Stephanie Talks Fashion

My Thoughts, Tips, and Experiences in Fashion

The What and Why of Sustainable Fashion

OrganiccottonWhat is ‘Sustainable Fashion’ and why should you care?

Perhaps you’ve been hearing the term ‘Sustainable Fashion’ going around and are wondering what exactly that means. Well, every article of clothing, every shoe, every accessory sold has an impact on the environment. Sustainable fashion challenges people to take a look at the impact their wardrobe has on the environment and seeks to minimize it.

So how does clothing impact the environment?

There’s actually a lot that goes into the production and selling of clothing, and while I don’t want to scare you off of ever buying clothing again, you should be aware of the process to help you make educated decisions.

Let’s use a cotton T-shirt as an example. First the cotton has be grown (which equals pesticides) and harvested, where a machine is used to do so. Then the cotton is transported to a facility where it is processed, first into threads, then into cloth. The cloth is either bleached or dyed, and some dyes are safer for the environment than others. Then the cloth is transported to another facility where it is made into clothing. Once the clothing is completed it is packaged into plastic and cardboard boxes and again transported to either a warehouse where it is stored temporarily or directly to the stores. The store where the T-shirt is being sold uses gas and electricity. And they give you your purchase in, what is most often a plastic bag.

And while you may think that’s where the trail ends, you should also take a few other aspects into consideration. Materials were used to build that store. There is also a head office for that store (which also uses gas and electricity) that makes the decisions on what clothing is made, and produces the marketing for the brand – print ads, billboards, commercials, in-store signs and displays, etc. Perhaps there was also a fashion show to display this season’s styles.

All in all, there’s a lot of resources that went into the T-shirt you just bought at the store.

How do I take part in sustainable fashion?

There are a few ways you can lessen the impact your fashion decisions have on the environment and each one has benefits.

  • Buy good quality clothing. While this one may seem out of place at first, take this into consideration – if you buy a low quality piece of clothing, you’re going to have to replace it within a year or so, duplicating the process. Whereas, if you buy good quality clothing, you may never have to replace it. And if you do get tired of it, it can go to a consignment store, rather than the landfill.
  • Buy clothing online. When you buy clothing online you’re eliminating the retail store from the equation. Clothing is stored in a warehouse and is only shipped when an order is placed.
  • Buy used clothing. The clothing is already made and out there in the world. Buying a used shirt instead of a new one eliminates 90% of the environmental impact of buying clothing.
  • Donate or consign your old clothing. This keeps clothing out of landfills and enables someone else to be part of the sustainable fashion cycle.
  • Use your own bags when shopping. A plastic bag is never a good thing. And while a lot of stores now give you reusable bags, and this is great, sometimes you end up with a lot of reusable bags you have no use for. Stores like to give you bags with their name on it, because it’s free advertising, but you don’t have to use their bags, and if it’s a store you love, you can always just reuse the bags you already have from them. Call it Spring, the shoe store, did something I thought was quite brilliant – they made all their shoe boxes come with a handle, eliminating the need for bags (unless you just bought more than 2 pairs of shoes).
  • Buy from companies that have sustainable environmental initiatives. This can be anything from using organic cotton, or dyes, reducing the amount of materials used when packaging clothing, reducing energy used in manufacturing, or donating a percentage of profits back to environmental causes.
  • Make your own clothing/accessories. While the fabric and materials you use are still manufactured, you eliminate everything from the factory that makes the clothing to the store that is selling the clothing.

Everyone has a different level of comfort when it comes to the above options. For example, I don’t like shopping in consignment stores. They make me anxious. But I will bring my old clothing there. I’ve also always been a firm believer in the quality of clothing, and a lot of the pieces I have in my wardrobe have been there for 5+ years. And my new year’s fashion resolution is to do more DIY.

Some people choose to only ever buy used clothing, and I applaud them. But that’s not all that sustainable fashion is, and everyone can make small decisions that are part of sustainable fashion.

What’s your sustainable fashion action? Leave a comment and let me know!

~Stephanie

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4 comments on “The What and Why of Sustainable Fashion

  1. iamindophile
    May 28, 2014

    Nice Article .. 🙂

    • stephtalksfashion
      May 28, 2014

      Thanks! I hope you found the tips useful and discovered a way to bring sustainable fashion into your life.

      • iamindophile
        June 19, 2014

        Yes .. We are using organic cotton currently in our products and contributing to an NGO promoting Women emporment in India. But your points on used clothing can go a long way in sustainable fashion throughout the developing world.

  2. Pingback: Spring/Summer Wardrobe Cleanup | Stephanie Talks Fashion

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