The fashion industry is responsible for about 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions and about 20% of all wastewaters, according to information from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). When it comes to sustainability, it is obvious there is a lot of work the industry needs to do.
With more frequent conversations surrounding the protection of our planet and the importance of our individual carbon footprints, consumers seem to be making changes to shop more sustainably, according to Business Insider. Here are some ways you can lessen your negative impact on the planet and still enjoy all your favorite fashion trends.
Thrifting, or buying secondhand, has become increasingly popular with younger shoppers, according to the The National Digest. Blame it on the obsession or the adrenaline from finding hidden gems, but over 70% of individuals wear secondhand clothing globally.
Shopping secondhand prevents additional manufacturing wastes, as well as prevents textiles from being transported to landfills and the ocean. The fashion industry consumes copious amounts of water, according to a Vogue essay exploring the industry. The fashion industry is the second-highest consumer of the world’s water supply. Thrift culture or buying secondhand reduces the use of water that would otherwise contribute to wastewater.
While thrifting is a new activity for some, others have been buying secondhand for years. Catherine Gutierrez, a Dallas College student, has been thrifting since she was in middle school. “I am a very quiet and shy person,” Gutierrez said. “When I thrift, I am able to express myself and wear pieces that others aren’t that likely to have.”
Depop, an online thrift store, has grown in popularity in recent years. Users can buy and sell unique clothes, save money and score some vintage finds. Kendra Williams, a Depop buyer and seller, said she supports the opportunity for environmental advocacy the website offers. “I started using Depop when I realized how good it is for the environment,” Williams said. “It allows for the reuse of clothing that would otherwise end up in the ocean or a landfill.”
AVOID POLYESTER AND SYNTHETIC FABRICS
Most synthetic fabrics contain materials that shed microfibers into the world’s waterways. If you’ve eaten seafood recently, it would be safe to say you’ve ingested these fibers, according to research done by Scientific American Magazine.
Polyester is made from petroleum, which is a natural non-renewable resource. The fabric takes hundreds of years to fully biodegrade. The use of this fabric ensures centuries of ocean pollution at the hands of the fashion industry.
The extreme use of polyester in clothing makes it difficult to find clothing that does not contain the fabric. To combat this, individuals can look for polyester made with recycled materials such as water bottles and fishing nets. According to Business Insider, these eco-friendly purchases contribute necessary funding to recycling organizations and reduce plastic waste.
More environmentally friendly fabrics include organic cotton, bamboo, linen and hemp, according to Sustainable Jungle.
SUPPORT BRANDS THAT PAY FAIR WAGES
Understanding the factors that make the fashion industry bad for the environment is difficult. However, thinking about the fairness to the humans making the clothing is much easier. Fair-trade brands make their status known by posting videos and photos of their employee environment, as well as information about the individual employees. Some give consumers information about employee working conditions, benefits and compensation.
Deciding to give your money to brands that profit from overworked and underpaid laborers continues to promote their mistreatment. Asking whether a single mother should receive fair pay and have safe working conditions is easy to answer.
Renting is not exclusive to homes, cars and camping gear. If you have a special event coming up or are just interested in trying a new trend, you can rent an outfit.
When purchasing clothing, especially higher ticket items, customers are likely only to wear those outfits once or twice. Renting allows the customer to be fashionable while also recycling their resources and getting more use out of the clothing piece, according to Rent The Runway.
According to an article in Vogue Business, overproduction is one of the fashion industry’s most heinous crimes. Renting counteracts overproduction as clothes are recycled often between customers, resulting in a decreased desire to make the same articles of clothing.
Style Lend and Rent the Runway rent clothing, aiding in the elimination of waste.
UPCYCLE YOUR CLOTHING
Just because someone is done with a piece of clothing this does not mean its lifespan is over. Upcycling is when discarded clothing materials are repurposed to make something else. An old T-shirt can be turned into a headband or a dress into opera gloves. There are always new ideas of what these retired clothing pieces can turn into.
Upcycling often does not require the most creative minds or luxury sketches. Jasmine Smith, a Dallas College student and business owner, is a big fan of upcycling. Her business, Paws In Texas, uses recycled fabrics as materials to construct pet bandanas. “I was doing some research and found out that it was better for the environment than what I was doing before,” Smith said. “It just makes more sense, and it’s super easy.”
More than being ethically sound, upcycling aids in the reduction of waste because of the fashion industry, which is increasingly more important.