It’s called [sustainable] fashion!
Fall is just around the corner, and if, like me, you’re getting excited for crisp-weather fashion (knits, outerwear, boots… I could go on and on), it’s a good time to pause and think more about where our clothes are coming from, and if there’s room to make some more Earth-friendly choices in what we buy (or in many cases, don’t buy).
According to the UN Fashion Alliance, fashion is a $2.4 trillion-dollar global industry that is responsible for 2-8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, consumes ~215 trillion liters of water annually, and accounts for approximately 9% of microplastics found in the ocean. Additionally, labor standards have historically been notoriously poor in the clothing industry, often resulting in human rights violations. This is another prime example of the ways in which the health of the Earth, the wildlife that inhabits it, and human actions are inextricably linked.
Those numbers are a lot to take in, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, as we often say here at Zoo Atlanta, your individual efforts matter. To that end, today we’re breaking down some simple steps you can feasibly take to move towards a more sustainable and ethical wardrobe.
This is the easiest, most cost-effective method for shopping sustainably. First and foremost, thrifting reduces waste, keeping clothes (and books, furniture, electronics, etc.) out of landfills (84% of clothing ends up in landfills or incinerators). Thrifting also reduces pollution- according to Green Story, “a dress purchased secondhand… saves 21.4 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. A handbag reportedly spares even more with a 267 pounds of carbon emissions savings compared to buying new.” Buying secondhand clothing items slows down the fast fashion cycle and alleviates demands on low-paid workers in the supply chain, making it a great all-around option for sustainability and labor ethics.
Shop sustainable brands:
Fashion brands that are truly sustainable can be costly, but if you purchase sparingly (as opposed to buying many cheaper fast fashion pieces), it evens out economically. You can find detailed lists of sustainable brands from different regions on Good on You.
Research your brands on Good on You:
Sometimes we all end up in a pinch, and buying fast-fashion is unavoidable. Even so, it’s good practice to research what you’re buying, so you’re aware of that brand’s impact and can make your purchases knowledgeably. Good on You has a wide directory of both common and niche brands with a rating system based on impact to the planet, people, and animals.
This is a fairly obvious tip built on the principle that the more we buy, the more we throw away. Buy only well-made items you love and can see yourself wearing / will last for years to come, or even better, give a capsule wardrobe (“a collection of basic, high-quality garments intended to be mixed, matched, and updated only by way of seasonal accessories”) a try.
Donate and recycle old clothing:
Finally, be conscious of how you dispose of clothes you no longer wear. Donate anything in good condition to thrift stores, and recycle items that can’t be worn again (you can find a great guide here). There is also a number of options for selling items in good condition that you no longer wear. For example, there are several companies where you can mail in clothing at no cost in exchange for cash or shopping credits. Anything that can’t be sold will be recycled or sent back to you.
Deeley, R. (2022, March 2). Human rights violations are increasing in fashion’s manufacturing hubs. The Business of Fashion. Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://www.businessoffashion.com/news/sustainability/human-rights-violations-are-increasing-in-fashions-manufacturing-hubs/
Johnson, B. (n.d.). What Is a Capsule Wardrobe, Who Does It Benefit, and How to Adopt Your Own. Tom’s of Maine. Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://www.tomsofmaine.com/good-matters/thinking-sustainably
Rauturier, S. (2021, May 17). Is Shopping Second Hand Sustainable? Good on You. Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://goodonyou.eco/is-shopping-second-hand-sustainable/
Vrachovska, M. (n.d.). Where To Recycle Old Clothes: 20 Textile Recycling Drop Off Locations. Almost Zero Waste. Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://www.almostzerowaste.com/recycling-clothing/
Woudenberg, C. (2021, July 10). Just How Environmentally Friendly Is Thrifting? Discover Magazine. Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://www.discovermagazine.com/environment/just-how-environmentally-friendly-is-thrifting