they allow textiles.
• Shop your wardrobe: Organizing your closet not only helps you to see what's there, but it also gives you a better idea of which pieces are interchangeable with other items.
Another method is to check with the item's manufacturer: some brands run schemes where they accept used clothing from their own brands in order to be recycled and made into new garments.
Many consider donating to thrift stores to be an easy way to recycle clothing, but it's not necessarily the most sustainable option, depending on the circumstances. The truth is that a large portion of garments donated to thrift stores end up going to landfills in other countries, mainly because they are unfit to be sold.
While there are benefits to donating (such as helping charities to increase their profits), it's important to be mindful of the condition your donations are in. The more comfortable you would feel about regifting the item to a friend (another viable option), the more likely it is that the item will be sold instead of going to landfill.
6. Wash More Efficiently
Whether at home or at the laundromat, washing clothing has a significant impact on the environment, leading to water waste and high energy usage. Since avoiding washing our clothes is not only unrealistic (and potentially unpleasant), it can be helpful to use these tips to reduce the impact your laundry load has on the planet:
• Wash less, where possible: some items (such as knitwear) only need to be laundered once a year, with the occasional spot-clean if they happen to get stained.
• When washing, take care not to overload the machine, but make sure you're filling it enough so that you don't have to use it too often.
• Try to avoid dry cleaning where possible (as this involves the use of harmful chemicals), but if absolutely necessary, look for green dry cleaners in your local area.
• Similarly, look for green alternatives to conventional detergents when shopping.
• Reduce electricity and water usage by using an energy-efficient washing machine, and avoid using tumble dryers in favor of drying clothes outside.
7. Rent or Buy Second Hand
Instead of purchasing poor-quality, fast fashion items each time you feel like a change of outfit, consider renting instead. The clothing rental industry is fast becoming one of the best ways to change the look of your wardrobe without the commitment of purchasing.
Alternatively, second-hand clothing is another favorite method of keeping garments in circulation. In some cases, you can even find rare or vintage items that you can't get anywhere else. Since fashion always comes in cycles, you're more likely to find the original version of something that's currently trending.