We’re all on the road to greater sustainability in our everyday lives (or we all should be!) and are looking for micro adjustments to fold into the daily grind. A particularly impactful place to start is at your closet. Read on for more information 🤟
Yes, various commercial industries are by far the largest polluters in the world. Yes, substantial climate change will require reining in big corporations via environmentally-focused policies. However, there is a massive amount you and I can do to start to halt if not reverse environmental damage to the planet in the form of over consumption. As an individual consumer, that means finding less impactful ways of doing things and choosing more sustainable stores to buy from. A great place to start is at your own closet.
Let’s talk guilt-free fashion
Tania Ali, the founder of sustainable fashion brand Cadre, explains that fashion as an industry is the second largest pollutant on the plant. Dang. What does that mean for you? Well, clothing companies operate by supply and demand. The problem is that we’ve gotten hooked on a hypercharged notion of supply and are demanding more and more, faster and faster. This is appropriately called “fast fashion”.
“92 million tons of fashion waste goes into landfills every year. Part of the problem is that we’ve created this fast fashion consumption culture.” -Tania Ali, Cadre
Demand less, demand sustainable
The next time you’re shopping for clothes, keep these two things in mind (three things if you first stop to ask yourself if you really need to be shopping at all!):
1. Social impact
A brand’s social impact generally refers to fair labor practices. Fast fashion has had a devastating impact on many communities in developing nations in the quest to reduce production cost and increase revenue. By choosing to shop where the people making the clothes are treated fairly, you can help give more of a voice to workers who don’t have the luxury of choice of their employment circumstances.
“If we don’t sustain the people that are creating these beautiful pieces of clothing for us, there’s nowhere to go. They need to be given fair, living wages, no child labor, safe working conditions.” -Tania Ali, Cadre
2. Environmental impact
Keep an eye out for use of sustainable fabrics and materials, which can come in the form of recycled, upcycled, biodegradable and/or organic.
Advances in technology today allow for amazing creativity in the materials that can be repurposed to make clothing and accessories. There are ways to produce clothes from recycled water bottles and other discarded materials to take the waste out of the environment and reuse it. This is referred to as circular design.
Tania Ali tells us that a brand’s environmental impact can be [measured] by how ethically they source their products. This means that a brand is not taking away from the environment and is, ideally, giving back to it.
“…the planet itself has given us everything we need. It can recycle itself. That’s what composting is. Biodegradable materials – you throw them back into the earth and they will take care of themselves. It’s self-cleaning.” -Tania Ali, Cadre
Back to you…
We all need to buy clothes from time to time. But let’s examine how to make mindful purchases in lieu of unconsciously consuming. This means considering not only where you buy but what you buy (do you really need that shirt in five different colors?), not to mention what happens to your clothes once you are finished with them.
Today, there are so many resources to give your garments a second life (and buy pre-owned things yourself). Companies like Rent the Runway, The Real Real and Vinted have made it possible (and cool) to reduce your fashion waste when buying and discarding your clothing. There are also places where you can discard clothes to be recycled such as H&M’s recycling bins and your local Red Cross, Goodwill or charity shop.
“If consumers can access a point where they can send their clothes to a textile recycler, that’s a way to reduce waste or to resell instead of throwing something out when you’re done with it and let someone else wear it.” -Tania Ali, Cadre