The fashion industry was responsible for emitting 1,175 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2015. According to Linda Geere, a scientist at The Natural Resources Defense Council, it is also the second largest contributor to water pollution in China, right behind the chemical industry. China is where most of our clothing is produced and where the most fabric is recycled. But recycling is not as easy as it seems, 85% of our clothes end up in landfills because not all material can be reused, and it is a tedious, long process that utilizes almost all of the same resources used for production.
Luckily, The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is working on releasing a new labeling system for transparency, similar to the nutrition facts label on our food. And eco-friendly companies are sprouting, claiming and supporting more sustainable fashion practices and ethical treatment towards their workers. Reformation is a popular L.A. based company that sews in-house and lists the exact amount of water & carbon dioxide that was saved during the production of each piece. However, a Reformation dress goes for $278 and even when listed for 20% off, the average person doesn’t have the luxury of spending that much on one article of clothing, let alone a Stella McCartney. Greer advises that instead of spending on one expensive piece, we should consider donating to nonprofits, like Greenpeace, that works towards convincing brands to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals. One big company taking a small step is H&M. Their Conscious Collection is made up of 80% eco-friendly fabrics and recycled material free of toxic dyes.
There are several more affordable alternatives for those who care about fashion and our planet alike. Long ago, clothing was built to last and even some of the less expensive clothing had a tailored fit to it, making vintage an intelligent option. For those interested in a more contemporary look, aside from the obvious thrift store, consignment stores like Buffalo Exchange, Deelux, and Plato’s Closet buy, sell, and trade clothing with their customers. When looking for a particular item, searching online through sites like Ebay, Depop, or Etsy is easy and convenient. And if secondhand clothing is not something you are fond of, consider the clothing you already have in your closet. By wearing an article of clothing more than once before washing it and waiting to do so when a bigger load is collected, you can conserve water and energy while extending the life of your clothing.
A good way to avoid purchasing something new, is to ask yourself, “Do I love this?", "Do I need this?" or “Will I wear this multiple times for years to come?" Be mindful; chances are, you won’t lose sleep over not taking it home with you, and the more you practice, the easier it will get. There is no right or wrong way to practice sustainability, what matters is the desire to work towards a change and protect our planet.