Eco-friendly clothing is a necessity today. Luckily, consumers are becoming more conscious about their fashion choices around the world. Ethical and sustainable clothes have many benefits for people, animals, and the planet.
Eco-friendly fashion is a revolution. It's a global movement to rethink the whole system of fashion for the better. It aims to lower the social, environmental, and economic impacts of our wardrobe.
Eco-friendly clothing is not only beneficial to conscious consumers but also artisans, creatives, and businesses in the fashion industry. It improves efficiency, at the same places sustainability concerns at the forefront.
With eco-friendly clothing, the global textile and apparel industry produces better garments, footwear, and accessories. Instead of cheaply made fashion, brands, retailers, and customers prefer a slower approach to fashion.
Eco-friendly clothing involves higher wages for workers in supply chains and higher quality for end-users. It's made of durable and valuable products using season-less production techniques and designs.
With ever-evolving styles, influences, ideas, technologies, and innovation, eco-fashion is in constant redefinition. It offers many advantages to the apparel world.
Here are the top 10 benefits of eco-friendly clothing.
1. Improve your fashion style
Update your fashion style with a more ecological approach to fashion. Focusing on durable, classic, and timeless pieces that don't go out of style easily improve your fashion sense.
By choosing eco-fashion you make the conscious choice of buying fewer clothes and higher quality. It's not only great your budget and your closet but also for the environment.
Invite more simplicity into your wardrobe and consider adopting a minimalist fashion style. Shop for new clothes only when you need to. Sometimes, less is more.
2. Move away from fast fashion
The rise of fast fashion over the last 20 years answers the growing consumers' demand for affordable and trendy clothes. It promotes instant gratification and the throwaway culture with hundreds of new styles produced every week.
"One reason for this trend is globalization. Corporations have relocated their manufacturing operations to low-wage countries, making goods artificially cheap when sold in higher-wage countries."
- Steven Gorelick, Small is Beautiful Author
Fast fashion has disastrous social and environmental impacts. The overproduction and overconsumption of cheap clothes create tons of waste, pollution, and greenhouse gases.
It's time to slow down fast fashion and our excessive clothing consumption. Choose eco-friendly fashion to move away from fast fashion.
3. Promote sustainable fashion
Buying and wearing eco-friendly clothing promote ethical and sustainable fashion. It raises awareness around the issues present in the global fashion industry.
Sustainable fashion is gaining massive popularity now due to rising concerns for climate change and damage to biodiversity. It isn't only the responsibility of governments, organizations, and businesses. It's also up to the public to encourage sustainability in the whole apparel industry.
By choosing eco-friendly clothing made from renewable resources, we drive change in the fashion system. Sustainability is quickly becoming one of the biggest challenges of this new decade. Sustainable fashion impacts all present and future living species on Earth.
“Understanding the true impact of the fashion industry requires an in-depth review of the value chain. Fibers are the first building block of this chain and a core element that needs to be understood to support the efforts on sustainable solutions for the industry.”
- Burak Cakmak, Parsons School of Design Dean
4. Protect human health
Most textiles used in the fashion industry today are extremely wasteful, polluting, and damaging to human health. They are full of toxic chemicals that threaten the lives of workers, consumers, and their families.
Many people choose organic products when buying food. It's equally important for apparel and textiles. Eco-friendly clothing is beneficial for the planet and our health.
About half of all textiles are made of cotton. Regular cotton grows with harmful pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Many hazardous chemicals are also used in textile production during washing, bleaching, dying, and treatment.
5. Help animal conservation
The global textile and apparel industry kills billions of animals every year. Their pelts and skins are used to make products such as fur, wool, leather, down, and silk.
Animals such as sheep, cows, minks, pigs, goats, rabbits, even cats, and dogs are poorly treated, beaten, electrocuted, or skinned alive in farms.
Fashion is also responsible for the trapping and skinning of many endangered animals every year. The exotic fur and leather trade threatens many animal species that should be protected.
Trappers and hunters exterminate a large number of reptiles, kangaroos, ostriches, beavers, wild cats, bears, antelopes, and seals to sell their pelt that will be used in fashion.
"We don't need products from the wild for luxury fashion. It damages wild ecosystems and in addition causes a lot of pain for the animals."
- Dr. Sandra Altherr, Pro Wildlife biologist
Avoid fashion made from animal products or by-products. It's cruel and unnecessary. Buy eco-friendly and animal-free clothing instead. Make the compassionate choice to pledge vegan alternatives.
6. Reduce pollution, waste
Clothing is piling up in landfills at an alarming rate. The fashion industry produces tons of waste and pollution every year. 16.9 million tons of used textile wastes are generated each year in the United States alone. That amount has doubled over the last 20 years. The large majority of clothes that end up in landfills or incinerators could be reused or recycled.
Cheap synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, or acrylic are especially dangerous. They aren't biodegradable and take up to thousands of years to decompose. As they break down, they release toxic gases, carbon dioxide, and methane, very potent greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere.
The more responsible choice is to repair and reuse old clothes instead of buying new ones. It's fun to shop for new pieces but it has a huge impact on the environment.
Consider thrifting, buying second-hand and vintage clothing as it extends the life of clothes and prevents more waste. You can even upcycle, cut, and sew used garments and other textiles to create new clothes at home without extra machinery.
7. Slow global warming and climate change
Textile production and consumption generate more than 8% of all carbon emissions globally each year. The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter after the oil industry.
Apparel consumption is still rapidly growing and if the trend continues, carbon emissions will rise by more than 50% by 2030, contributing massively to global warming and climate change.
More than 80% of all clothing produced ends up in landfills. During decomposition or when burning, clothing emits large amounts of greenhouse gases into the Earth's atmosphere.
8. Save natural resources, water, and energy
80% of global deforestation is a result of agricultural production. Cotton is the most widely used natural fiber in fashion. It accounts for 2.5% of all agricultural areas.
Animal agriculture, livestock, and animal feed are a significant driver of deforestation and are also responsible for approximately 60% of direct global greenhouse gas emissions.
The fashion industry produces 17-20% of all wastewater worldwide. Industrial water pollution comes from fabric manufacturing processes. And only 20% of globally produced wastewater receives proper treatment.
Eco-friendly clothing has the potential to reduce the fashion industry's catastrophic impact on the environment. We have to rethink completely how we produce and consume clothes to prevent irreversible damage to people, animals, and the planet.
9. Support the local economy
Fashion used to be slow, local, and expensive before the industrial revolution. With the sustainable fashion movement rising, local brands gaining importance again.
"Consumers have also become smarter and more conscious, and will only buy from brands that they share similar values with. Local brands are considered more exclusive."
- Margie Untoro, Dewi magazine editor-in-chief
The demand for sustainably and locally produced clothing is growing. It creates massive opportunities for fashion brands willing to rethink how they produce, sell, and distribute their clothes.
As more consumers adopt sustainable lifestyles and become conscious of environmental issues, eco-friendly clothing is expected to become popular and favor fashion brands that are local, sustainable, transparent, and responsible.
10. Defend human rights
Many fashion brands and retailers still use sweatshop-like conditions to produce their clothes. They practice inhumane manufacturing methods to cheaply produce low-quality and disposable clothing for high-street stores.
Many governments, particularly in Asian developing countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and The Philippines, try to abolish human rights violations but many sweatshops manage to run illegally.
Factory workers, mostly young women and even children, are paid below the legal minimum wage, forced to work long hours (up to 100 hours a week) in unsafe environments. They don't have access to healthcare or paid leaves.
It's not an easy issue to solve. In many small towns, there are no better schools for children. They rely on farms and garment factories to earn enough money to nourish their future and their families.
Every company should prevent, address, and remedy human rights abuses committed in their supply chains. Child labor and forced labor have no place in a developed and civilized society.
"The responsibility to respect human rights requires that business enterprises [...] seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts."
- UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, 2011
As consumers, we have the power to drive change. We choose the clothes we buy and who we support with our money. Let's buy ethically made and eco-friendly fashion from companies that pay their employees a decent living wage, ensure reasonable work hours, food service, healthcare, and free time with no child labor or forced labor.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.