It is a fact - the textile industry is harmful to the environment.
This is true, first, in a physical sense: tons of low-quality, cheap clothing is thrown away every year, ending up in landfills. But the textile industry is also harmful in its production methods, use of scarce resources, and in the resulting impact on people and animals.
Fashion seasons are short, and in our era of social media big-brother-everywhere, people don't want to wear the same outfits over and over. They throw out perfectly good clothes.
It is time to start helping the environment and embrace sustainable fashion. Dress ethically – you can make a difference.
How to start dressing ethically
Follow a fashion blogger
Ethical fashion bloggers are out there with great stories and tons of inspiration. Start following a few on Instagram or do a Google search – you’ll find articles full of knowledge and expertise from all over the world to inspire you. You know what they say – knowledge is power.
Cultivate a 'buy-for-life' attitude
Don’t let social media dictate what you do or can’t do. A recent newspaper article revealed that one in ten people would throw away a piece of clothing after being pictured on social media wearing it two or three times.
Isn't it sad? Shouldn't we instead buy what we love and strive to wear it as often as we like? But, be sure to buy durable, quality clothing so that it can keep for a long time.
And if you love sequins? Well, they do add to plastic pollution. But, if you must – remember, try and buy for life. Let your sequin dress follow you to the nursing home. Why not?
Natural fabrics rule!
Organic fabrics are better for the environment than synthetic ones. Choose wool, organic cotton, linen, or Tencel. Avoid lurex, polyester, and nylon.
Natural fabrics are a bit more expensive, but think about the greater good: you are starting to live greener.
Watch out for blends
Blended fabrics can often not be recycled.
Check the labels of the clothes you buy. It is better to choose a '100%' fabric, even if it is polyester. It is much easier to recycle. Cashmere, wool, organic cotton, silk, and bamboo can usually be found in 100% blends.
That blended item? It will just land up on a landfill somewhere.
Second-hand clothing is cheap, fun, and exciting. You'll find variety and good quality – often under one roof.
Second-hand clothing does not mean 'dirty' and 'old.' In fact, most vintage shops will never sell anything in an unacceptable condition. It is a thrill wearing something that nobody else has! Local markets can also have great finds.
Here are some second-hand shopping tips:
- Once you find that unique shop that speaks to you, make sure you know when they usually unpack the 'new' stuff. Then, get there fast!
- It will help to know what you want. Second-hand shops usually have loads of stock. It's okay if you're going to browse, but if you know what you are looking for, you can ask a shop assistant.
- Always try on! A vintage item can look dowdy on a hanger, but it can blow you away if you try it on. Look the piece over for defects. You'll be missing the whole point if the item just ends up being junk in your cupboard
Some people give the best stuff away! You’ve probably experienced it before. Do the same. Give away an item if you think someone else will look great in it.
Another way to start thinking ethically about clothes is to swap clothes with friends. Your hand-me-down can be someone else's find! The only requirement here is that you and your friends wear more or less the same size clothing.
It's time to hit the shops.
Of course, it would be impossible to buy everything you need second-hand.
When you do decide it is time to buy something new, do some research first. Buy from brands with strong ethical values. What you buy should last a long time.
Start thinking about your clothes as 'timeless investments.'
Build your 'sustainability' knowledge. Check websites before you go shopping and look for 'slow fashion' certifications.
Imagine if everyone you know starts thinking ethically about buying clothes? If everyone can just buy half of what they did from ethical-value brands if it can make a huge difference.
Impulse shopping? Wait one day
Become more mindful. If you did not plan on buying something new, but it shouts your name, wait just one day. If you still love it tomorrow, by all means, buy it. After all, you are buying for life, aren’t you?
If you decide tomorrow, you can live without it – great! You are starting to get the ethical dressing thing.
Rent for special occasions
Sometimes you need something for a special occasion, but you just know you'll never wear it again. Reduce your fashion carbon footprint and find a great rental company. You’ll look fabulous for that special event without the actual clothing item cluttering up your wardrobe.
Know your size!
It might seem obvious, but a lot of outfits are thrown out because they don’t fit right. One way to dress more ethically is to take your time.
Know your clothing sizes and get into that fitting room in-store.
Nobody knows yourself better than you do. Think about the styles you like and how it fits your body. Then, reduce your waste and only buy clothing that fits you properly.
Less is more
Greener living means getting by with less. Less stuff, fewer clothes – a simpler life. Why not start a personal 'buy nothing day?'
Throw out your cupboard on a bed and really look at what you have. What can you jazz up? What haven’t you worn in years? What do you really really love? Make it your mission to end up with a 'lean but mean' wardrobe.
Another surprising way of living and dressing more ethically is to wash your clothes less. It is another mindful-living technique and not as gross as it may sound!
With every wash, thousands of plastic fibers get washed down the drain and eventually out to sea. One study found that a typical 6-kg load of laundry can release almost 2 million micro-small synthetic fibers into the sea.
And that is just from one household. Of, course, the fibers are microscopic, but add hundreds of thousands of homes to the equation? And let them wash their clothes three times a week? It all adds up.
It does not mean you have to be stinky. Just think a little before throwing something into the laundry basket.
Can it be worn another time? Can I air it out instead of washing it? You can also spot-treat a stain or change into 'old' clothes as soon as you get home to keep your work attire fresher for longer. Wear an apron if you cook.
It is the simple things that can make a big difference over the long run.
Are you inspired? We hope so. You can wear sustainable, ethical clothing and still be fashionable.
You may think that you are just one person: what difference can you make? Fact is, if everyone has such an attitude, nobody will do anything.
Behave ethically and inspire others. It is possible to create a ripple effect that may spread wider than you think.