• Exploring Sustainable Fashion Practices

    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. 

    Categories: Clothing, Student Contributor

  • 4 Ways to Reduce Textile Waste

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    The textile industry is infamous for being wasteful around the globe as clothing consumption grows at an astronomical rate. In fact, Fashion Takes Action, a non-profit organization working to advance sustainability in the fashion industry, reported that people are purchasing 60% more clothing than they did 20 years ago. Additionally, every year, over 100 billion garments are created around the world, which cause an overwhelming amount of waste in our landfills. This is largely due to an incredible consumer demand for fast and inexpensive fashion that are usually of very low quality. Unfortunately, this leads the average North American to contribute an average of 81 pounds of textiles to landfills every year. When clothing ends up in landfills, their synthetic fibers, similarly to plastic, do not biodegrade and release greenhouse gases while filling up valuable space in landfills. Unsurprisingly, this contributes negatively to climate change and the warming of our planet.  

    That being said, there are many actions we can take to repurpose our clothing and various textiles to ensure that they do not directly end up in landfills. Here are 5 ideas of things you can do to reduce your textile waste:  

    Donate your clothes 

    The most well-known way of reducing your clothing waste is to donate your clothing to organizations that will re-sell them in thrift stores or to various buyers interested in the material of certain textiles. Although many of us have heard of Goodwill, the Salvation Army and Value Village, there are other organizations to consider. For example, Recycling Rewards is a Canadian company that works to divert textile waste from landfills and partners with government associations, property managers and real estate companies to place donation bins around Ontario. They have a partnership with Talize Thrift Store, which is a National Thrift Retail Chain, who has agreed to purchase all the clothing collected by Recycling Rewards and its partners. We’ve reached out to Talize and they confirmed that whatever they cannot sell in their 11 thrift stores is “sent to companies for upholstery stuffing and rags, ensuring nothing ends up in landfills”. To be transparent, they also mentioned that they sell unsold clothing overseas but did not confirm where it ends up. By selling their textiles, they have raised over $400,000 for charities such as The Children’s Wish Foundation. If you’re interested in donating or to learn more about their work, visit their website by clicking here 

    Upcycle your clothing 

    UpcycleThat defines upcycling as “the act of something no longer in use and giving it a second life and new function”. It’s called ‘upcycling’ because the finished product is often more functional or beautiful than the original item. Transforming your clothing into something else can provide a nice feeling of accomplishment as you’re able to give your old garments a second chance. This is also a great opportunity to get creative, innovative and crafty as you brainstorm different ways to repurpose your clothes instead of disposing of them. You can upcycle old clothing into the following, which was inspired by Good On You, a sustainability blog: 

    • Makeup remover pads (from cotton shirts) 
    • Garment bags 
    • Reusable produce or shopping bags 
    • Pillowcases
    • Headbands (from stretchy material)
    • Reusable rags for cleaning 

    Repair (or have someone repair) your clothing 

    Whether your clothes have holes in them, have lost a button or are looking a little tired, there are many “do-it-yourself” (DIY) videos on the Internet that will help you repair your clothing. Sewing kits are (for the most part) pretty affordable and are perfect for restoring your clothes back to being good as new. If you’re looking to make larger repairs such as hemming to make your clothes fit more comfortably, you can invest in a sewing machine. Thankfully, the Ontario Textile Diversion Collaborative has created videos on how to repair various clothing articles such as replacing a drawstring, repairing a torn seam and patching a hole, to name a few. Click here to check them out! If DIY isn’t your thing, head over to your local dry cleaner and they’ll be happy to make repairs for you.  

    Resell your clothes to consignment stores

    Selling your clothes to consignment stores is a great way to earn some extra money and feel great about giving your previously loved clothing or accessories a second life! For the most part, these types of stores are (understandably) more selective about what they accept and will either pay you on the spot or pay you once a customer purchases your items. But that also means that the quality of their goods a considerably higher than a regular donations-based thrift store, as they tend to prefer trendy brand name clothing or accessories. While you sell your items, you can look around the store for gently used brand name clothing sold at a discount to reduce the demand for new fast fashion apparel. Some great stores to sell your clothes to in the Niagara region are:  

    Now that you know more about the impacts of improper disposal of textiles and what you can do to “recycle them, you can explore what method(s) work best for you. Enjoy donating, repairing, repurposing and selling your clothing!   


    Categories: Clothing, Student Contributor, Sustainability, Sustainability at Brock, Uncategorised, Waste