Clothing is a fun way to express our inner personalities on the outside. We can play with fun patterns, colors, and accessories, creating a style completely unique to our own selves.
But what if the clothes on our back were built on the backs of women in third world countries forced to work in filthy and unsafe environments for a minimal pay? Unable to care for their own children or being forced to give them up completely?
What if our clothing choices lead to the pumping of 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per year, which is more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping, into the air? [X]
Fashion can be tempting. There are always new styles and choices coming out, great sales and opportunities to be part of the latest trend. Yet, that is just the problem. With the quickly changing styles and seasons of clothing, it leads to 15 million tons of wasted textiles each year. [X] This ends up in landfills, polluting water ways, and if it is made from plastics (as most material is now), then it breaks down into tiny particles, ending up in the stomachs of animals, floating in the air we breath, and inevitably inside our own bodies.
So what can we do? Though fast fashion may be tempting, there are many ways to shop sustainably in a way that allows you to have an even more unique-to-you style that also is highly cost effective.
This is probably the most obvious of all the suggestions, and the most popular – for a good reason. With the average of 12 lbs of clothing per person, per year being donated, there is bound to be enough clothing for you to find your perfect wardrobe, and gives some clothes a new home!
Support Sustainable Brands
Not into thrift shopping? That’s okay. There are plenty of reliable brands nowadays that are eco-conscious, using recycled and sustainable fibers to create clothing that will last. Some of my favorite brands include:
- Tentree – They plant 10 trees for every purchase and only use sustainable fabrics. Find out more about their process here.
- Pact – “Organic Cotton, Fair Trade Factory Certified, zero harmful chemicals, and processes that use significantly less water than conventional cotton.” Plus, they offer ways to recycle or upcycle your used clothing.
- United by Blue – They organize cleanups, encourage the quitting of plastics, and for every product sold, they will remove a pound of trash from the ocean. They also use sustainable and recycled materials for their beautiful clothing suited for men, women, and children. From daily life to outdoors, United by Blue has you covered (pun intended).
- Patagonia – A well known and trusted brand, for good reason. Patagonia breeds generations of activists by spreading the message to fight for our environment. They inspire grassroots organizations to take the risk to change the world for the better, and their clothing brand reflects this mission. They also use sustainable materials, offer ways to recycle their clothing, and resell upcycled clothing to close the loop.
- None of these fit your fancy? That’s okay. Click this link to find more sustainable and fair-trade clothing brands.
Hold a Clothing Swap
Before you throw out or donate all those clothes, why not host a clothing swap? Invite friends and people from your local community to join together and trade out clothing. You can make a whole night of it, offering some cocktails and h’orderves.
Use an App
There are plenty of apps out there to connect with people in your local community to buy and sell clothes. Apps such as
- Facebook Marketplace
Try out different ones and see what works for you.
Make Your Own
Into sewing? Make your own clothes! Why buy when you can create your perfect wardrobe by hand? My main suggestion: Buy thrifted cloth. You would be amazed the amount of perfectly good fabrics and sewing materials you can find at a thrift store! You can even upcycle clothing you find there and make it your own.
Watch for Green Washing
Before I buy any clothing, I make it a point to see what the companies mission is, where the clothing is made, how their employees are treated, and what the clothing is actually made from.
Try to avoid buying products made from plastic materials such as polyester and rayon. They put greater demand on fossil fuels and can leach microplastics into our water sources. If you do have plastic clothing, try and only buy ones that are 100% recycled, and add the clothes to a GuppyFriend to catch the microfibers.
Other things to look out for are labels such as Fair-Trade, Global Recycle Standard, USDA Organic Certified (yes, your clothing could be leaching pesticides into your body), Made-By,and SCS Certification.
More importantly, use your judgement and do your research before buying clothing. Though the prints, colors, and styles may be tempting, they are nowhere near as important as preserving our beautiful planet, and supporting the livelihoods of millions of people forced into the textile industry around the world.
Shop Responsibly. Shop Sustainably.