Sustainable style: how to make your fashion choices good for you and the planet
When moving to a more conscious lifestyle, we often think about how we can swap our food purchases to be more eco-friendly, and sustainable. But what about our wardrobe? Every day, most of us dress ourselves with very little thought about who made our clothes and the process it’s taken to get there. However, the fashion industry is currently the world’s second most polluting industry, behind oil, and is wreaking havoc on the environment.
What is fast fashion: the true cost of cheap clothing
Most of us have become accustomed to ‘fast fashion’ – cheap, readily available clothing, ready to fuel impulse purchases and add to our wardrobe collection but often poorly, made with synthetic fabric. It may seem cheap but actually fast fashion is expensive for you and our planet. The consumption of these inferior quality garments are designed to be replaced quickly often end up in landfill – the average US or UK resident would throw out 70 pounds of clothing a year, with an estimated £100m value of used garments ending up in landfill in the UK every year. On average, an item of clothing is only worn 7 times before it ends up here!
In order to produce this clothing, at the rate and price we expect, production typically happens in third world countries, using underpaid, overworked labour, earning as little as 50c a day and often poor working conditions.
‘Fast fashion’ pushes for quick turnaround, short deadlines and, consequently, cut corners that can result in unsafe practices through the use of chemicals. are typically used with require a number of toxic chemicals and dyes. In a report from Greenpeace, investigating toxic chemicals in popular, low-priced clothing brands (Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch-Up), showed high levels of toxic phthalates and cancer-causing amines and Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPE) were present in most clothing tested. These chemicals that are used in the dying and processing of fabrics can become hormone disrupting and even cancer causing. The risks are two fold: not only are these chemicals still present in the garments, but by-products from factories and the clothing waste we produce to landfill. Read up more about this here.
So it’s time to shift gears and start thinking about your wardrobe differently. Let’s get out of the fast lane and see what slow fashion looks like and how you change your wardrobe for the better.
1. Shop less!
I know, I know, shopping can be so fun, but most of us end up buying all these clothes that we don't wear and usually cycle between a few favourites. Make a list of clothes that suit you and are ‘classic’ – the fast fashion movement thrives off trends. Identify your style and the things you look great in feel great in. Read more about creating a capsule wardrobe here. An added bonus is the reduced stress of the ‘what to wear’ dilemma by simplifying your wardrobe.
2. Mend or adapt what you have
Have a favourite top or dress that has a tear - don’t toss it, mend it. Try to keep your clothes going for a long as possible and that means taking proper care of them. This is much easier when you have less clothes (see tip 1)!! Also consider upcycling your clothes - have a dress that you don’t like the top, but love the bottom - turn it into a skirt! This is a great way to boost your creative skills also. Look at things like embroidery or iron on patches to jazz up an old t-shirt.
3. Get into second-hand shopping
There are a growing number of high quality second-hand shops, that can help you upcycle or give new life to something that would have otherwise been thrown out. Often, you can purchase really good quality items at a fraction of the cost. Or find something that’s a bit more unique than on the high st. It can take a bit longer to find what you’re looking for but it also helps you know when you have found something you really want or like. Check out http://trashisfortossers.com/zero-waste-wardrobe-secondhand-shopping/ for more tips
4. When it’s time to shop, invest in quality, not quantity
If you have something you need or want to invest in, make sure you are buying good quality garments that use sustainable materials. Buy clothes made locally by ethical labels. Look out for brands that use natural fibres, such as organic cotton, bamboo, tencel, that state where there materials come from (i.e. ethically sourced wool) or use recycled materials. Yes, these pieces are often more expensive and it can be hard to shell out the cash, however this is also forces us to be mindful - do I really need it? is this high quality worth the price and will I take care of it properly? Furthermore, investing in fewer higher quality clothes actually saves us money because each piece lasts longer.
If you’re unsure about a brand, try an app called ‘Good on you’ which helps you find out how a particular brand rates in terms of ethics and sustainability, find ethical brands by name, by product category or by issue (vegan, Fair Trade, organic, country made and more) and discover similar brands that do better.
Conscious Contributor: Louise Organ
Dr. Louise Organ has a PhD in Respiratory Biology. She is passionate about exploring and understanding ways we can make our lives richer and more fulfilling through conscious living, as well as creating a positive impact on our environment. She is originally from Australia, but now lives in the United Kingdom. She loves travelling, being outdoors, and being active - she is an avid runner and cyclist, as well as a budding yogi! She has a keen interest in nutrition and understanding how we can nourish and thrive through food. Her dream is to create a simple yet meaningful life focused on health and happiness.