You have most likely heard the word “sustainable” concerning the economic development or natural resources but did you know that it is equally essential for your wardrobe to be sustainable too? Sustainable clothing lowers the environmental impact the clothing industry has on our planet, and if you aren’t on board yet, then you probably don’t know the scary statistics.
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Get the Facts
- The fashion industry is the world’s second-largest polluter, after oil. (Yes, really!) (Source)
- It takes an average of 7,000 liters of water to produce one pair of jeans. That’s enough to flush your toilet for 3 years! (Source)
- Fast fashion giants make clothing to fall apart: they are obsessed with the bottom line, so will do anything to make you buy more clothes. (Source)
- Consumers wear a garment, on average, 7 times before throwing it away. (Source)
- Only 10% of the clothes people donate to thrift stores or charities get sold, the rest goes to landfill. (Source)
- 2,500,000,000 pounds of used clothing ends up in landfills each year. (Source)
- Clothes made from polyester can take up to 200 years to break down. A.K.A. your college t-shirt will be around longer than you will. (Source)
Are you feeling a little helpless? That’s okay! There are many things you can do to incorporate sustainable clothing into your wardrobe. It is important to be an educated consumer because the actions of a group of individuals can have a ripple effect to change the fashion industry for the better. Use our guide below to reduce your fashion carbon footprint for little to no cost at all!
Cut Down Your Closet
It may seem counter intuitive to throw away your old clothing in order to be more sustainable, but hear us out! The first step to an eco-friendly wardrobe is to identify the essential items you wear on a daily basis and to revamp items that you may have otherwise tossed out! Start by organizing your closet into four piles. Clothes you will wear for a long time, clothes you would wear if they fit better, clothes that are in decent shape but you won’t wear again, and clothes that are torn/stained. Take the first two piles and put them back in your closet, a great way to save ill-fitting clothes that aren’t being worn is to have them professionally tailored instead of buying cheap replacements that will ultimately fall apart. For the outfits that are gently used but won’t be worn again, consider donating them to your local Goodwill or make a quick buck by selling them through used fashion retail apps such as Poshmark, Tradsey, or Depop. Lastly, take the pile of damaged clothes to a local recycling drop off point or a clothing and textile bank to have them recycled into a variety of useful items.
Invest in Sustainable Clothing
Let’s get real for a second. You don’t need that basic tee in 15 different shades of white. The biggest issue with fast fashion is that clothing is historically cheaper than ever before. As a result, consumers are tempted to buy trendy clothing that is destined to fall apart by the end of the season. Our advice? Buy less, spend more. It’s okay to splurge on timeless pieces that will last you for years to come. Identify your must-have fashion basics and invest in durable alternatives then you can update the look with trendy accessories when necessary. Remember: Long-lasting clothing equals sustainable clothing!
Shop Online (Without Express Shipping)
According to a recent study, 22% of the garment industry’s environmental impact is the result of consumer drive from retailer to retailer in search of their next purchase! All that time spent in the car has a detrimental effect on our earth and to make matters worse shopping in stores makes it near impossible to make an educated buying decision. There has to be a better way, and there is, shop online!
Shopping online is more efficient than buying in person for a multitude of reasons. Shipping services are essentially public transportation for your clothes. The trucks to move large loads while using a minimal amount of fuel. Direct shipping also cuts out the middleman by sending to package from the distribution center straight to your front door. Still not convinced? Shopping online gives the advantage of being a thoughtful consumer. Before purchasing a product be sure to do some research on the company’s website about how the products are made. (Tip: if the site doesn’t say anything, it’s not a good sign.)
There is one caveat, the environmental benefits of online shopping are lost if you choose the free 2-day shipping option. Two-day shipping forces companies to send out trucks that are not at full capacity thus lowering their efficiency. By choosing extended shipping, the company can wait until the products arrive from their different locations and consolidate them into one shipment. It may be tempting to choose free shipping on that new tie, but trust us, it’s worth the wait.
Avoid Polyester, Acrylic, and Cotton
Polyester, acrylic, and cotton are essentially the bad boys of the fashion industry. The production of these materials is hard on our environment and getting rid of them is even harder (see #7). Polyester requires double the energy to produce than it’s fabric counterparts and isn’t biodegradable. This is a massive problem as it is now believed that synthetic fabrics are the most significant source of microplastic pollution in our oceans. Hope you enjoy your salmon with a side of plastic!
Believe it or not, acrylic fabrics are even more toxic to produce than polyester! Its manufacturing process requires the use of several highly dangerous chemicals which puts factory workers at risk and may cause cancer, according to the EPA.
One fabric on this list that may surprise you to find on this list is cotton. However, cotton production requires a multitude or pesticides and herbicides which are often excessively applied to the crops. Scientists think that the abuse of these chemicals has directly resulted in the worldwide decline of insects. Yikes! Always check the materials you clothing is made from, it could be life or death.
Buy Second Hand
The most obvious way to find sustainable clothing is at second-hand stores. Not only is thrifting fun, it’s also traditionally cheaper than buying a from a name brand retailer. Buying gently-used clothing helps to extend product lifetime and keeps clothing out of landfills and in wardrobes where it belongs. The best part is second-hand retailers are often local business which helps keep your money within the community and away from greedy corporations.
Implement any of these tips, and you will be well on your way to a sustainable lifestyle. Do you know of any stores that sell in sustainable clothing? Let us know in the comments
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