With a carbon footprint bigger than the entire airline industry, fashion has a long way to go when it comes to sustainability. However, there are many ways to look good and be good to the earth at the same time. Whether you’re a designer looking for ways to make sustainable styles or just a fashionista trying to green up your wardrobe, consider these four tips for wearing and producing eco-friendly clothes.
Reuse and Upcycle
Using old clothing that was destined for landfills is one of the most sustainable ways to produce fashions. Vintage boutiques have found a booming market for refurbished pieces from many years ago, but what about all those items that are damaged or decayed? Upcycling salvages material from these pieces and reworks it into something new. For example, you can use old skirts to make a fun patchwork dress or turn an aged pair of jeans into a cute denim handbag.
Make Use of Sustainable Fibers
One of the most important considerations when making or buying eco-friendly clothing is the material the garment is made from. Some of the most common clothing fibers are also some of the most unsustainable, but there are many great alternatives. Try using marine and coastal recovered plastic material yarn for knit items like hats, gloves and sweaters. Go for organic cotton or other plant-based fibers like hemp or bamboo over conventional cotton.
Reduce Chemical Usage
The fibers themselves aren’t the only issue with fabrics. Even eco-friendly materials may be dyed with harmful chemicals that pollute the environment and use large amounts of water resources. You might think white is a safe choice, but those snow-white duds are usually bleached with large amounts of chlorine, which leaches cancer-causing dioxins into the environment. Choose natural dyes, such as indigo or cochineal, that are derived from plant or animal sources or opt for the natural beauty of unbleached fabric.
Whether you’re looking for factories, materials or readymade clothing, source from countries that have strong regulations for labor and environmental protection. Look for the fair-trade label, which certifies that workers are paid a fair wage and production is safe and eco-friendly.
Although sustainable clothing is often more expensive than its fast fashion counterparts, remember that the cost of a cheap wardrobe is far more than the few dollars you spent on that shirt or bag. When you choose environmentally responsible options, you’re paying a little more to protect the future for the next generation.
Lizzie Weakley, the author, is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and walks in the park with her husky, Snowball.