At a Glance:
Every year consumers are quick to replace last season’s wardrobe with the newest releases and product lines from this year’s fashion trends. Once we dispose of an article of clothing, we often forget about its existence; however, the textile waste in our landfills remains constant. Individuals discard more clothes than ever due to the prominence of fast fashion, but this is soon to be buoyed by the rise of sustainable fashion materials.
The Importance of Sustainable Fashion
In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that 11.9 million tons of textile waste were found in landfills — in the United States alone. That equates to roughly 75 pounds of waste per individual. While fashion retailers claim to address sustainability, many well-known fashion products are simply not made for longevity. Luckily, slow fashion is emerging to help counteract the damaging effects of fast fashion.
The idea is to slow the pace of fashion consumption and encourage shoppers to purchase fewer clothing items and only invest in products that are designed to last. The chemicals expelled from fabric dyeing and treatment contribute to human-derived climate change, and the fashion and apparel space produce more than eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That is why sustainable fashion production must continue to gain more traction throughout the industry.
Related Article: The 8 Best Sustainable Fashion Materials for Clothing Brands
How to Reduce Your Environmental Impact
Given these statistics, all fashion consumers must help reduce our environmental impact and contribute to a cleaner, healthy planet. To get started, follow our three helpful tips below.
1. Shop Less
Sustainability is stunted by our abundant need to consume. It is human nature to spend more and save less, and shoppers often believe they should be in tune with the latest fashion trends to align with their perceived lifestyle. However, the most environmentally-friendly article of clothing is the one that is currently hanging in your closet. Whether you plan to thrift, pass down, or continue wearing your old garments, keeping your wardrobe in rotation limits the waste produced and provides much-needed relief for the environment.
Rewearing clothes isn’t a groundbreaking idea, yet surveys suggest that consumers believe clothes are considered old after three wears, and most new outfits are only worn once before being tossed aside. At some point, new fashion became synonymous with disposable fashion; therefore, shopping less and retaining our outfits for longer will help break this chain and lead to sustainable longevity.
Before making a new purchase and disposing of your old clothes, you can try to:
- Repair or redesign a damaged garment
- Donate your clothes to family members or charitable organizations
- Sell your clothes through secondhand shopping markets or retailer buyback programs
- Recycle, recycle, recycle! Recycled textiles are used to make new clothes
- Rent clothing items and try before you buy
2. Choose Sustainable Fashion Brands
Fashion consumers like to think they are environmentally conscious, but glancing inside our closets often tells a different story. Thankfully, fashion brands are making environmental and social impact a greater part of their production process, including ethical manufacturing, safe working conditions, transparent supply chains, and sustainable fashion materials.
If you are new to sustainable fashion, start with materials and fabrics. The fabric used to produce your favorite garment will determine its level of environmental degradation, so be sure to check those clothes labels. Recycled cotton, linen, hemp, and polyester are popular organic fabrics, but Tencel, Piñatex, and Econyl are other sustainable alternatives making headway.
But what if you are not sure if a brand is sustainable? Search for product passports, plant-based fibers, local production, recycling programs, and textile use to get a better idea of the brand and its sustainable mission.
3. Invest in Quality Products
Because fast fashion products are so accessible, consumers frequently care less about quality and more about convenience. However, the convenience of wearing the latest name brands is not worth the toll it takes on the environment. As individuals become more aware of the relationship between fashion and the ecosystem, it will push brands to track and optimize sustainability efforts more closely to meet the consumer demand for efficiency. That includes compliance requirements, approved material lists, sample development, and real-time sustainable performance.
Additionally, if you want to test your clothing items for quality, be sure to check the stitches, zipper, buttons, and thickness. Threads should be strong, fabrics should retain their shape, patterns should match the seams, and fasteners should be well-constructed.
Bonus: Wash Clothes Properly
Running the washer and dryer has a significant impact on the environment because of water and energy use. Did you know the average American family does 40 to 45 loads of laundry per month? What’s more, each wash cycle uses nearly 40 gallons of water on top of the energy it takes to run both appliances day in and day out.
If you care for your clothes, your clothes will care for you. Managing our washing habits will help protect our fabrics and reduce our environmental impact. Get started by following these helpful tips:
- Using an energy-efficient washing machine to save water
- Washing full loads only
- Wearing clothes multiple times between washes
- Use detergents that are free of dyes, chemicals, or perfumes
- Wash clothes with cold water to save energy
- Avoid dry cleaning when possible
Environmental Impact Survey
The End of Fast Fashion?
To help reduce the fashion industry’s environmental impact, the European Commission announced an expansion of eco-design rules with the hope of ending fast fashion by 2030. The new set of rules applies to textiles and unsold stock while setting durability, recyclability, and energy efficiency standards for consumer goods (like washing machines) that coincide with the fashion industry.
According to the EU environment commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius, “By 2030, textiles placed on the EU market should be long-lived and recyclable, made to a large extent of recycled fibers.” In Europe, the average civilian throws away 11kg (approximately 25 lbs) of clothes, shoes, and other fabric goods every year — the main reason for these new regulations.
These sustainability proposals are part of the EU’s “circular economy” plan, aiming to lighten Europe’s ecological footprint. The commission wants to conserve the world’s natural resources and attempt to outlaw greenwashing throughout the fashion industry. Any claims of “eco-friendly” must be demonstrated before a brand could carry out the campaign or manufacture the product.
Clothes will not need to be thrown away or replaced as frequently, and consumers will gain, “A nice alternative, an attractive alternative to fast fashion,” Sinkevičius continued. It’s a tall order, but it is a great start to what sustainable fashion can look like worldwide.
Related Article: 4 Ways Your Fashion Brand Can Become More Sustainable
Sustainable Fashion is the Best Fashion
Measuring sustainability in the fashion industry is the key to achieving an ethically sourced wardrobe. Investing in brands that design clothes to last longer saves time and money, but also limits our consumption and reduces our environmental impact. And for smaller design teams or fashion startups, a dynamic, cloud-based fashion PLM will help guide your sustainability efforts. Backbone PLM makes it easy for fashion teams to track and optimize material lists and sampling stages in real-time to keep up with consumer efficiency standards.
If you’re ready to rescue your environmental impact, discover our collection of case studies, blogs, and free resources to learn more about the relationship between fashion PLM software and sustainable fashion.
Want to see what Backbone can do for your brand? Click the button below to schedule a demo today!