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Sustainable Fashion: How to Green Your Wardrobe and Save the Planet

I lit the matchbox and sighed as the clothes went up in flames. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I said to myself as I turned my back to leave. “You’ve sinned against sustainable fashion, Vicky.” Grandma’s voice stopped me right in my tracks. Was she about to begin a sermon on indecent dressing? I looked at myself and saw that my cleavages were intact and my skirt wasn’t flashing my thighs. So what could be wrong?

To answer my unasked question she said:

“I’m not of this age but I do know that if you don’t practise sustainable fashion, you’re sinning against our planet.”

That was all it took me to understand her point. She was referring to the lump of old clothes I had just set ablaze.  According to her, I wasn’t doing my environment any good by burning my old clothes. In grandma’s words:

“Every item of clothing you buy should be useful. But if they aren’t to you, hand them down to those who’ll find them useful or use them to recreate new useful things.”

I know right. My grandmother is a smart ass. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, you know. But my grandmother’s intelligence isn’t the subject of this piece you’re reading: sustainable fashion is.

If you’ve been hearing about that term and haven’t (up until now) taken an active effort to learn about it, let’s have a toast to that.

You’re about to learn all you need to know about sustainable fashion. Fasten your reading belt and let’s dive in.

What is Sustainable Fashion?

art of green leaves arranged in form of a t-shirt

Sustainable fashion, otherwise known as eco-fashion, stems from sustainable development. In 1987, the Brundtland Report, published by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) defined sustainable development as “a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 

By that, we can infer that eco-fashion is any fashion-related activity that meets the needs of the present without hindering posterity from meeting their own needs. In other words, it refers to clothing, shoes, accessories, and other fashion items manufactured, distributed, and worn in the most sustainable manner ever without harming the environment and those who make them.

The goal of this fashion movement is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by fighting against the large carbon footprint the fashion industry (particularly fast fashion) has created. And followers of this movement argue that when fashion goes eco-friendly, we can be sure that air pollution, water pollution, and any climate change that can increase the world’s mortality rate will be reduced.

They believe that clothing brands should prioritize environmental, social, and ethical improvement over revenue goals, thus fostering green consumerism.

Like organic skincare, sustainable fashion is eco-friendly, ethical, and upholds social justice. And any fashion brand that acts according to the ethics of this movement is regarded as a sustainable fashion brand.

But how do we identify these eco-fashion brands? There should be characteristics to show which is sustainable and which isn’t right? Let’s look at them together.

What Defines a Sustainable Fashion Brand?

Characteristics of sustanable fashion

Let’s agree that the fashion industry has contributed a lot to harming our environment. In fact, SustainYourStyle says it is the second-largest polluter in the world. Wondering how?

It’s obvious. Did you know it takes about 15,000 litres of water to grow cotton for a pair of jeans? What about the hazardous chemical treatments used in dyeing? And what do you think happens to the many unsold clothes these brands produce? 

If you don’t know, I’ll tell you: They burn them or dump them at different landfill sites. And when this happens, it does more harm to our environment

From turning animals into fabrics to churning out microfibres from synthetic fabrics into water and air, the industry has done enough damage. And now, since we can’t right the wrongs, how about we amend our production and marketing processes to let mother nature know how sorry we are?

This is what sustainable fashion brands aim to do. And to achieve that, they inculcate the following practices:

  • Prolonging the lifespan of materials
  • Using biodegradable dyes
  • Using organic materials such as hemp, linen, cotton, leather, silk, rayon, etc., instead of synthetic fabrics.
  • Eco-friendly production and packaging.
  • Increased value of timeless garments.
  • Locally sourced and produced.
  • Slow fashion
  • Handcrafted
  • Recycled or upcycled
  • Reducing greenhouse emission
  • Saves resources.
  • Reduces waste, etc.

How to Practise Sustainable Fashion

clothes from sustainable fashion focused brand

A quick trip to the introduction of this piece will show you that I (including you) am guilty of harming the environment through fashion. Yes, I can bet you’ve either burnt your old clothes or dumped them in a landfill site when you get tired of them.

It’s time to make amends. Continuing that doesn’t uphold the tenets of green consumerism at all. But you can support the efforts of the eco-fashion movement by greening your wardrobe with these tips:

1. Buy from Sustainable Brands Near You

Ensure you shop from local brands that practice green fashion. That is, their products and processes must pose no harm to both the environment and the manufacturers.

The brands you buy from should use organic, recycled, and biodegradable materials as the case may be. They should also be slow fashion brands. That is, they intentionally produce timeless, long-lasting clothes at a slow pace. 

When you buy from such eco-friendly brands that ethically source their materials, you uphold sustainable fashion. But to do this effectively, you have to pay attention to trends in the industry, do your investigations, ask the brands questions related to eco-fashion, study their activities and outputs, and ensure they meet the characteristics of the movement.

2. Take Good Care of Your Clothes

When you take good care of your clothes, it’ll help you save money. Plus, you’ll see no reason to dump them and buy new ones in a short while. And when this happens, you become a sustainable fashionista.

We’ve outlined the best hacks on how to take care of your clothes. Read it up and live by it so you don’t put your clothes in unsustainable situations.

3. Buy Thrift Clothing

Instead of buying from fast fashion brands that regularly churn out clothes without minding the effect on the environment, how about you buy secondhand clothes?

This way, you’ll look good on a budget, save the clothes from getting burnt or landfilled quickly, and consequently, save our ecosystem.

4. Go for Quality and not Quantity

If you buy many, you encourage fast fashion brands to keep up with their production pace which harms the environment.

Rather than do that, buy less but make it high-quality even if it’ll cost you more. One quality piece of clothing that lasts long and serves you is better than ten pieces of clothing you wear for a short while and trash.

5. If You Won’t Wear it Twice, Don’t Get It

If you know you won’t wear that cloth more than once, then don’t bother getting it. This applies to your wedding dresses and every other attire that’ll only serve a particular occasion. 

Always buy what you’ll wear often. But if that won’t happen, an alternative is to pick a style you can amend to suit different occasions or rent the cloth and return it once you’ve worn it.

6. Give Old Clothes a Second Life

When you get tired of your old clothes, don’t burn or dump them at landfill sites. Instead, donate them to charity, recycling companies, or anyone who’d love to have them. You can as well sell them to make some extra bucks for yourself.

Just ensure they are in good condition before you do any of the suggestions above.

7. Repair Your Clothes Regularly

When your buttons fall off, don’t give up on that shirt. Instead, tack new buttons to it and rock them again. The same applies to any fashion item that tears, breaks, or loosens a stitch. Instead of throwing them out, repair them yourself or take them to a good tailor/mender.

8. The Bottom Line is to Practise Circular Fashion

This is the summary of a sustainable wardrobe. According to Anne Brismar, circular fashion refers to:

“Clothes, shoes, or accessories that are designed, sourced, produced, and provided with the intention to be used and circulated responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use.”

Anne Brismar

Circular fashion doesn’t mean you have to turn your old clothes into new ones by recycling them. It means they can serve purposes other than that.

Let’s take a pair of jeans for example.

You don’t necessarily have to recycle your old jeans into new ones. If the jeans are made from biodegradable materials and you can get rid of the buttons and zippers, you can biodegrade your jeans and turn them into fertilizer for growing a fresh cotton plant.

That way, it serves other purposes without becoming a waste product.

And that’s a wrap. While you make a conscious effort to be stylish every day, don’t do so at the detriment of our darling earth. Use these tips to uphold sustainable fashion and save our planet with everything you wear.

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Victoria B. Willie

Writing has always been a part of me. From writing stories as a young child to studying Communication Arts in the university, it has always been more than a medium of expression to me.

And then one day, I found myself toeing the path of an entrepreneur and becoming a fashion enthusiast. This made me develop an interest in content marketing and copywriting which I've been chasing alongside my fashion career.

That aside, when I'm not sharing style articles, selling with stories, or sketching fashion-forward pieces for Ria Kosher, you'll find me telling wild stories that always come with a twist.

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