By: Sanjida Amin
With every purchase you make, you may have the ability to choose a sustainably sourced and produced item. Unfortunately, many products are made in ways that deplete natural resources and harm ecosystems, however, some products are made in more socially, ethically, and environmentally responsible ways. According to The United Nation Environment Programme, the garment industry contributes between 2% and 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, and textile dyeing is a major water polluter. To ensure the garment industry is more sustainable, all actors must get involved, including designers, manufacturers, fashion critics, and consumers. Individuals can make efforts to ensure that their purchasing decisions do not support the exploitation of people or the environment by learning about sustainable shopping practices.
How can fashion become more sustainable and what can you do?
There are various methods you can employ when shopping for clothing, which can help reduce the impact of fashion on the environment! While you can consider sustainability for large products you purchase, such as technology and furniture for your home, you can also make ethical decisions for everyday purchases, such as clothing, food, beauty products, and more. Since the fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to growing greenhouse gasses, it’s important to question how our clothing is made and where it is coming from. Check out these simple tips to be more sustainable when choosing your fashion products.
Be cautious and think before your purchase:
Before you purchase a garment, think about if you really need it. Buying fewer clothes is one of the main things we can do to reduce the impact of fashion on the environment. If we all try to buy less, manufacturers will be compelled to produce clothing at a more sustainable level, resulting in a drop in emissions, textile waste, and runoff chemicals. The faster pace of garment production has also accelerated the consumption rate, and according to sources, an average person now purchases 60% more clothing than they did in 2000. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that every year, $500 billion USD is lost due to clothing that is hardly used, not donated, recycled, or ends up in a landfill. As quoted, “Rather than impulsively buying a pair of boots, ask yourself: what do you really need, and do you want to follow trends or set them?” – Garrette Clark, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Consider gently used items and shop local:
Purchasing gently used items benefits society and the environment. It not only lowers carbon emissions and your carbon footprint, but it also helps save resources like water and energy. Additionally, you generally have to pay less money when buying gently used items. Most significantly, by choosing gently used goods, you’re preventing them from being thrown away and keeping them out of landfills. You may also consider shopping locally and supporting small businesses that support fair wages and ethical production.
Be a smart laundry manager:
When it comes to taking care of your clothes, washing them at a cooler temperature and less frequently is key to improving your own fashion sustainability, and you’ll also save money on your utility bills. Try to only wash full loads of laundry and spot clean items, when possible, rather than giving them a full wash. You may also choose to air-dry clothing, rather than use a tumble dryer, which tends to use more energy.
Consider the materials used in your clothing:
Another approach to lessen the impact of your wardrobe is to choose garments made with natural materials with fewer synthetic dyes, such as wool and linen and clothing dyed with plant-based materials. The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion estimates that the textile industry is responsible for about 9% of the annual micro plastics in oceans. In addition, a lot of fibres are comprised of polyester, a material that tends to release far more carbon emissions than cotton. Lots of synthetics are made from plastics, which re-release micro plastics into water streams during washing, are almost impossible to recycle, and can take centuries to decompose.
Repair, reuse, and repurpose garments when possible:
It is always a great idea to commit to wearing clothing to their maximum lifecycle before discarding any garments. Instead of throwing out unwanted clothing and contributing to textile waste, you can donate unwanted items to charities, repurpose them as rags, or even repair or alter them into something new. A garment you intend to throw away may make a difference for someone else! Every year, the Brock University Faith and Life centre organizes a Winter Clothing Drive for International Students, which not only enhances the donation behaviour of the community, but also nurtures a practice towards greater sustainability. For more information on the clothing drive, please visit the ExperienceBU event page.
Although the fast fashion industry has significant negative social and environmental effects, the future of sustainability in the fashion industry is promising, and sustainable production methods are expanding. Starting with small actions and making changes in daily lifestyle choices, like reducing your fashion consumption, will not only benefit your bank account but also the health of our planet. If possible, try to keep your garments for as long as possible to minimize their impact on the environment as well as reduce the quantity of new items you need to purchase. Before purchasing clothing, doing some background research on the practices of the brand and the fabrics used can allow you to make a more informed decision on the sustainability and longevity of a product.