The fashion industry has huge negative social and environmental impacts. It's the second-largest polluter globally and contributes massively to climate change.
As consumers, we can help by reducing the ecological footprint of our wardrobe. We can adopt a more sustainable approach to fashion and transform the way we produce, and consume clothes.
We have the power to drive change in the global textile and apparel industry. We choose the clothes we buy and who we support with our money.
Many people like to buy fast fashion, cheap and trendy clothing pushed to high-street stores every week. It's fun, affordable, accessible, and convenient. The fast-fashion business model has been growing very rapidly over the past 20 years.
Unfortunately, it's not ethical, sustainable, or ecological. The overproduction and overconsumption of cheaply made clothes have a catastrophic impact on people, animals, and the planet.
Our fashion addiction is extremely damaging not only to the environment but also ecosystems, and human health. We have reached record high textile and plastic wastes, clean water, air, and soil pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Let's change our behavior and improve the wasteful fashion system into a more inclusive, regenerative, and circular one. Here are 10 ways to reduce your fashion ecological footprint.
1. Raise awareness of sustainable fashion
Let's talk about the issues in the apparel industry and the solutions offered by ethical and sustainable fashion. It's necessary to raise awareness to drive change in the fashion industry.
Pointing out what's wrong and could be improved is worth it in the fight for more justice and environmental stewardship. Boycott companies that aren't doing their part.
But support fashion businesses and organizations working hard to protect the Earth, animals, and human rights. Even small steps count to make a difference on a global level.
2. Shop ethical fashion brands
Many clothing brands aim to make the most profit with little care for people and the environment. They use toxic fabrics full of hazardous chemicals and produce their clothes in cheap labor countries under poor working conditions.
Some fashion brands want to be seen as eco-friendly when they are not. They use a marketing practice called greenwash and claim that their collection has a low impact on the environment when the large majority of their business remains highly polluting.
Sustainability should be a priority today in the fashion world. There are some simple ways apparel brands can become more sustainable, transparent, and accountable.
As consumers, we need to stay informed and check whether a fashion brand is ethical or not before buying new clothes.
3. Choose eco-friendly materials
Look for low impact fabrics and materials when buying fashion items. It's one of the best ways to be more sustainable with clothes. Fabrics contribute a lot to the footprint of our wardrobe.
Materials made from natural and organic fibers such as organic cotton, organic hemp, linen, and jute have a low social and environmental impact but some of them consume a lot of water, cotton in particular.
Sustainable synthetic fabrics such as recycled polyester, nylon, lyocell, and biobased plastics are another possible option but some of them add up to global plastic pollution.
4. Buy high-quality clothing
Let's shop for more durable and high-quality clothing that lasts longer. Making sure we wear the clothes we buy for a long time is a very sustainable practice.
Check the fabric quality of garments before buying them. Quality construction and materials tend to last longer, reduce pollution, and save resources.
When you start to care more about the quality of the clothes you buy, you influence fashion brands and retailers to offer better products. In the long run, it's more desirable for your budget and the planet.
5. Purchase fewer clothes
The most sustainable piece of clothing is the one we already own. The best way to reduce your fashion ecological footprint is to buy in fewer quantities.
We should all rethink our excessive consumerism if we want to save the environment, animals, and human lives. We need to start thinking about the consequences behind our purchasing decisions.
With a few simple tips, you can put more simplicity into your fashion style to build a sustainable and minimalist wardrobe. You can not only save money but also the environment, and live a more fulfilled life.
It's a lot easier to get dressed in the morning with less stuff in our closet. Minimalism doesn't have to be boring. It means focusing on the essentials, on what we need, investing in more classic, timeless pieces, instead of cheap and disposable high-street clothes.
6. Second-hand clothing is amazing
Second-hand clothes are helping sustainable fashion tremendously. They are gaining massive popularity as they offer a great opportunity to create a unique, affordable, and sustainable look.
At your local thrift store, resale shops, or online, you can find amazing used or vintage clothes that save money, resources, and reduce your fashion footprint.
There are many good reasons and opportunities to buy second-hand clothing. It's a more conscious way of consuming clothes. It also makes sustainability accessible to more people.
7. The rise of clothing rentals
Clothing rental is an emerging and fast-growing industry. As sustainable fashion remains expensive for a lot of conscious consumers, clothing rentals offer a solution.
More and more people now resort to renting to renew their wardrobe as well as to wear unique pieces for special occasions. Many fashion rental companies offer a subscription for customers desiring to refresh their clothes regularly.
Renting is often the better option, especially during pregnancy or for parties. It's a much more environmentally friendly alternative to buying into fast-moving fashion trends.
8. Swap used clothes with friends
You can organize a clothing swapping event with your friends and family over the weekend. It's a very popular practice to renew your wardrobe without heading to the nearest mall.
It's a fun activity to share clothes. It's also very environmentally friendly. Set up a pop-up store at your house and invite your friends over. It's quite enjoyable.
Swapping is an amazing way to reduce clothing waste and have access to unique pieces to share with friends, family, and people in your area. Many ethical fashion designers also work with clothes swapping services to let people wear their clothes for a monthly fee.
9. Recycle and upcycle old clothes
Don't throw old clothes away in the trash. Instead, reuse, repurpose, recycle, and upcycle to keep them out of landfills. Clothing and other textile wastes are piling up at an alarming rate.
The large majority of clothes that end up in landfills or incinerators could be reused, recycled, or upcycled. Cheap synthetic materials are particularly harmful as they aren't biodegradable and can take up to thousands of years to decompose.
Taking better care of the clothes you already own so they last longer has a huge impact on the environment. Recycling and upcycling as well. You can even cut and sew used garments to create new clothes at home without extra machinery.
Shred old clothes and other textiles that cannot be reused into materials for insulation, carpet padding, yarn, and other uses. Or give old items a new use by making re-usable bags or cleaning rags.
You can also drop off your items at one of the many organizations that are in contact with textile recyclers, or participate directly in textile recycling programs. Many towns and councils, as well as fashion brands and retailers, have programs in place to collect, recycle, and upcycle clothing.
10. Donate to charity
Donate clothes that in good condition to charitable organizations. It's often a lot easier than trying to sell them. It not only helps people in need but also protects
Someone else probably needs a lot of the items in your closet more than you do. Some popular organizations to drop clothes off are Goodwill and the Salvation Army.
They are awesome places to donate clothes you don't want. You can also check out the many places in your area that accept clothing donations. Homeless and women's shelters, family service agencies, immigrant support groups, and churches. Blankets, towels, and linens can go to animal shelters as well.
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.