sustainable fashion

Sustainable Fashion Practices: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying New Clothing

What is sustainable fashion? The Green Strategy defines “more sustainable fashion” as:

“More sustainable fashion can be defined as clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components.”

Why is sustainable fashion important? As the second-worst polluter, only ahead of the oil industry, the fashion industry is in the spotlight for its negative impact on our environment. As a consumer, to be aware of reducing our carbon footprint has now become critical – and making simple changes in all areas of our lives, including our closet is necessary to provide a future acceptable for the next generations!

So, asking yourself a couple of questions before buying a piece of clothing, is simple and impactful. Here are the questions I have begun to ask myself:

1. Will I be able to wear it in a year?

Avoiding fast fashion is one of the most simple ways to curate a sustainable closet. Instead, look for “slow fashion” pieces, the ones you can wear over and over again. Being sustainable in your fashion choices doesn’t mean that you have to look dowdy, it means you are looking for quality over quantity.

Asking yourself, will I be able to wear this piece of clothing in a year assists in creating a sustainable closet as you will be more aware creating a fashionable wardrobe that will stand the test of time – i.e. timeless fashion.

2. What are the washing instructions?

The concept of washing our clothes is a no-brainer it seems, but to take the time to care for garments properly can make a world of difference in being more sustainable. Some tips for sustaining your clothes to make them last longer include:

  • Washing in cold water not only helps maintain the integrity of a piece of clothing, but it also saves money and energy!
  • Air drying on a clothing rack will also prolong the life of your clothes (and again save energy!).
  • Consider skipping a wash on some clothing as they will last longer when not over-washed. Items such as jeans, dresses, and sweaters don’t need to be washed every wear unless soiled.

3. What kind of fabric is it made out of?

“Becoming more mindful about clothing means looking at every fiber, at every seed and every dye and seeing how to make it better. We don’t want sustainability to be our edge, we want it to be universal.” —Eileen Fisher, fashion designer

Some fabrics when produced are incredibly harmful to the environment. Polyester for example, creates thousands of “microfibres” or tiny plastic particles which get transmitted into the water systems. Also, non-organic cotton, which makes up about 40 percent of all clothing, uses a lot of water and uses pesticides.

Which fabrics have less of a harmful impact on the environment? Think organic cotton, leathers made out of natural sources (apple, pineapple, etc.), recycled fabrics, hemp, and tencel to name a few options.

I am just on the tip of researching fabrics and the more I learn, the more I am conscious of what fabric I wear.

4. What does the clothing company believe?

Look for companies that are “Certified B” which means that they “meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability in the industry”

Further, it important to look at a company’s level of transparency. What exactly does this mean? When a clothing company is completely transparent in their processes, they will have information available to the public. For instance, they will make publicly available:

  • How does the company treat their workers?
  • Do they pay their workers a fair wage? What do they do with their waste?
  • How do they hold themselves accountable?

Interested in looking into which companies are the most (and least) transparent in their practices? The Fashion Transparency Index is a great place to start!

5. Do you really need it?

It is nice to spoil yourself from time to time – this question is intended to make one mindful, not to never buy new clothing again. If you are buying to fulfil an emotional need (I’ve definitely been guilty of this!), realistically buying a new piece of clothing won’t make you happy. Instead, research a little before buying, look into to all the above suggestions, and then purchase the item you desire.

Final Thoughts

Alongside most environmentally aware consumption practices, fashion should be no different. It is important to use less, reduce, reuse, recycle. Also applicable to clothing, try to repair and repurpose whenever possible. Remember taking a sewing class in school? Maybe its time to relearn these mending skills to repair your clothes (I know I need a refresher!).

What are your tips on sustainable fashion? I’d love to hear from you!

Interested in being more eco-friendly in 2020? Start here for some inspiration: Reducing Waste: 8 Things to Ditch in 2020.

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