Sustainable fashion tips for an ethical wardrobe
Living in the modern era means that we all participate, often quite unwittingly, in causing the pollution and carbon emissions that are of such great concern. Certain industries are responsible for so much pollution, but rather than point a finger we need to recognise that as consumers, the choices we make on a day-to-day basis can have a huge environmental impact. For example, did you know that the fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, just after the oil industry? But you can lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle and still look fabulous by adopting our amazing tips to help you build your own sustainable and ethical wardrobe.
But before we explore those tips, let’s take a quick look at the impact of the fashion industry, particularly fast fashion:
Fast fashion is defined as inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. Fast fashion garments are cheaply produced with, normally, little regard for environmental impacts and/or workers in the supply chain. Forced and child labour is rife in the fashion industry in developing countries.
Not only is the impact of production likely to be higher but because the items are sols so cheaply, consumers find it harder to resist the purchases and the throw-away culture of cheap high street fashion items.
Despite the abundance of cheap clothing, we buy more clothing per head than any other country in Europe according to Libby Peake of the Green Alliance.
It can take up to 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt.
In India, 100 million people do not have access to drinking water, and yet 85% of the daily needs of the entire population of the country would be covered by the amount of water used to grow cotton in the country.
So how many cotton t-shirts do you really need?
Typically, 1kg of chemicals is needed to produce 1kg of textiles during fibre production, dyeing, bleaching and wet processing. Chemical usage is particularly high in cotton farming causing high rates of disease and premature death among cotton farmers.
Additionally, many countries do not have the same level of environmental legislation as we do in the UK, EU, and the US, and the runoff from these chemicals is causing massive freshwater and ocean water pollution.
Microfibres in our oceans
Every time we wash synthetic garments such as those made of polyester, acrylic, and nylon, about 1,900 individual microfibres are released into the water, and most of it makes its way to our oceans. Up to 85% of human-made debris on the shorelines around the world are microfibres.
Landfill and incineration
Synthetic fibres, which are used in 72% of our clothing, can take up to 200 years to decompose. Only about 15% of the clothing we dispose of is recycled or donated, the rest goes to landfill or is incinerated.
Greenhouse gas emissions
The clothing industry accounts for around 10% of global carbon emissions. Producing synthetic fibres is far more energy-intensive. Many of our clothes are produced in countries such as China Bangladesh or India which are essentially powered by coal, the dirtiest type of energy in terms of carbon emissions.
WOW! Hopefully, the above snapshot has made you think a little bit more about building a sustainable and ethical wardrobe, so let’s look at our top tips.
Be smart when shopping for clothes
Shopping in popular and affordable fashion stores might seem fun, but such fast fashion companies are contributing to a lot of pollution all over the world. Next time you find yourself in one of those stores, try being more selective with your purchases, especially if the clothing item you’ve been meaning to buy isn’t that affordable at all.
Of course, you might feel it too much of a challenge to boycott fast fashion altogether, but if you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle, it is advisable to reduce shopping at such stores and when you do, check to see if they have special sustainable lines and/or recycling programs.
Buy at second-hand stores
Second-hand stores and charity shops can be the source of amazing finds if you are persistent. Besides, there is nothing shameful about buying such clothes, and if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, they are definitely not your friend.
If you love unique clothing items, then browsing your local second-hand and charity stores is a really great idea, as it will give you a chance to dig up some truly special pieces. Plus, if you do it regularly, you may even find wonderful designer pieces that would usually cost a fortune!
Plus, of course, if you purchase from charity shops and/or donate clothes, you are helping to support that charity.
Personally, I love it when someone admires an item of clothing and I’m able to tell them it’s a charity shop find. And it’s often a jaw-drop moment if I tell them how much, or rather how little, I have paid for the item.
Quality over quantity
If you are more concerned with building a special capsule wardrobe, then you should definitely be more concerned with quality, rather than the number of things you own in your wardrobe. This is also important when it comes to travelling because that’s when people tend to spend their money on new clothes. In case you’re planning a beach holiday this summer, then why not consider investing in quality sustainable swimwear, as it’s more durable and made of recycled materials.
Going on a trip should not be a reason alone to buy too many clothes.
Check the fabric
As we have already seen, man-made fibres have the greatest impact, but similarly, we should be wary of cotton. Try to choose organic and natural fibres as much as possible.
Support local artisan designers
Buying clothes from local designers and small businesses is generally a wonderful idea, as it helps your local economy, although to be aware that some small retail outlets and market stalls buy in very cheap clothing…
If you buy clothes from young, talented designers near you, you are also helping them get their name out there, which is a truly noble thing to do. Therefore, if you have an important event coming up, and you need special attire, rather than buying that from a fast fashion brand, make sure to check out your local designers or tailors who will be able to provide you with clothes that will suit you better.
Mend, repair and reuse
Why not get creative and mend, repair, and reuse clothes? Get the kids involved too as they are likely to have some really good ideas of how to convert old clothes into something really attractive and/ or useful. The Spruce Crafts has some great ideas on how to use embroidery to revitalise clothing.
If you are looking for a special item for an event, perhaps something that may only be worn once, why not consider hiring? It’s a great way to find some really beautiful, designer clothing without the associated financial, social, and environmental costs attached.
Similarly, you may wish to consider using this type of service to rent out some of the clothes you no longer want?
Stop hoarding clothes
Owning a wardrobe full of clothes and still feeling like there is nothing to wear is a common issue, shared by many people. This is often because the more you own, the more bored you’ll feel with that. So, if you love buying new clothes frequently, make sure to donate what you already have and don’t wear. That way, you will always have enough space in your wardrobe, and assembling new outfits will be easier than ever!
Living a more eco-friendly lifestyle means carefully considering your clothing purchases, so we hope you enjoyed our tips for building a sustainable and ethical wardrobe.
Choose wisely, buy less, buy better quality, and ensure old clothing is re-used – not sent to landfill.
Finally, feel free to start slow, until you become more comfortable in your new eco-friendly way of living.