Slow, green, ethical, conscious, sustainable and eco are all terms used to categorize products that are made with a level of integrity. But what exactly does that mean and why should we pay attention to these buzzwords?
It’s not easy to dive into the nitty gritty of what happens behind the iron curtain of the fashion industry because, frankly, it’s a lot. Similar to the food movement, we are beginning to see all of their dirty little secrets, and let me tell you, we are not happy. From unfair labor and poor manufacturing quality to taking second place for it’s negative environmental impact (just behind the oil industry), it’s safe to say that this trillion dollar industry has a long way to go.
It’s easy to just point fingers, sign petitions and demand brands to clean up their act, but that’s not exactly fair because we helped drive this train (we do love our bargains). So we have to help initiate a better future by taking action and empower brands to change.
1. Research before you cast a vote.
Every time you buy something, you are casting a vote. It may feel inconsequential because it didn't cost much, but that’s the point. The less we spend, the more we end up buying over time. These spending habits translate our values and tells companies that what we want is a lot of cheap clothes. Just think about what kind of corners these companies have to cut in order to keep prices down… This is why it’s important to make educated purchases; to know where and how your clothes are made, who made them and what they are made of. Try to buy from companies that are socially responsible and initiating environmental changes. Show the rest of the industry what kind of future you want. They will always follow the money.
2. Buy organic.
According to the Soil Association and the Organic Trade Association, conventional cotton uses 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of its pesticides. In California alone, five of the nine pesticides used on crops are carcinogenic. Which means that you probably don’t want those toxins against your skin let alone seeping into the earth and affecting local drinking water. Certified organic cotton has very strict regulations and initiatives to save water, energy and carbon emissions guaranteeing a healthier and safer environment.
3. Try alternative textiles.
With eco-fashion on the rise, there are tons of alternative materials being used to help reduce waste. From turning old rubber tires into shoes (Indosole) and discarded fishing nets into jackets (Ecoalf), there are several brands that have found ways to recycle existing materials for their designs. (We do however, recommend sticking to shoes and outerwear as there is conflicting research on how these materials affect your health and or if they continue to pollute water when washed.)
4. Buy second hand.
Thrifting and clothing exchanges are the best sustainable options when you want to freshen up your closet. Not only are you rescuing clothes from landfills, you’re saving money, gaining unique, one of a kind outfits, and it gives you more freedom to experiment with your wardrobe.
5. Upcycle existing clothes.
The US alone accumulates 11 million tons of textile waste each year that sits in landfills and emits toxic greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Instead of tossing your clothes, try to revive them by getting them tailored or pay a seamstress to reinvent them. And for the clothes that are past repair, turn them into a reusable bag or cut them into strips to use as cleaning rags.
6. Rent an outfit.
This is a great option for when you have 3 weddings to attend and only one nice dress. Instead of buying something new that you will probably only wear once or twice, try renting a dress for the occasion. It’s a great way to freshen up your look without wasting your money or the garment.
7. Take care of your clothes.
When you extend the life of a garment by just nine additional months, you can reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30% per each garment. Taking care of your clothes is also key to how much you continue to like them and how much the next person will want to buy them. So mend those holes and treat those stains.
8. Be aware of how you wash your clothing.
Washing machines and especially dryers have a much bigger environmental impact than you think. The average household uses around 13,500 gallons of water per year on washing clothes and 12% of their electric bill is from using the dryer. So always use cold water and the lowest heat setting. And if you can, line dry your clothes. Finally, avoid using dry cleaners that aren’t labeled as “green” because they use perchloroethylene (also known as perc) which is an air pollutant and a likely carcinogen.
9. Try to buy clothing that’s made locally.
One of the biggest and often forgotten pollutants in the fashion industry, happens when clothing is transported from overseas. One container ship can produce as much cancer pollutants as 50 million cars in a year. Additionally, the fuel they burn is much dirtier than highway diesel and consumes tons per hour (there is 31.75 gallons in 1 ton). But unlike cars, the emissions of these ships goes unregulated.
10. Buy less, buy better and wear what you have.
Shopping quality over quantity helps you curate the closet of your dreams, forces you to buy less, and motivates you to take better care of your clothes. This is the number one way to save money, increase your happiness, and help the planet.