The cars we drive, the coal we burn, and the plastic we buy are not the only culprits for the current environmental crisis. We all know about the need to reduce our carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions, but not many of us realize the impact the textile industry has on the environment. According to the United Nations Climate Change division in 2015, the fashion industry was responsible for more gas emissions than aviation and maritime shipping combined. Moreover, mountains of textiles end up burned or thrown into a landfill every day. How can we, as consumers, help make a change and promote sustainable fashion?
What is fast fashion and how does it hurt the environment?
Fast fashion focuses on making clothes that can be sold in high volumes for low prices. People find cheap clothes irresistible, so they never think twice before buying ten pairs of jeans and a dozen new t-shirts or sweaters. Why would they? The concept of ethical fashion is not as popular as recycling, electrical cars, or solar energy. But it should be! 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of wastewater come from fashion companies. The environmental impact of fast fashion is colossal!
Just think about the complex supply chains involved in materials production, preparation, processing, and transporting a new coat to the mall near you. Take jeans, for example! According to Levi Strauss, a pair of its 501 jeans produces the equivalent of 33.4 kg of carbon dioxide. A third of these emissions come from fiber and fabric production. The rest is divided among cutting, sewing, and finishing the jeans (8%), transport and retail accounts (16%), and consumer use – washing and disposal (40%). Consumers play an important part in the damage fast fashion does to the environment. However, this can change! Consumers can make better choices, encourage sustainable fashion, and impact the future of fashion and, consequently, the future of our planet.
Rediscover and appreciate the clothes you already have
You probably already have a wardrobe full of clothes that, at some point, you couldn’t wait to buy or wear. Rediscover your wardrobe and value the clothes you already have. Mix and match them more creatively and give a second chance to clothes you haven’t worn in a while. Style them with different accessories or, if you’re talented at DIY, reinvent them.
Learn how to fix and patch your clothes, and don’t throw them away as soon as they start to show signs of wear. Upgrade your sewing skills and give a new life to your old clothes. You spent money on every single piece of clothing you own. Whenever you’re throwing away clothes, you’re throwing money out the window. Refrain from shopping impulsively and think twice before hitting that add to cart button. Do you really need that new piece of clothing, or are you buying it simply because it’s cheap or on sale?
Care for your clothes sustainably
Learn how to extend the life of a garment and take good care of them in a sustainable manner. Start by using your dryer as rarely as possible and only when it’s absolutely necessary. Hanging out your clothes to dry in the sun and wind does wonders for both your clothes and the environment. Dry delicates flat and turn the colorful pieces of clothing inside-out to prevent them from fading. Always read the washing instructions available on the label and if the clothes can be washed in cold water, choose this option. Washing your clothes in cold water saves energy, reduces your electricity bills, and extends the life of your clothes.
Don’t hesitate to use the “eco” setting of your washing machine. It does exactly what it says: it helps you save water and power and protects the environment. Also, don’t wash your clothes too often! Jeans can go unwashed even for six months if they aren’t worn daily. Sure, your underwear and socks need to be washed after just one wear, but the sweater you wore for only a few hours has more hours to go before throwing it into the washing machine.
Invest in high-quality clothing
Learn to appreciate quality over quantity and start investing in your clothes rather than buying them impulsively. Fashion should no longer be a hobby based on mindless shopping. Analyze your lifestyle and wardrobe and identify what is truly missing from it. Shop only clothes you need and are going to wear multiple times. If you are not sure you will wear a garment at least 30 times, don’t buy it.
Don’t buy anything based on your first impulses. Think it through! You can even sleep on it. If you still want to purchase that piece of clothing the next morning, go for it. High-quality clothing costs more but it is made from natural fibers, like linen, hemp, cotton, and silk, and it will last longer than fast fashion clothes. Try to avoid polyester and other synthetic fabrics that are not biodegradable, harm the ocean, and have been associated with health issues.
Shop for responsibly produced clothing and encourage ethical fashion
When you buy responsibly produced clothing you are supporting ethical standards, environmental standards, and fair working conditions. You help the global community and the environment while enjoying original designs and the result of slow and ethical fashion. Slow fashion allows consumers to establish a connection with the maker and enjoy their clothes for a longer time. Ethical fashion gives you an insight into the brand’s policies and allows you to choose a brand that resonates with your views, ethics, and style. Ethical production practices never allow for exploitation, always implement safe working conditions, and guarantee fair wages.
When buying from ethical clothing brands, you’ll get access to made-to-order models and limited clothing lines, improve your style, and encourage originality. Moreover, most ethical brands promote the use of eco-friendly materials, don’t use any animal products, and are involved in various projects that encourage the development of the ethical fashion industry, fair living wages, and, in general, have a positive impact on their community.
When possible, it's also helpful to buy locally. Shopping for local responsibly manufactured clothing cuts down the distance your clothes have to travel to get to you which means lower carbon emissions. However, sustainable shopping doesn’t necessarily exclude shopping for clothes from international stores. There are numerous brands overseas that take pride in their sustainable production and run their business based on ethical practices. These aspects make them a lot more sustainable than the brands you can find in the local mall.
Aya Morrison wants to be a part of the solution and is determined to take all the necessary steps towards sustainability. Our company ensures sustainable practices, and many of our collections contain pieces made with recycled materials. Moreover, we are dedicated to establishing a relationship with our consumers and are transparent about our policies and production. We want our clothes to be more than just another garment bought in the spur of the moment. We hope our collections inspire our consumers and find their place in their wardrobe as a statement of their originality, creativity, style, and, of course, commitment to practicing sustainable fashion.