7 Mistakes You're Making With Sustainability In Fashion
Sustainability and fashion...these are the two words that don't seem to go together very well. And yet, why is this so? We are often told that because we care about the environment that we should buy more organic products and eat low fat foods and vegetables. This is true of course. But we should also be careful about the way in which we consume these organic products and eat our vegetables. If you are passionate about being environmentally conscious, then you will want to make sure that your purchases don't harm the environment or contribute to the pollution of our planet by using harmful chemicals or products that don't biodegrade. Here are 7 mistakes you're making with sustainability in fashion:
Not knowing the difference between sustainable and recyclable.
There is a lot of confusion about the difference between sustainable and recyclable. This confusion is understandable, because both relate to the environment, but there is an important distinction.
Sustainable means that things are made with materials that can be replenished or that don't use up resources. For example, wood harvested from a tree farm is sustainable, and so is the cotton from your favorite tee-shirt.
Recyclable means that something can be thrown out in a way that it can be used again later. For example, if you finish your coffee in a paper cup and throw it away, it can be recycled into another paper cup.
A product can be recyclable without being sustainable. Plastic items are recyclable, but they are not sustainable because they pollute the environment and leach harmful chemicals into our water sources.
Not understanding Fast Fashion.
Every now and then, the term "fast fashion" pops up in the news. You probably know that fast fashion is... well, bad. But do you really know why it's bad? How it works?
Let's start with some basics: What is fast fashion? In a nutshell, fast fashion is mass-market clothing made by garment manufacturers who are paid to produce clothing so quickly and cheaply that they cut corners on environmental standards and labor rights in order to maximize profit. Typically, these garment manufacturers produce clothing for a variety of retailers, including high street brands. Fast fashion is everywhere.
In short, Fast Fashion is cheap clothing that has been manufactured quickly by exploiting workers. The massive increase in the number of pieces of clothing sold, as well as their increased disposability due to their low quality, has a tremendous impact on our environment.
One of the most obvious things you can do to be more sustainable is to shop less. If you're buying a $20/shirt from those popular, bigger brands, it's so cheap that you don't have to think about it. The problem with that, of course, is that in order for that shirt to be so cheap, it was made in a factory using low-quality materials and cheap labor.
So what can you do instead? Spend a little more money on high quality, timeless pieces. The beauty of this approach is that when you pay more for something and put some thought into your purchase, you're likely only going to buy pieces that will last. That means they're made of high quality materials, they'll maintain their fit better over time, and they'll still be in style next year when you want to wear them again.
You might be thinking: But if I buy fewer clothes but I spend more money on each piece, doesn't the amount of money I'm spending stay the same? Well… yes and no. If you buy fewer clothes over time, then yes—you're spending less on clothing overall. And if you invest in higher quality pieces and take good care of them (which we'll talk about later), they'll actually last
Not thinking about all the environmental costs of fast fashion.
We get it. It's easy to think that, since you're wearing that cute top or pair of jeans for a few months before you buy another one, that you're being sustainable. But there are a million other factors you need to take into account before justifying buying something just because it's cheap.
Like what? Let's start with the fact that the chemicals and materials used in those clothes are polluting your local water source. Or the fact that their production uses hundreds of thousands of gallons of water. Or how about how much waste is created by making clothes that are only going to be worn for a few months? And what happens when you throw them away? They end up in a landfill and continue to pollute the environment—and after they break down, they release more toxic chemicals into the environment.
Not convinced yet? Think about this: The average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing every year. And only 15% of textiles get recycled—so you do the math on how many clothes end up in landfills!
Not prioritising ethical fabrics and materials in your purchases.
Nowadays, more and more people are focusing on sustainability in their fashion choices. That's great news!
But there's a big problem with this good news—and it's that many people who are making an effort to be sustainable are actually making mistakes. These mistakes can be easy to make, but they can also have significant consequences for the world we live in.
That's why we've put together a list of some of the most common mistakes that people make when they're trying to make sustainable fashion choices. Check them out below!
1. Not Prioritising Ethical Fabrics and Materials in Your Purchases
One of the most important aspects of sustainability is choosing organic or recycled materials over synthetic ones, as well as choosing clothes made from plants rather than animals. If you're not prioritising ethical fabrics and materials in your purchases, then you're not being as sustainable as you could be.
2. Relying on Labels to Tell You What's Sustainable
To be truly sustainable, you need to know what "sustainable" really means—don't just rely on labels! This is especially true if you're buying clothes online, where brands might not have labelling information readily available and where customers don't get to see the garment in person
Buying 'eco-friendly' clothes that are still fast fashion.
Buying 'eco-friendly' clothes that are still fast fashion.
Clothes made with sustainable materials sound like the perfect way to reduce your carbon footprint, but if you're buying from a fast fashion brand, the production process is still polluting the planet.
You might feel good about that cute new dress made from recycled plastic bottles, but if it was manufactured in a factory that pumps out tons of greenhouse gases, you're canceling out any positive effects.
Even if the material is organic cotton or bamboo, it's still not as eco-friendly as buying secondhand.
Sewing on labels by hand.
Tiny details can make or break an outfit—but when those tiny details are sewn on by hand, they come at a huge cost to the environment.
After all, someone has to sit there and sew each one on individually. It's really a waste of resources and time—especially when they're just going to be cut off anyway!
Not buying enough clothes!
Throwing out clothes you don't wear anymore.
Don't throw out clothes you don't wear anymore.
Yep, we went there. But look—it's easy to stop making this mistake. Instead of throwing it out, try giving it to someone who can make use of it, or donating it to a charity that will repurpose the clothes into something useful. You can also try selling it at a consignment shop or on an app like Depop. This way, your clothes get a new life and you get some money back!
And if you really feel like you can't part with any of your clothes, try removing them from your closet and storing them in a place where you won't see them. After a few months, go through them and see if you have any sentimental attachment to them. If not, donate or sell them!
Forgetting that sustainability In fashion is about more than just fabrics.
If you're interested in sustainable fashion, it's likely that you've heard the horror stories about all of the water it takes to make a single pair of jeans. And while focusing on water- and fabric-related sustainability issues is an important step for many people, it's not where you should stop.
Sustainable fashion is about more than just fabrics—it's about creating a brand that can serve as a beacon for other designers. If you're looking to go from zero to hero in the sustainable fashion world, here are some tips for getting started:
Think About Your Brand
Let your brand model how far the industry can go when it comes to sustainability. Let your values be apparent in everything you do, from your marketing strategy to your packaging and shipping methods. Use recycled materials in every aspect of your business, including your website, social media platforms, and office space.
While it might seem like a lot of work at first, modeling sustainable practices across all aspects of your business will allow you to not only show off what's possible when sustainability is prioritized, but also build a network of like-minded brands that can help further the cause.
This short read will give you an understanding of how sustainability in fashion can be applied to your own wardrobe choices.
Environmental and socially conscious fashion choices are not just the prerogative of the wealthy: they are a simple means of reducing the carbon footprint, waste production and consumerism which are inherent to low cost and disposable fast fashion. Though it may seem daunting, there is no need to let ignorance be an excuse for indifference towards the practices which drive fast fashion today. It is, in fact, awareness through education that can help make positive change possible. Plus, as this post has hopefully demonstrated, it's often as simple as making sure you're doing your research. In order to make informed decisions on which items are sustainably made and produced, it is essential to question sources and declare your manufacturers and brands.
Ready to put these tips into practice?