In recent years, the conversation about sustainability and the ethics of our everyday practices has become much more widespread. As we grapple with the issues surrounding climate change, many have begun to notice how our simple, mundane routines – such as the clothes we wear- can be used to enact political change.
This has been the idea of fueling sustainable fashion, which seeks to remedy the cost of factors, both environmental and human, behind the making of clothes. Certain brands, such as Everlane and rag & bone, have already begun to carry the torch; using methods such as labor transparency and domestic manufacturing. However, there are a variety issues that make up the mission of sustainable fashion.
One thing to look for are brands that only use fair trade practices. People Tree, an online clothing retailer, defines Fair Trade as organizations that “trade with concern for the economic, social, environmental, and cultural well-being of small producers and do not maximize profit at their expense.” This essentially means that the company emphasizes labor regulations at their manufacturing sites, meaning that these sites have humane working conditions and fair wages. As mentioned before, brands like Everlane go a step further and advocate for transparency, allowing consumers to view the cost of manufacture and how that adds up to make the final price.
Environmentally Friendly Resources:
Another factor to look for is the use of materials and their impact on the environment. Certain fabrics require a lot of land, energy, resources to produce. Not to mention what happens with them once one disposes of a garment. For example, fabrics like cotton often require widescale deforestation and water usage for their cultivation. In 2017, the Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report provided a listing of materials and their impact on the environment. However, it is worth noting that in 2018, the new report noted that “Every fiber …carries its advantages and disadvantages.” Though, even last year, the report explained that “The raw materials stage has a disproportionately large impact on sustainability. Partly because of the effect it has on recyclability.” So this should point consumers toward biodegradable/recyclable materials.
One branch of sustainability is the idea of vegan fashion. According to mic.com “30 million animals are raised in cages worldwide to be killed for their fur, and 10 million wild animals are trapped and killed.” Generally, vegan fashion calls for the use of non-animal products such as faux fur and vegan leather, which can be achieved through synthetic materials. One well known area where cruelty-free activism has made its mark is in the beauty industry, where cosmetic brands have not only ditched animal-based products, but have also stopped animal testing. These options range from high-end companies such as Kat Von D and Urban Decay, to drugstore brands like ELF and NYX.
What Can You Do?
The fact of the matter is that these categories are just a sample of a wide range of topics that come with sustainability. However, keeping these basic ideas in mind, it becomes a lot easier to act. One basic way of becoming a more responsible shopper is shopping from brands that adhere to these causes. However, that is much more easily said than done. Many rightly point out that shopping sustainable does tend to limit one’s options, and also tends to be more expensive than mainstream brands. There are certain alternatives, such as aiding in the recycling of clothes buy thrifting or shopping vintage. However, in an interview with Refinery29, scientist Linda Greer, who works at the Natural Resources Defense Council, expresses her belief that most experts “don’t want people to shop their way through the problem this problem.” Rather, she states that what the Defence Council truly wants to have the “industry transformed.”
Featured Image via Flickr/Lauren Jong