I am a huge fan of thrift shop shopping as a brilliant way to find what you need/want without contributing to the demand for cheap consumer goods. It has the added benefits of saving stuff from landfill, and raising money for good causes, so basically it’s a win-win. I wasn’t always such a fan though.
I have no doubt that there are some people reading this who were bought up in a family of thrifters, and for whom scouring charity shops or thrift stores is second nature.
There might however be a few, who are like I was a few of years ago: I would occasionally wander into the odd charity shop, maybe browse the bric-a-brac, and have a vague flick through a clothes rail or two, before leaving empty-handed. I was always slightly jealous of people when they told me they had found their ‘new’ jumper/jeans/skirt in a charity shop. I could never really find anything I liked, but it turns out I just wasn’t really looking properly.
Fast forward a few years, and our year of buying nothing new has turned me into a huge charity shop fan! All my clothes are now sourced there, as well as lots of the kid’s toys and clothes, and bits for the house too. I have never sat down and added it all up, but we must have saved a small fortune over three years, and so much of the stuff is in great condition.
MY TOP TIPS FOR THE BEST OF THRIFT SHOP SHOPPING:
1. GET TO KNOW YOUR LOCAL THRIFT SHOPS
If you’re not used to frequenting thrift shops then you might be vaguely aware that there are ‘some’ in your local town, but you probably don’t know all of them. Go for a wander, and really start to look for them. Or if you are new to a town, use Charity Retail Associations website to search for all the charity shops/thrift shops near you.
2. NOT ALL THRIFT SHOPS ARE CREATED EQUAL!
You will find that the quality and type of goods will vary from shop to shop. Some thrift shops almost look like ‘new’ shops now-clothes are sorted by colour; everything is laid out very neatly, the lighting is bright, and it all looks very lovely. There are however still ‘old fashioned’ thrift shops out there where everything is a bit of a jumble, but I love these-things tend to be a bit cheaper, and you get to have a good old rummage! And you will also find that some shops specialise in just one thing, e.g. clothes, or electrical items. Get to know your local ones, and which one’s suit your style.
I have never actually tested this out, but there is a theory out there, that thrift shops in more upmarket places, will have better quality stuff, and are more likely to have high fashion brands in them. Be aware though that thrift shops are now pretty clued up as to what brands are worth what, and the prices will reflect that.
4. MAKE A LIST, CHECK IT TWICE
During My Make Do and Mend Year, we made a list of the things that we needed, and I carried this around with me to consult when I did my little charity shop rounds. It helped me to remember that I was on the look out for size 5 wellies, or a whisk for the kitchen, and helped me be more targeted when I was browsing.
5. GO FREQUENTLY
Don’t just go once! Keep visiting regularly as the stock turns over pretty quickly, and if they don’t have what you need one week, they might in a week or two’s time.
6. TIME YOUR VISITS
Again, this is an untested theory, but some people recommend going on a Monday or Tuesday, as lots of people will have been clearing out their wardrobes/cupboards over the weekend, so there will be lots of new stock at the beginning of the week.
7. HAVE AN OPEN MIND
I once nearly walked away from a coat because I didn’t like the buttons. It took longer than it should have done for me to register that I could actually change the buttons really easily! I bought it, and rummaged in my button collection for some suitable ones, and now I LOVE it, and everyone always comments on it. If something fits well, but you don’t like the colour, it can be dyed. And if you can sew, then many things can be altered or re-fashioned to suit.
8. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Cast your eye over the menswear section for snuggly jumpers and cardis. Men’s shirts are a great source of quite a lot of fabric for sewing projects, as are sheets and duvets. Jeans are super versatile and even ties can be upcycled in all kinds of imaginative ways. Look at things with your upcycler’s specs on: all kinds of things can be repurposed into something you need-check out all these ideas for old tennis rackets!
9. THE SNIFF TEST…!
Some thrift shops will have a particular smell to them, and this can pervade the clothes. Check the labels to see if things can be chucked in the washing machine, and if they can then this should get rid of most whiffs. Bicarb is a great de-odoriser (soak items in bicarb and water overnight), and a top tip from a theater wardrobe mistress is that neat vodka sprayed onto smelly areas will remove the smell.
Fast fashion feels like it’s everywhere, and it’s easy to think that the fashion industry has always been this way but it is actually a relatively new phenomenon:
We are consuming 400% more clothes now than we did just 20 years ago (that’s the late 1990’s!)
And that increase in consumption comes at a cost:
The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry on the planet, second only to fossil fuels
It is responsible for 3% of total global CO2 emissions
150 billion items of clothing are made each year, and in the USA 36kg of clothes per person are thrown away.
The cost of clothes has come down hugely in recent years, and sadly clothes are now sometimes seen as disposable – some people quite literally buy cheap High St clothes with no intention of ever washing them and wearing again – they buy them to wear once and then throw away. But as cheap as our clothes now are, someone somewhere is paying the price. And in the case of fast fashion, it is the garment workers, and the planet, that suffer.
The good news is that because we all need to wear clothes, we have the power to create change by making different choices about the garments we wear and buy and there are actually lots of easy options for side-stepping fast fashion and not contributing to the demand.
SHOP YOUR WARDROBE How many items do you have in your wardrobe that you’ve hardly ever worn? How many items do you wear regularly? You might be surprised to find things that you had forgotten about lurking at the bottom of your drawers, or pushed to the back of your wardrobe.
SHOP SECONDHAND Check out your local charity shops, vintage shops, thrift shops and even jumble sales to see if you can find the things you need or want to fill the gaps in your wardrobe. You can go checkout some of the amazing stuff available at thrift shops in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. If you’re looking for specific brands then eBay is a great option – just remember to tick the ‘used’ box under ‘Condition’ in the sidebar on the left hand side.
SWISH OR SWAP Swishing is basically a fancy pants name for a clothes swapping party. You can have a look on sites like Swishing.com to see if you can find anything local to you, or get a few friends together and run one at home!
RENT Livia Firth recommends that when we’re thinking of buying a new outfit we ask ourselves “Will I wear this 30 times?” And if you won’t, then don’t buy it. I don’t know about you but I really don’t venture out to posh events and weddings very much anymore, so I’m unlikely to get 30 wears out of a posh frock. In which case, renting from a dress agency might well be the answer.
SHOP ETHICAL Fast fashion has a massive impact both on the planet, and on the people who make our clothes. If you want to reduce the impact of fast fashion on the environment then it’s best to shop from ethical brands.
When looking for Eco-friendly gifts, we find ourselves in a difficult task and especially when we have to give it to the smallest of the house. In our daily life, we generate a large amount of waste when we use processed products, so we must look for the best alternatives in order to avoid polluting the environment further.
I present some eco-friendly gift alternatives for you to show off:
1. Seed kits for the season
Depending on the country where you are, the different plants are found and depending on the season you will be able to eat certain fruits or vegetables. Choose to buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season, as these have a less environmental impact.
For your present, you can choose a set of seeds and plants according to your area and season. these could be: aromatic plants, fruit plants, vegetables, or legumes.
2. Stainless steel and glass containers
You can give away reusable stainless steel and glass containers to take our food wherever you want. With the COVID-19 crisis, it is even more important to take care of our hygiene to avoid getting sick, so we should use our own containers to eat or drink on the street or work, that is why this type of gift is very useful.
3. Wooden toys for children
These toys are beautiful, super useful, resistant and educational. It never goes out of style and becomes pretty memories passed down from generation to generation.
4. Eco-friendly gifts: Personal care product kits
These are a beautiful gifts that are always useful. You can find a wide variety of products that are made with ecological, natural materials that have not been subjected to industrialized processes and that will also go well for your body.
5. Personalized details by yourself
You can decorate a cotton shirt, a keychain, a pillow made of natural materials, or any object that you want to give as a gift. This way it will have a unique touch even by using recycled materials.
6. Eco-friendly gifts: Second-hand gifts
Sometimes people immersed in the culture of consumerism, acquire things without needing them, and there comes a time when they want to get rid of them. These types of gifts are usually an economical alternative, they are ideal for recycling or you could use them to make your DIYs ideas. You can buy secondhand item from thrift stores in Destin, FL.
7. Eco-friendly gifts: reusable bags
These bags are super useful and they can be customizable. The use of these bags is of great relief to the planet as it dramatically decreases the use of plastic bags.
8. Diaries made of recycled material
Many times, we have old notebooks or agendas at home that have not been used for a long time. Now is the time to take advantage of them. You can use all the unused sheets and make agendas for your friends, create a scrapbook or album out of them or make them into a beautiful bullet journal.
9. Eco-friendly gifts: Kitchenware
There is a great variety of products for the kitchen made of wood and other eco-friendly materials that we can give. They are usually very cute and will always be useful in any kitchen.
10. Handmade eco-friendly gifts
Near your home you will find a place where they sell handcrafted products, you just have to dig a little and you will find it. Or you could always try and make it yourself! Handmade products never grow old, and they are always a beautiful alternative for a gift.
11. Online coupons for organic stores
This will be innovative as your loved one can choose their own gift. Experiences will be recommended, and you could go together or just gift an experience for them: restaurant, massage, spa…, there are so many possibilities!
12. Eco-friendly gifts made of bamboo
Bamboo offers a wide variety of possibilities. These products are reusable, hygienic and can be kept for a long time.
13. Musical instruments made of bamboo and other natural materials
To encourage musical creativity in a person is a way to cultivate one of the most distinct skills that human beings have to communicate.
You will always find in musical instruments what a great variety of them, in their origin, were made with natural materials. This will always be a good gif, you never know if you will discover a great artist.
To make your gift even more “eco-friendly”, don’t forget to wrap it in recycled paper, or a newspaper that you might find at home. It could be a newspaper, magazine paper or any type of paper you have at home that has already served its purpose and that you can now use to wrap your gifts. Don’t buy new paper that will last for just two minutes, this creates a lot of pollution and waste. Apply to your gifts -whenever you can-, the rules of: reducing, reusing and recycling!
Glamorous looks, trendy accessories, expensive purses… is that what fashion is about? Are we aware of the cost of making our looks? There are environmental, social and economic costs to making clothes, much more that we thought we knew. Check this list of the Top 7 Sustainable Fashion Documentaries and learn more about the cost of Fashion and its alternatives:
The True Cost: This documentary uncovers the details of Rana Plaza Disaster in which a garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh, killing 1134 people in the incident. It uncovers the harsh reality and bizarre situation of human beings working in the fashion industry as they pay the cost of our trendy fashion products.
River Blue: This documentary unveils the severe consequences of the fashion industry on marine life and our precious water reservoirs, Rivers. It unearths the secret that the fashion industry is one of the world’s most polluting industries and it puts an emphasis on the dark side of the fashion industry. The more you dig, the more you find.
Slowing down Fast Fashion: the film helps the viewer realize how we direly wish for cheap clothes all the time, and how it puts a huge toll on the environment and laborers working in the fashion industry. The thing with this documentary is that doesn’t provide solutions or answers to the problem.
The Minimalists: This is another story highlighting our habit of buying too much stuff and products beyond our needs and requirements. It emphasizes the idea that we can live on little stuff rather than accumulating too much and expending too much money.
China Blue: This is a story of a Chinese worker Jasmine Li from Sichuan province. This highlights her work at a jeans factory and unveils the harsh environment there.
The Next Black: This movie suggests a platform for designers and innovators across the globe to come closer and work out on how the fashion industry should move on.
The Machinists: This documentary unveils the exploitation of garment workers in Bangladesh by depicting the personal stories of three young women working in Dhaka. The movie shows how they fight every day to survive, struggle for their livelihood, face their bosses and how they make the clothes that we wear.
You can do a lot to on your level to reduce the waste the fashion industry produces every year. You can choose ethical and environmental friendly brands to shop from. You can also try to repurpose and upcycle your old clothes and also donate the clothes to charities and thrift stores in Destin, FL.
You may have noticed that Slow Fashion and Fast Fashion are expressions used increasingly often in the retail industry. What do these two terms mean? And why is the distinction between both concepts now more than ever necessary?
As its terminology indicates Fast Fashion and Slow Fashion are conceptions of fashion that relate differently to time.
Fast Fashion believes that trends in retail change frequently and that, accordingly, collections in stores should reflect these changes in trends.
Some Fast Fashion retailers have even made the case that they have democratized the fashion experience – no longer reserved for the elite, fashion is available and accessible to all. Thanks to Fast Fashion, everyone can afford to wear the latest trends, and to regularly experience the short-lived high of a new fashion purchase and the pleasure of wearing something new.
Thus, Fast Fashion relies primarily on low prices: so everyone can indulge frequently in new trends. It relies secondly on rapid turnovers: apparels evolve from the design stage to the retail floor in only a matter of weeks.
The traditional fashion seasons followed the annual cycle of summer, autumn, winter and spring but in fast fashion cycles have compressed into shorter periods of 4–6 weeks and in some cases less than this.
To produce large quantities rapidly and at a low price, Fast Fashion’s supply costs must be kept low and use cheap materials (eg: petroleum based synthetic materials, rayon, nylon, copper, chromium), cheap manufacturing processes (heavy machinery, chemical dyeing processes), and of course cheap labor costs.
Outsourcing production to developing countries with low minimum wages (Bangladesh, Cambodia, India for example) is an inevitable step in Fast Fashion production. Sometimes these countries do not respect labor human rights. The result is a disposable $9 shirt you can buy at Zara that won’t survive 5 rounds of laundry.
“In short: Fast Fashion stands for quantity over quality”
What is Slow fashion then? Another trend? Clothing reserved exclusively to the wealthy? An antagonist to Fast Fashion? A political movement?
In some respects one might say that Slow Fashion is technically the opposite of Fast Fashion as more money, resources, and time are put into the confection of one single garment. Unlike the $1.44 trillion dollar industry that is Fast Fashion, Slow Fashion consists of small-owned businesses that produce generally locally on a slower scale. The result is often higher prices.
Ideologically, Slow Fashion is less preoccupied with keeping up with trends than with the quality and sustainability of what it produces. Sustainability is a principle applied both to how it produces garments (in a way respectful of the environment and human rights) and what it produces (garments of quality that last). Slow fashion falls right in line with minimalism in that it will encourage the consumer to own ten essentials that last instead of 1000 disposables.
Slow Fashion demands us to slow down consumption to decrease fashion production and raw material depletion to allow the earth’s regenerative capabilities to take place.
Slow Fashion is as much technical as it is ideological for it represents what is “eco”, “ethical” and “green” in one unified practice and philosophy. Carl Honoré, author of “In Praise of Slowness”, argues that the ‘slow approach’ intervenes as a revolutionary process in the contemporary world because it encourages taking time to ensure quality production, to give value to the product, and contemplate the connection with the environment.
If you want to save the environment from degradation then you should purchase sustainable clothes. You can also opt for buying pre-loved clothes from a thrift shop in Lebanon, TN.
Did you know that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of all annual global carbon emissions? That is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined! (World Bank Group, 2019)
What is fast fashion?
So, perhaps you’ve heard of the phrase ‘fast fashion’ before, but what does it actually mean? Fast fashion is used to describe cheap clothing produced by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. Some well-known brands include the likes of H&M, Zara and Uniqlo.
Fashion retailers intentionally create new items of clothing and trends every few weeks, in hopes to persuade customers that they must ‘stay on trend’ by regularly purchasing new items of clothing. Since the clothing is usually of low quality and relatively inexpensive, customers will often find that they will return to stores to buy new items of clothing as it is cheaper than repairing old garments.
The effects of fast fashion
Many of us may believe that shopping for clothes (especially cheap and on trend clothes!) is harmless and maybe even fun, but what are effects of fast fashion on the environment? How it is possible for retailers to sell stock so cheaply whilst still making a profit?
In reality, many toxic chemicals are used to create the vibrant colours, prints and patterns that appear on fast fashion garments. These chemicals are often dumped into nearby rivers and streams by unregulated factories, polluting the water and air as well as harming the health of the workers that produce the garments.
In addition to this, polyester garments contain microfibres that are unable to biodegrade. This means that when they are washed in domestic washing machines, the microfibres shed and pass through our waterways which eventually lead to our oceans. This adds to the increasing levels of plastic in our oceans and present a large threat to aquatic life.
Furthermore, the low quality of fast fashion garments along with the fast trends, mean that clothes are being thrown away at an unprecedented rate. In Britain, more than 300,000 tons of clothes end up in a landfill. Landfill sites produce greenhouse gases that harm the environment and contribute to global warming.
In order to promote such low prices, cheap labour is often sourced from sweatshops. These are factories that employ workers for extremely low wages for long hours, often in poor conditions. For example, in Bangladesh, the majority of garment workers earn little more than the minimum wage and far below what is considered a living wage. Many are also forced to work 14-16 hour days, 7 days a week in hazardous conditions. Since 1990, more than 400 workers have died and several thousand more have been wounded in 50 major factory fires. Sexual harassment and discrimination are also widespread and many female workers have reported that the right to maternity leave is not upheld by employers.
What can we do to help?
If you would like to reduce your fast fashion consumption, here are some top tips on how to get started:
Buy from ethical and sustainable brands.
Consume secondhand clothing from thrift stores such as thrift stores in Lebanon, TN or online marketplaces (such as Depop). You can even swap clothes with friends and family!
DIY or upcycle old clothes. You can get creative with this by cutting, sewing, and even knitting fabrics!
Let’s be clear right from the very start that is not in any way a judgement of you if you buy fast fashion because money is tight. Cheap clothes can be a lifeline and this post is NOT aimed at you. Remember that fast fashion is a part of a broken system – but even if you have to buy it/have bought it before, just because it was produced in the fast fashion system, doesn’t mean you have to treat it as fast fashion. Look after it, wear it many, many times, and don’t be in a rush to replace it.)
But there will be people who can afford to shop elsewhere, who can afford to make more ethical choices, but who choose not to. If that’s you, then this post IS for you. And please know that it comes from a place of compassion, concern for people and planet, and from a desire to spread the word about some of negative impacts fast fashion has on the environment and the people who make our clothes.
It’s no judgement on you if you didn’t know all the stats and figures I’m going to share. If you hadn’t reached the point yet where you’ve joined the dots between your choices and people and planet. We can’t change what we don’t know.
I didn’t know until we spent out year buying nothing new. If you’d asked me before that point how my clothes were made, I would have said in a factory. I assumed it was all automated and done by machine. If you’d asked me what my clothes were made from I would have said cotton, and assumed that was ok because it’s a plant, and therefore natural.
But during that year (and since), I’ve learned that:
The majority of our clothes are made by people, usually women (80% of garment workers are women) who are sat in often poorly lit factories in unsafe conditions, sewing the same seam on the same garments, day in, day out, hour after hour. For up to 18 hours a day. For far less than the living wage they need to be able to feed their family.
Some garment workers are children. Supply chains for the fast fashion brands are so complex and are sub-contracted so many times, that most of them wouldn’t know if there was child labor being used to make their garments.
Many of our modern clothes (especially fast fashion) are made from synthetic (oil based) fabrics. The oil needs to stay in the ground.
It takes over 2000L of water to make one t-shirt -that’s the same amount of water we drink in 3 years
All of the above impacts on garment workers and the planet are compounded by the speed with which we in the developed world consume fashion.
Clothing production doubled between 2002 and 2015
Globally we consume 80 billion pieces of clothing every year
We have enough clothing on the planet right now to clothe the next 6 generations of the human race (this is via Patrick Grant from Great British Sewing Bee)
I don’t think any of us wants that. But the problem is that’s not what we’re thinking about when we spot a cheap t-shirt, or we’re feeling a hacked off with lockdown and want things to feel more normal again and hit the shops.
The system is broken. And that’s not our fault. But one thing we can do (if we can afford to) is decide to step out of that very unjust, unfair, damaging system by making some different choices. Some more thoughtful choices.
Is your convenience and desire for a new cheap t-shirt, more important than the safety of garment workers (possibly children) and the future we’re creating for our kids? That sounds very deep, a bit worthy, and not very (ish) but it is the reality we find ourselves in. It’s a hugely uncomfortable truth. And if we CAN afford to make different choices, we owe it people and planet to do so.
We can buy secondhand clothes to reduce the number of clothes that end up in the landfills every year. You can visit one of the thrift stores in Lebanon, TN if you want to shop for pre-love clothes.
Have you ever asked yourself ‘How sustainable is the fabric in my clothes?’ As a keen sewist and someone who makes my own clothes, I have always been aware of the fibres in the fabric that I buy, and have definitely got certain fabric types that I prefer to sew with. However, another important consideration for me is where my cloth is made and how eco friendly it is.
As a planet, we seem to have found ourselves with a clothes consumption habit. Do you want to know which fabrics are the worst for the planet? And which cloth you should be demanding that the fashion industry use in their products?
Well read on, because in this post I am going to discuss which fabrics you should be looking for, which to avoid at all costs, and which ones you may think are environmentally sound, but actually are not! Here is your guide to choosing clothes that are better for the planet.
How Sustainable Is The Fabric In My Clothes?
‘Fast Fashion’ has definitely been one of the buzz words of the last few years. But I do still think that people do not really consider the clothes that they buy and wear to be a part of the ecological issues facing the planet that we live on.
There is a lot of talk at the moment about how environmentally unfriendly the fashion industry is. A lot of the mass produced clothes that we buy are made in Asia, China and underdeveloped countries. Labour is cheap, and there are not always the best working conditions and practices. Plus, the fabric the clothes are made from is also produced in these areas. The clothes may not be ethically made nor eco friendly.
Do you know how your clothes have been made?
Why Cloth Consumption Is Such A Bad Habit
In recent years, and particularly over the past year during Coronavirus, people have made more purchases of clothes from online sellers than ever. Profits from some of the cheap clothes producers have hit record highs.
But a sad side effect of this is that as a planet we are throwing away more clothes than ever. It is estimated that £140 million of clothing goes to landfill each year! And a lot of clothes makers have little consideration for the ecological effects of their production methods. They just want to make the most profits.
So as consumers, what can we do to try and slow down this clothes consumption habit we have found ourselves in? Well, certainly we should be starting to look at how sustainable the fabrics that we buy are. How sustainable the fabric is in our clothes.
And what we can do as consumers to drive the clothes manufacturers to produce more of what is better for the planet. So –
which fabrics should we be buying?
what fabrics should we stop buying?
which fabrics should we limit? and
which fabrics seem ecologically sound, but really are being ‘greenwashed’?
The Clothes Fibres To Definitely Avoid
It is easiest to start with this group. Most of them are probably the most obvious. And we should definitely stop buying clothes if we see these fabrics on the label.
Polyester, Nylon and Acrylic
Made with plastic fibres from a petroleum base, these fabrics won’t degrade for between 20 to 200 years. And they use very harmful chemicals in their production.
Plus, washing these fabrics releases microfibres at each wash – polluting the oceans and getting into the food chain. Avoid buying new fabrics that contain these fibres. And avoid polyester blends – poly cotton, polyester jersey etc.
Consider buying recycled polyester from plastic bottles or nets – but there is still the problem of microfibres being released when washing.
PVC and fake leather are made with a heavy chemical process. A lot of plastic is made to coat the fabric fibres, and there are usually phthalates in the product. As such it is the most unsustainable fabric.
Velvet used to be made from silk fibres, but now is mostly made from a mix of synthetic and natural fibres, usually polyester based.
Even real silk is not sustainable (see below) So unless you know that it is vegan silk velvet, it is best to avoid.
Glitter Or Sequinned Garments or Cloth
It may seem obvious, but cloth that has glitter or sequinned cloth has added plastic pieces. In the case of glittered fabric, this plastic releases so many more microfibres when washed, so needs to be avoided at all costs!
Fur and Leather
From an ethical point of view, fur and leather can never be seen as an environmentally friendly choice, even as a by product of the food industry. There are many arguments in place about how moving to a plant based diet would be so much better for the planet.
But as well as avoiding the real thing, fake fur should be avoided. It is made of plastic.
As with polyester, PVC and nylon, fleece is made with PET plastic. And it releases a whole load of microfibres when washed.
You can buy recycled fleece – but again this does release microfibres.
Silk may be a natural product, made from the secretions of the silk worm. But the intensive way that it is harvested, and the killing of the silk worm in the process certainly mean that the production of this highly prized luxury fabric is certainly not a sustainable process.
Furthermore, the working conditions of those producing a lot of the fabric in developing countries tends to be very poor, with almost slave labour practices.
Cashmere and Angora Wool
Cashmere is made from goat wool, and angora from the fur of Angora rabbits or goats. The resulting fibres are often mixed with sheets wool to produce a blended product.
Whilst you may think of these both as natural fibres that do not involve killing the animals to produce, in actual fact the production of these fibres often involves cruel and unethical practices. Especially in the Chinese producing factories.
The animals are kept in cramps and unhygienic conditions, and treated very poorly. Definitely unsustainable from an ethical point of view.
Clothes Fibres To Be Wary Of – They May Seem Green Or Natural – But They Are Not!
Although these clothes fibres are natural, they certainly aren’t sustainable fabrics, and so it is better to limit your consumption of these, or definitely buy recycled or organic versions.
Greenwashing has become another buzz word over the last few years. Greenwashing is when the clothes manufacturer tries to make out that they are using natural and ethically produced cloth or partaking in greener recycling methods. But actually the cloth or products aren’t much more eco friendly than their fast fashion comrades.
So what clothing fibres seem natural or green, but may not be that sustainable really? It is certainly worth taking a closer look when buying these fabrics.
As a natural fibre, you would think that cotton would be incredibly sustainable. But you would be wrong.
Most cotton is intensively grown, with a lot of toxic pesticides and workers in poor conditions. Then the fibre and resulting cloth is chemically treated and produced in factories with poor ethical working and pay conditions.
Furthermore, the water needed to create cotton garments is highly intensive. One pair of jeans needs up to 20,000 gallons of water to make. A single t-shirt can take 3000 gallons of water to produce. This just is not sustainable.
Yes, you can buy Oeto-Tek organic cotton, which is GOTS certified (Global Organic Textile Standard), but at the end of the day, it is better to buy recycled cotton.
Similarly, denim is also cotton, so has the same chemical, pesticide and highly intensive energy consumption issues, making it just as unsustainable as cotton. But it has the added process of often needing to be sandblasted during production. This process is high risk and is often carried out by workers in poor conditions. Making denim just as unsustainable.
Again, look for denim with GOTS certification. Or buy recycled.
Viscose / Rayon
Viscose (or rayon) is made from the wood pulp of fast growing beech, pine, sugar cane and eucalyptus plants. So again you would think that this is a great sustainable fabric source.
But harvesting this wood is also the cause of a lot of deforestation in the areas that produce it. So look for viscose from sustainable forest sources. FSC certified. If it does not have this guarantee or mark, then it probably is not from a sustainable source.
Again, you think wool and you think about sheep who are still alive after being sheared. It is a natural, breathable fibre.
But the production of wool does have some environmental effect on the planet and ethical impact on the animal. Controversial shearing practices and whether the sheep are treated well mean that wool is not necessarily as sustainable an option as you may think.
I would consider buying reused, recycled or preloved wooden products. And looking after them well.
One of the biggest supposed eco friendly revolutions of the past few years has been rise of bamboo incorporation into fabrics. It seems very eco friendly.
However, a lot of the production of bamboo for the clothing industry comes from China, so we know very little of whether it is grown sustainably. We do not know how energy efficient its production is, or whether the workers producing it are treated ethically, fairly or even paid properly.
Peace silk may seem more sustainable and eco friendly, as the silkworm is not killed during production of the fibre. But the production of this cloth is still very energy and emissions intensive, so it thus cannot be classed as being a sustainable fabric source.
Modal is a very popular fabric now. It is a semi-synthetic viscose material that is soft and drapes as well as viscose. It can be made with 100% Tencel, which is a sustainable fabric (see below). But it is often also mixed with less environmentally friendly fabrics. So it is best to take a close look before purchasing clothing made of this. Make sure it is 100% Tencel Modal.
So – What Fabric Fibres Should I Be Buying?
Choosing these fabrics are a great way of making the clothes in your wardrobe more sustainable. The materials used to make them are manufactured or grown healthily.
They are good for the economy, and less waste and emission producing. Their manufacture tends to involve more ethical production methods, with workers being paid a living wage and having good working conditions. And so all round they benefit the planet rather than stripping it of energy and resources.
Maybe if you have a favourite brand it is worth asking them if they can produce clothing using these fabrics in the future?
Linen is made of fibres from the flax plant, and this material has been around for centuries. As an organic fibre, it actually requires minimal water and pesticides to grow a strong plant. It grows even in poor soil. The resulting cloth is strong, cool, resists moths and is fully biodegradable, particularly when no synthetic dyes have been used. It is an amazingly sustainable fabric source.
Like linen, hemp has also been used for hundreds of years. And like linen, the hemp plant needs little water and pesticides to grow well. It also can grow in poor soil; even fertilising the soil in which it grows! It too is incredibly sustainable as a natural cloth making fibre.
Nettle, Jute and Rame
Nettle, Jute and Rame are also plant based cloth fibres. Like hemp and flax, they are very fibrous plants that grow in poor conditions and are strong fibres, and are perfect for producing sustainable crops for cloth making. I am sure that we will see a whole lot more of these in cloth production in the future.
Tencel is made with cellulose fibres, a wood pulp. It requires less water and energy to produce. It is antibacterial and wicks water away from the wearer, so it is great for active wear..
Pinatex is made by Ananas Anam – and is a vegan leather alternative made by the natural byproducts of pineapple harvesting methods for the food industry.
The faux leather is made using pineapple leaf fibres. And the company also have a very ethical relationship with the communities involved in the growth and harvest of pineapples.
Econyl is made by Italian company AquaFil. They are regenerating industrial synthetic waste such as fishing nets and waste fabric into a new nylon fibre. It takes less waste and energy to produce the new plastic, so hence this is more sustainable. However, the resulting fabric does still shed micro plastics, so it is best washed in a Guppyfriend Bag
Unlike real silk and peace silk, vegan silk is microsilk – a man made made material that is spun from natural based fibres. it is made by Bolt Threads who also make Mylo – a sustainable leather substitute that is made from mycelium, or a fungus type material.
frienRecycled Cotton and Denim
Recycled cotton and denim are definitely the best and only true sustainable versions of this fabric. Recycling cotton is relatively easy, and needs reduced water and emissions. And means less cotton going to landfill.
Recycled Polyester, Recycled Fleece And Recycled Plastic Products
A lot of manufacturers are now using recycled polyester, recycled plastic bottles and fishing netting. But do be aware that these still release microfibres of plastic when washed. So it is best to use a Guppyfriend wash bag that catches the plastic particles.
How Do You Check What Fibres Your Cloth Is Made From?
Read the label in the clothing.
Ask the seller of the cloth what the fabric is made from. If they cannot tell you, walk away.
If buying online, check the description well for the full fibre content. Sellers should be able to tell you this.
And How Do I Make The Clothing In My Wardrobe More Sustainable?
I am not saying at all that you should throw all the clothes in your wardrobe away. But that in future we all need to buy a little more responsibly and buy smarter.
Only by voting with our dollars and pounds will we get the clothes manufacturers to change their ways. If we all stopped buying the mass produced, cheap and unenvironmentally unfriendly trash that is being produced in favour of more sustainable clothing and methods, then it would make a massive impact on the planet.
So how do I make the fabric in my clothes more sustainable?
Buy less clothes , choose well and make them last.
Recycle or donate your clothes if you do not want them
Consider up cycling clothes into other things when they are worn. and
Compost whatever fabric you can – natural fibres will all compost down. Find my guide to composting here.
If you are buying cloth to sew into clothes, do ensure that the cloth that you buy is sustainable too. Maybe consider buying deadstock fabric – fabric that would normally be going to landfill anyway, but is being sold off.
Whenever I’m asked for advice on experiencing fashion sustainably (I’ve decided I prefer to say experiencing over shopping because consumption isn’t the be-all and end-all of this issue), I tend to always answer with, “Ask questions“, which initially stemmed back to how I came to educate myself on fast fashion’s human and environmental impact.
Fashion Revolution, the organisation that played a big part in my education and understanding of the industry, bases its main campaign around “Who made my clothes?” and asking brands for transparency but to me, this sense of curiosity and urge to ask questions should go further.
With the likes of Extinction Rebellion’s new fashion boycott spurring on more people to analyse their shopping habits and questioning whether we need to be buying any clothes at all (once we already have a decent amount to wear), I believe it’s important to evaluate how we approach shopping – or avoiding it (which I’ve discussed here) – and the language we use. We need to ask ourselves. We need to slow down and understand how we truly feel, and especially when shopping, we need to avoid certain phrases…
“I need this.”
I’ve definitely experienced plenty of those, “That’s so me!”, squeal-worthy moments, so, it might seem nitpickish to call this out as an issue but it’s all part of consciously shifting your mindset and attitude towards shopping.
Now that the majority of my shopping occurs on a second-hand basis, I truly understand the difference between needing and wanting. This doesn’t mean that I’m numb to impulse and spontaneous purchases; charity and thrift shops can still bring out that sense of excitement and temporary fulfilment in you but it just comes with minimised guilt.
For me, this distinction between necessity and longing extends to my blog and my approach to receiving samples and gifted products. If I don’t need it or if I already have a similar item in my possession then I will politely decline.
There’s no issue in wanting, in fact, I’ve previously written all about actively lusting over items and why I believe wish lists can be more useful than I once deemed them to be.
“I probably didn’t need this.”
Similarly, this is a phrase which derives from impulse purchases and is almost the exact opposite attitude of what somebody who labels themselves as a ‘conscious consumer’ might have. In simple terms, if you probably didn’t need it, then why did you buy it? ‘Treat yo’ self’ culture is something that we’ve all become fairly desensitized to and it’s understandable, seeing as retail therapy is scientifically proven to be just that – a form of dopamine-inducing therapy.
Shopping sustainably though (or avoiding shopping altogether), is all about taking your time to mull over your decisions and work out what the best option is. To shop, or not to shop? That is the question!
Limiting the number of times we fall back onto the excuse of treating ourselves, is a way of not only restricting the size of our wardrobes but a way of saving ourselves money in the long-run.
“I’m not sure why I bought this.”
I see this to be different to the previous two phrases because it doesn’t just suggest that what you bought was an impulse purchase; it also suggests the attitude you might have towards the item in the future. Shopping sustainably also means owning responsibly.
Fashion Revolution coined the phrase “Loved clothes last”, meaning that if we care and respect our clothes, no matter how ethically produced they were or what materials they are made of, they will ultimately last longer because we will do our best to look after them.
(However, this is not a reason to fall back into the habit of supporting unsustainable and unethical brandsjust because we know we can make their products last. That’s like continuing to use single-use plastic bottles just because you can refill them over and over; there are other ways of doing things that won’t be harmful to start off with.)
None of these phrases strictly imply that you’re living and consuming unsustainably but I believe that what we say and think about our clothes and what we bring into our lives can have a huge effect on our mindset towards consumption. So, if we can change our attitude towards genuinely knowing why we buy what we buy, it could help us all be far more considerate.
“It’s really in trend right now.”
Aside from the sustainability aspect, the lack of guilt and the fact that it’s a habit I’ve had since I was a child, one reason I love shopping second-hand is that it allows so much more room for individuality.
Clothes are not separated into styles and seasons (at most, you might find clothes organised by colour) and there are no look books and stylised campaigns to influence your decision making. There are no trends, which makes avoiding this phrase relatively easy.
Trends and the vast amount which are generated by the fashion industry’s constant cycle of seasons, maintain the rate of production of new garments and feed into this idea that what we are wearing and searching for, is never enough. There will always be another season with another set idea of what we should be wearing, therefore, another reason to buy.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying trends but I recommend taking the time to sit with those feelings and analyse them once the peak of the trend has passed. I use apps like Depop and the Saved function of Instagram to store trend-led items for sale so I can source them sustainably in the future if the style is still something I appreciate.
“I really need to stop buying more [insert item of clothing]…”
This is the phrase which I believe is easiest to scrap entirely. Don’t get me wrong, it’s understandable (and even appreciated) when somebody owns something in their wardrobe in a selection of different colourways because it’s a dress/shirt/pair of trousers that fits and suits them better than anything else – for some people, that’s essential, especially when it comes to finding the right sizing (even more so from an ethical or sustainably focused brand which might not always have the most inclusive size-ranges).
When it comes to your wardrobe as a whole though, it’s time to recognise when enough is enough. For me? I don’t need any more blouses and tops. I have too many to balance out the number of bottoms (trousers, shorts and skirts) that I own.
That doesn’t mean that I’m going to suddenly decrease the size of my wardrobe (a smaller wardrobe doesn’t necessarily make a more sustainable one) but it does mean I need to be making the conscious effort to stop adding more in the future, even if it is from a guilt-free source like a local charity shop.
Analyse your wardrobe and figure out what your limit is. From my experience, physically limiting myself (with a lack of storage space or from living out of a suitcase) has meant I’ve been able to calculate this more easily. You can also opt to buy pre-owned clothes. You can visit one of the thrift stores in Lebanon, TN if you want to buy secondhand clothes.
With deforestation, water scarcity, and global warming altering the environment and threatening the lives of millions of species—humans included—we need to start thinking of all how our consumption contributes to climate change.
That means it’s no longer enough just to turn the lights off when you’re not using them, or to use public transport now and then.
Sure, these are essential things to bear in mind, but if we want to curb global warming, we need to change the way we think of consumption.
One of the most publicized ways in which consumers contribute to climate change is through fast fashion.
According to studies by the World Bank, the fashion industry consumes as much as 93 billion cubic meters of water, dumps half a million plastic fibers in the ocean and contributes to 10% of carbon emissions every year.
If we carry on with our current model of fashion retail, that number will surge over the next ten years, resulting in an entirely unsustainable impact on our planet.
Origins Of Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is a term that you’ve probably heard if you’ve heard anything about the environmental impact of the fashion industry. In a nutshell, fast fashion is the term applied to the unsustainable and wasteful methods currently employed by fashion brands worldwide. Although now we see it this way, it wasn’t always the case.
For decades, clothing retail was all about custom-made and tailored clothes, dominated by high-class fashion designers and featuring a high price tag. But in the 1960s, clothing manufacturers began taking advantage of mechanized and industrialized clothes making, and over the coming decades, fast fashion became a popular alternative to bespoke and designer clothes.
By using cheaper materials, outsourced international labor, and machine-led industrial manufacturing, clothing brands could now produce many thousands of one item for a hugely reduced cost. Meaning manufacturers could sell these items on high streets around the world for a fraction of the price of big designer labels.
In the late 70s and 80s, the fast fashion brands we know today were born in Europe. H&M, the oldest fast fashion brand still in existence, opened up in Sweden in 1974 then the UK in 1976, the same year Zara opened in Spain.
It would be a few decades before branches opened in the States—1990 for Zara, the 2000s for H&M—and by that point, the brands were proud of the label fast fashion, boasting about how it took only 15 days to get a garment from designer to shop floor.
We often praise fast fashion for democratizing the fashion industry. Before the 1960s, designer clothing was only available to the rich, those who could afford to pay for tailored clothes, anyone who couldn’t rely on handmade or hand-me-down garments.
Fast fashion meant that you could look good no matter where you are or what your socio-economic background.
How Consumers Treat Fast Fashion
But the industry is not entirely to blame: we consumers have an environmental impact too. Beyond the effects of the production of fast fashion, there is also an impact generated by consumers.
Consumers wear clothes for significantly less time and throwing away considerably more clothes than ever before. This waste is partly due to the poor quality of some fast fashion garments that don’t stand the test of time as older or bespoke items might, but it’s also a testament to how we relate to fashion. Clothes are cheaper and easier to get than ever, so they’re more expendable than ever.
The McKinsey Institute estimates that, while we buy 60% more clothes than previous generations, we throw them away at a far higher rate, generating a massive amount of personal clothing waste.
So fast fashion is not just a corporate failing. There is a personal responsibility: with each fast fashion purchase we make and throw away, we’re contributing to fueling a global planet-killing, ocean-polluting, human-abusing machine.
7 Ways to Break Fast Fashion Habits
Thankfully, as we are more aware than ever of the impact of the fashion industry, we are more prepared than ever to reduce it. Here are a few things you can do to break your fast fashion habits and shop sustainably.
We buying less is the most significant change we can make to reduce our clothing carbon footprint. The best way to shop sustainably is not to shop at all unless necessary. Think about each purchase you make and see if it’s worth the human and environmental impact.
The other side of the coin of buying less is getting more wear out of the clothes you already have. Try and love the clothes you have and don’t give in to relentless fashion cycles. Learn how to mend small tears, de-bobble sweaters, or repurpose ill-fitting garments to give them new life and avoid having to replace them.
If your clothes are unsalvagable and you need to buy more, first try thrift and charity stores to get your clothes second hand. You can visit a thrift store in Panama City Beach, FL to thrift shop. Not only will you be reducing your impact on the environment, but you could also be helping out a good cause, all while saving some cash.
If you’re feeling crafty, you can alter thrift store buys to make unique garments that will be more personal than an off-the-rack item could ever be.
Rent and borrow
There are ways to wear new clothes without contributing to fast fashion waste. If you’re looking for new duds for a fancy event, consider renting or borrowing them rather than buying them outright.
Websites like MyWardrobeHQ or Rent The Runway offer ways to share, rent, and borrow clothes, meaning you can expand your wardrobe without the guilt.
If you have to buy new clothes, try only to support businesses that have committed to being sustainable in their manufacturing.
Go with smaller brands or local producers to reduce the miles your garments have to travel to get to you. If you do go with a major label, read up to see which have made commitments to reduce their environmental impact (and see what they’ve done already).
Read your labels
If you were allergic to something, you’d read product labels all the time, right? Well, consider when you’re clothes shopping that you’re allergic to unsustainable materials.
Whenever you’re buying new clothing, check the label to make sure you know what you’re buying.
Another way in which you can reduce the impact of your clothes is by thinking about how you wash them.
Every wash has the potential to release thousands of synthetic fibers into the environment, so ask yourself whether you need to wash a garment right after you’ve worn it once.
When you do wash, stick to a low temperature and wash clothes inside out to reduce energy and promote garment longevity.
Fast fashion has a significant impact on communities and the environment, but it’s not only the clothing brands that are to blame. Every one of us has a responsibility to live sustainably; however, we can, and that starts with how we think about clothes.
Don’t think of this as a restriction or a punishment for living unsustainably. This behavior is an opportunity to give back to an Earth that has given you everything you’ve ever enjoyed in life.