Sustainable fashion and ethical fashion is one of the hottest topics in many years in terms of modern fashion movements.
What Is Sustainable Fashion?
Put simply, sustainable and ethical fashion works to make sure that all workers in the fashion and production industry are paid a fair wage, they’re treated with fairness and respect, and that all workers have access to education.
The movement also looks to reduce resources and minimise the environmental impact that clothing production is having through fast fashion brands and consumers overbuying.
Sustainable and ethical shopping also covers choosing only vegan, cruelty-free pieces, and not buying anything that an animal has died for such as leather or fur, and not choosing any products that have been tested on animals in any way.
How Important Is It To Be A Sustainable Shopper?
Fashion sustainability affects a number of different environmental and social factors, however the main three include: landfill space used, emissions and greenhouse gases emitted during production and transportation, and wages and working conditions. Here are some facts and figures to help you understand the magnitude of these issues:
Over Consumption and Landfill Waste
- By 2030 global apparel consumption is projected to rise by 63%, from 62 million tons today to 102 million tons—equivalent to more than 500 billion additional T-shirts
- By 2050 the equivalent of almost three planet earths could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current shopping habits according the the United Nations
- 17% of young people surveyed said they wouldn’t wear an outfit again if it had already been seen on their Instagram
- Approximately £140 million worth of clothing goes to landfills every year in the UK alone.
- On average a person consumes 11.4kg of apparel each year.
Wages and Working Conditions
- Most of the garments sold in the UK are produced in Asian countries
- Over 90% of workers in the global garment industry have no possibility to negotiate their wages and conditions
- Evidence from HMRC shows that UK-based garment factory owners have been forced to pay out almost £90,000 to employees for paying less than the legal minimum wage
- Over 50% of workers within the fashion industry are not paid the minimum wage in countries like India and the Philippines
- In Pakistan’s garment sector, 87% of women are paid less than the minimum wage
- The carbon emissions generated by the clothing of the average UK household is equivalent to driving an average modern car 6,000 miles.
- It takes about 2,720 litres of water to produce just one cotton shirt – a number equivalent to what an average person drinks over three years
- One kilogram of clothing over its entire life cycle creates 11 kilograms of greenhouse gases as a result of production, transportation and laundering.
- The global apparel and footwear industry accounts for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions
How Can You Be A More Sustainable Shopper?
There is so much to learn, so much information online and truth be told, we can never be 100% sustainable when it comes to fashion as washing your clothes alone takes its toll on the environment, there is the electricity we use to consider, and many laundry detergents are not eco-friendly either.
There are a number of things that you can be doing that will help you to get involved with the sustainable fashion movement, where you can make an incredible difference to people’s lives and play a part in protecting the beautiful planet that we all live on!
SHOP IN THRIFT STORES
Buying clothes second hand reduces the demand for new clothing to be made, and you are giving a new home to an article of clothing that would otherwise have ended up in landfills. Look for high quality pieces from reputable brands, and you will find that you don’t need to replace things so frequently, plus you will save a tonne of money compared to if you had bought that same piece brand new.
MAKE YOUR CLOTHES LAST LONGER
Help your clothes to last long by washing and drying them according to the care instructions. Don’t put clothes in the tumble dryer if the label says not to, and don’t wash your clothes after every wear.
If you only wore something for a couple of hours, chances are it’s not dirty or smelly so don’t wash it until you actually need to. The more you wash and dry your clothes, the more your clothes will become faded, baggy and tatty and you will need to replace them.
DON’T FOLLOW TRENDS
Trends come and go. We’ll often see our favourite celebrity wearing a certain trend and then go out and buy the same thing, when in reality, that item doesn’t suit our lifestyle so it just sits in the wardrobe collecting dust. If you decide not to buy new things unless you really love them, then it will not only save you money on your clothing budget but you will also end up throwing away fewer clothes, reducing the volume that goes to landfill.
LEARN TO SEW
I can’t tell you the number of times that I have had to replace something that was damaged, or a button fell off etc because I didn’t know how to sew. Until I learned to sew, I spent a lot more money on clothes as I had to replace something every time it broke. You could take things to be professionally repaired, but oftentimes with access to super-cheap fashion brands, it’s cheaper to replace rather than to pay a tailor.
Learning to use a sewing machine will also give you the skills you need to flip clothes that you picked up from the thrift store and turn them into something new – more on that below!
THRIFT FLIP / REFASHIONING
Thrift flipping is my absolute favourite! The idea is that you take something you found in the thrift store that might not be you style, or it doesn’t quite fit you, and you take it under the sewing machine and turn it into something new! This is such a fun and affordable way to put your creative, DIY skills to good use and re-purpose old clothes. Plus, you get to try new trends without purchasing brand new items from fast fashion outlets!
My favourite place for thrift flip inspiration is the YouTube channel bestdressed. Ashely has an unbelievable talent for flipping clothes into brand new pieces and every time I watch one of her videos I am so inspired to get creative myself!
Educate yourself on sustainable fashion and what it means to be an ethical shopper. Nobody can expect you to know everything there is to know about this topic unless you have had a chance to read books, blog posts and watched videos about what it really means to be sustainable. So spend time reading blogs and learning what your favourite retailers are doing to be more sustainable, and you will now be armed with the knowledge to make more informed purchasing decisions.
SUSTAINABLE FASHION BRANDS
Following on from my last point, if you really want to make sure you’re only shopping from sustainable, environmentally friendly brands, then do your research on sustainable fashion brands in your country. Most of my readers are from the UK and USA, so for you, I can recommend these posts which share a whole list of retailers for you to choose from. If you are living elsewhere then just a quick search on google should return the information you need.
DO YOU NEED IT?
Every time you’re about to purchase something new, ask yourself:
- Do I need it?
- Will I wear it?
- Do I already own something similar?
- Do I have at least three items in my wardrobe that I can pair this with?
If the answer to any of those is no, then reconsider if this is something that you actually want to bring into your life because buying clothes that you are not going to wear is not at all a sustainable way to live.
AVOID FAST FASHION
Avoid fast fashion brands that offer items at prices that seem too good to be true. If we put our logical mind into action then it’s fair to say that the only reason these companies are able to sell items at such a low price, is likely because they are made in sweatshops that offer terrible conditions for their workers, and they use cheap materials that are only going to look tatty and need replacing very quickly.
Overwashing clothes is the fastest way to deteriorate them. Your clothes do not need to be washed every time you wear them. If you want to freshen up clothes in between washes, then hang them by a window or spot clean any stains. Jeans, in particular, should only be washed every 5-7 wears.
If you reduce how much you wash your clothes, I promise they will last longer!
Learn to shop for quality over quantity and never go for the cheapest item available. Generally speaking, cheap means poorer quality, so you will need to replace the item far sooner than if you spent a bit of extra money on the high-end alternative.
Buying one pair of £200 shoes that will last you five years is actually much cheaper than buying a £60 pair every six months.
A Note To End On…
I hope you enjoyed this post, and that you got some ideas and inspiration for ways that you can be a more conscious consumer. If you have any tips or questions around the topic of sustainability or ethical purchasing then let me know in the comments below.
Lets spread the word together about this movement and really help people gain a better understanding of how their decisions have a huge impact on the environment and the lives of others!