Lots of resources go into ever piece of clothing we wear, from the water needed to grow the materials to make it, the energy and water used during the production process, all the way through to the transport of the clothing to the shops, and then our homes. Luckily, these days there are lots more eco-conscious fashion brands out there to choose from, and there are other small changes we can all make to up the eco-credentials of our clothing. So today I wanted to share my top 5 tips for sustainable fashion, and I’d love to hear yours too!
1. Buy Secondhand
One of the most environmentally friendly fashion choices you can make is to give clothes a second lease on life by purchasing secondhand, or vintage, clothing. Rummage through your wardrobe and find all that you can do away with. This avoids the clothes from ending up in landfill, and also reduces the amount of resources that need to be used to produce new clothing, which are both excellent outcomes. Not to mention you can often pick up some great bargains when shopping secondhand as well!
If you need some tips for making your op-shop outings more successful, then check out the post I did on that very topic!
2. Quality over Quantity
The move towards fast-fashion has resulted in clothing being churned out that is not expected to last all that long before it falls apart and gets tossed away. This obviously isn’t the most sustainable approach to fashion, so it’s good to take a less-is-more view and go for quality over quantity. This should mean you get a lot more wear out of everything you buy (particularly if you choose classic styles), which not only is likely to save you money in the long term, but will have a hugely positive impact on the planet too. Obviously it’s not always possible to spend up big on everything you need in your wardrobe (although buying secondhand helps!), so look at this as a long term goal, not something you have to achieve straight away!
The other environmental benefit of choosing quality items, and therefore buying less clothing in general, is that you are reducing the amount of resources required to fill our wardrobes. You don’t need to cut down to next-to-nothing though, just whatever is a realistic amount to suit your lifestyle, and be sure to donate or sell anything that you know you won’t wear anymore!
3. Natural Fibres Are Your Friend
Most synthetic fabrics are made from petrochemicals (although sometimes they are made out of recycled items like plastic bags, but they’ll always promote that fact!) which are harmful to the environment, and use non-renewable resources in their production. Choosing natural fibres like cotton, wool and bamboo, is an important part of any sustainable wardrobe as they are renewable resources, although not all are made equally. Cotton can use huge amounts of water to grow, as well as often being sprayed with high levels of pesticides, so where possible look for organic and rain-watered cotton options. Similarly, certified organic wool guarantees the sheep and the land they were raised on are treated in an environmentally and ethically sound manner. Choosing natural fibres over synthetic is an excellent first step though!
4. Choose Locally Made, Fairtrade or Ethically Made
Locally made fashion is an excellent sustainable clothing choice as it doesn’t bring with it vast travel miles from having to be imported, plus it also supports small businesses and local artisans which have broader benefits as well. I find markets an excellent place to find local clothing makers, as well as amazing accessories and jewellery of course!
As much of today’s fashion is made in countries with less strict worker’s rights than here in Australia, it’s really important to look into where our clothes are coming from, and what conditions they are made under. One easy way to be sure the workers are being treated and paid fairly is to buy certified fairtrade clothing. This guarantees the clothing has been made in conditions that didn’t exploit the workers, making the clothing both environmentally and ethically more sustainable. I’ve talked about fairtrade before with regards to coffee, so you can read more about that right here if you’re interested!
If you want to check up on the ethics and sustainability of your favourite brands, then Good On You is the place to go – they have rated hundreds of brands including clothing and cosmetics, so it’s a fantastic resource.
5. Repurpose or Reuse
Another way to up the sustainability factor of your fashion is to repurpose and reuse clothing in any way you can. Adjust clothing that doesn’t fit properly anymore, or has gone out of style by re-tailoring them, cut old jeans into shorts, and when all else fails turn clothes that have run their course into rags to use around the home. If you end up with clothes you can’t repurpose yourself, or that no longer fits at all, the next best thing is to donate them to a local op-shop so someone else can give them a second-lease on life (which brings us back to point 1!).