Sustainable Fashion Choices a Plus For the Environment

Sustainable Fashion Choices a Plus For the Environment

Kit Iyer, Contributing Reporter

I own plenty of sweatshirts, t-shirts, jeans, sweaters, skirts, and anything else you can think of. I’ll buy five of the same shirt or three of the same pair of jeans and still complain that I don’t have enough clothes when in reality, I just haven’t done my laundry in two weeks. With all the clothes I own, I probably won’t need to buy new clothes for five, maybe even ten years! The rate at which I buy clothes is astronomical, yet I perceive it as normal. It’s typical for me to buy a few new sweaters or a couple skirts, and maybe some new jeans at the start of the new season… and then again a week later… and several more times after that. Isn’t that what many people do? However, one thing that I, as well as many others, have yet to realize is the effects of our purchases on the world around us. In comes the argument of fast fashion vs. sustainable fashion.

Sustainable fashion is gradually making its way into the fashion industry as more and more people voice their opinions on the social and environmental impacts of “fast fashion”. The term “fast fashion” refers to inexpensive clothing that is produced quickly in order to keep up with the latest fashion trends. Since the aim is to sell the clothes at an affordable price, this strategy of manufacturing typically follows unethical practices environmentally and socio-economically. For most consumers, this doesn’t affect them so they don’t care. Fast fashion is quick, cheap, and easy. Sounds perfect, so why might sustainable fashion be the way to go instead?

What is fast fashion and why is it dangerous?

The fashion industry is currently sitting as the second most harmful industry to the environment, with the oil industry being the first. Certain materials like polyester take hundreds of years to biodegrade, only adding to the problem of plastic pollution. Fast fashion also disregards the safety of their workers, as proper working conditions and minimum wage, are commonly seen as last priorities in fast fashion.

Isha Kalia, a junior at Linn-Mar says, “I believe that our preferences should not be superior to our planet. My preference in clothing should not be more important than my preference to live. If I find things I like that are sustainable, then why not buy it”?

Still not convinced fast fashion is dangerous for the future of our planet? puts it into numbers for us. On average, it takes about 700 gallons of water to make one cotton t-shirt. 70-100 million trees are cut down each year to make fabrics like viscose-rayon found in your sweaters and knit tops. More than 2 million tons of carbon emissions are produced yearly and ten percent of the world’s carbon footprint comes from the apparel industry alone. Overall, fast fashion is detrimental to the future health of our planet. There is hope, however. With plenty of solutions lying around, there’s no need to support brands that encourage fast fashion practices.

How can we solve this problem?

According to Green Strategy, sustainable fashion is partially about sustainable means of producing clothes, shoes, and accessories. It is also about sustainable means of consumption and use. To break it down, sustainable fashion should minimize negative environmental effects by using natural resources and renewable energy, as well as maximizing the recycling of products. It should also minimize negative socioeconomic effects by improving working conditions, and aligning with good ethics and international codes of conducts. Lastly, sustainable fashion should encourage sustainable consumption of clothing, by encouraging consumers to NOT buy new clothes every month. This reduces the demand for clothes so production can also decrease. Most sustainable brands will make a supply of clothes at each season, and depending on how many people want to buy it, they will adjust their production in the coming season.

How can I, as a consumer, practice sustainable fashion?

Practicing sustainable fashion can include checking certifications that indicate if a product is sustainable. OEKO-TEX is a registered trade mark that certifies if a product is free of hazardous chemicals. Similarly, Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) certifies textiles that contain a minimum of 70% organic fibers. On the socioeconomic scale, Fair Trade Certification states that factory workers are paid at least minimum wage and that working conditions are safe.

Something you can do on a smaller scale is be mindful of the clothes you buy and what they are made of. Fabrics like polyester and acrylic are plastics and toxic to the environment if they end up in the landfill. Viscose rayon contributes to deforestation by turning plants into textiles and conventional cotton relies on pesticides to grow quickly and meet the high demands of cotton. Instead, buy clothes made of recycled polyester, organic cotton, silk, or wool. When you’re out shopping, consider the stores where you shop. Fully 61 percent of companies don’t know where their garments are made and 76 percent of companies don’t know where their fabrics were woven or dyed. Rather than shopping at these companies, find fair trade brands that promote positive impact of the fashion industry. You can also buy your clothes second hand at thrift stores or vintage stores, which will not only save you money, but help save the environment!