It’s usually the style, color, or pattern of a particular piece of clothing that first catches our eye, not how it’s made or what it’s made of. But buying sustainable clothing can make a big difference.
These days many people embrace green initiatives such as reusable shopping bags, avoiding single-use plastics, and finding sustainable alternatives for things such as plastic cutlery and paper plates. In line with this, many people are also starting to think about sustainable clothing. Although the oil and gas industry is the number one cause of pollution, the textile and clothing industry comes in second. However, the message is beginning to rise above the noise as consumers are increasingly looking for sustainable alternatives.
Sustainability has become a buzzword that is getting a lot of attention. Just as people are becoming more mindful of the food they eat and the chemicals they put in their bodies, many people are also thinking about the environment when deciding on the clothes they wear. And sustainable clothing alternatives are no longer on the fringe but becoming a substantial part of the mainstream.
What Is Sustainable Clothing?
These days consumers are increasingly savvy and not only look for quality when they shop for clothing, but also pay attention to the entire supply chain, production process, and product life cycle. Today’s consumers expect that when they see clothing labeled sustainable, that it means more than just greenwashing. They expect cradle-to-grave sustainability practices.
One of the biggest culprits of unsustainable practices are clothes that are made cheaply to meet consumer demand for trendy new styles, also called fast fashion. However, these unsustainable practices are putting the future of our planet at risk.
What Goes into Sustainable Clothing
These days, knowledgeable consumers look beyond materials like bamboo and a label that says sustainable. While using sustainable or organic fibers and materials is a good first step, to be truly sustainable, clothing manufacturers are expected to go further. Real sustainability is achieved when the entire supply chain is sustainable.
For example, swim trunks made from recycled water bottles help keep plastic out of the oceans. However, taking this a step further, what happens to those swimsuits when they are no longer needed? They can be returned to be recycled and reused as another swimsuit.
When thinking about sustainable clothing, we need to consider that a supply chain is its own ecosystem that must be supported and sustained for the environmental impact to be felt. The manufacturing process must be designed and developed with the life cycle of products in mind.
Are All Fabrics Created Equal?
Now that we’ve discussed looking beyond a word on a label, what do we look for in sustainable clothing?
- Is it made to last?
- Does it limit the amount of wasted fabric during production?
- Does it take into consideration the environmental impact of its production?
Consumers are catching on to the new trends in textiles technology. They are choosing clothing made from materials that are not only sustainable but are also engineered to last longer. Since it can take up to 200 years for clothing to decompose, this is another way to keep clothing out of landfills. Using pioneering technology to make the fabric of the future means that companies and manufacturers are paying closer attention to making garments that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Microplastics are a big issue for our health as well as the environment. As plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces and becomes microplastics, they end up in the oceans, in marine life, and often on our plates in the fish we eat. By keeping plastics out of the oceans and the environment, we are safeguarding our health and the future of our planet.
Small Steps Can Make a Big Difference
As consumers, we need to take responsibility for the choices we make. Reducing how much we waste is one way we can keep things like plastic and clothing out of landfills and our oceans. Choosing recyclable materials whenever we can, and making sure they are recycled is another. Choosing sustainably made products such as plates made of bamboo rather than paper or plastic, using dish towels instead of paper towels, and glass food containers instead of plastic ones are just some ways to make a difference.
When shopping for yourself and your family, be sure to do your research. Learn about brands and how transparent they are about their production processes.
- Do they really do the things they say?
- How do they verify it?
- Is the brand innovative with the fabric they use?
- Are their production processes also sustainable?
- Are they sincere in their commitment to sustainable practices?
It’s easy to forget how much power you have as a consumer. Taking these steps, as small as they may seem, can bring us closer to a more sustainable future, one piece of clothing at a time.