Eco-friendly choices and behaviours have never been as important as they are now. This is especially true for fashion – an industry which has been becoming worse and worse for the environment in recent years.
More brands are adopting the environmentally and ethically dubious practices of fast fashion, which is all about a quick rotation of stock, encouragement of mindless purchasing and a short lifespan of clothing. However, we as people who buy clothing, are increasingly interested in buying clothing that is good for the planet, eco-friendly fashion. That is why these fast fashion brands often employ the shady marketing tactic called greenwashing which, in short, means they’re trying to come off as more eco-friendly than they really are.
That’s why it’s important to talk about eco-friendly fashion, what it is and how we can recognize a truly eco-friendly fashion brand – because some companies are trying to hijack an eco-friendly image without actually doing any of the work.
Eco-friendly Fashion and Terminology
Eco-friendly fashion, sustainable fashion, slow fashion… there are many concepts which could be seen as opposites of fast fashion. So, what is the difference between them? Before we get into sharing our best eco-friendly fashion tips and advice, let’s get the terminology straight.
Sustainable fashion vs. eco-friendly fashion
Sustainability is composed of three pillars: environmental, social and economic. While eco-friendly fashion focuses on the environmental aspect only, sustainable fashion is also concerned with the social and economic consequences of production.
Slow fashion vs. eco-friendly fashion
Slow fashion is the direct opposite of the business concept of fast fashion – it’s focused on making clothes that last, can be repaired or altered and have a timeless design. While that certainly helps make their production a whole lot more eco-friendly, the definition of slow fashion doesn’t address other potential environmental issues such as the use of chemicals in production or use of synthetic fabrics which cause microplastic pollution.
What issues is eco-friendly fashion solving?
Eco-friendly fashion brands (and by extension also sustainable fashion brands, which always include the environmental aspect in them) are applying a number of practices meant to lower their impact (and the overall impact of the fashion industry) on the environment. Here are some of the ways they’re making the world a greener place.
No toxic pollutants
The production of new clothing is often associated with the release of pesticides, herbicides, dyes and other toxic chemicals directly into rivers. Eco-friendly fashion companies limit the use of these, opting for less harmful, natural alternatives or skipping them altogether. Dyes specifically are swapped for vegetable-based alternatives and if any chemicals are used in the process, they are disposed of responsibly.
A circular concept
The fast fashion business concept is very linear – materials are made, briefly used and then discarded. Eco-friendly fashion, on the other hand, not only focuses on making clothes that can be repaired and re-worn but also often makes use of existing materials to craft their garments. For example, some brands make their sustainable clothing from recycled materials, while others upcycle existing fabric into new garments or use deadstock fabric from factories which would otherwise be wasted.
Saving precious resources
Gentler, eco-friendly production methods also usually require fewer resources to produce a garment – one of the most important of these is water. The use of organic cotton is a great example: generally, cotton is a very thirsty crop. However, organic production makes use of production methods which allow farmers to drastically reduce the amount of water they use – by as much as 91%!
Fast fashion has become enamoured with synthetic fabrics – crude oil based plastic fibres such as polyester, elastane, acrylic, nylon and more. Because these are made from plastic, they are non-biodegradable and pollute the planet for hundreds of years after they are discarded. However, they also release microscopic plastic fibres into the water whenever they are washed, making even the middle of their lifecycle wasteful.
Eco-friendly fashion generally avoids synthetic fibres, unless they are recycled fabrics which come from items that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
Eco-Friendly Fashion Brands that don’t support overconsumption
As we mentioned before, fast fashion brands earn the obscene amount of money they make by encouraging people to buy more and more, regardless of need. Eco-friendly fashion brands do not do this and, while they do need to make a profit to stay in business, they usually keep their customers coming back with quality and eco-friendly values.
Garments free from animal cruelty
Many animal products, especially leather and fur, are very harmful to the environment – that is why many eco-friendly fashion brands avoid using them. However, keep in mind that while this is usually the case, it’s not a rule – it pays off to still keep checking what materials a garment is made from before you buy.
How to build an eco-friendly closet?
Now that we discussed what an eco-friendly fashion brand looks like, what are some of our tips for building a closet with their garments? Here’s a quick, non-exhaustive, list of ideas:
- Do your research on a brand before you buy – and check third-party websites too. Look for concrete proof of eco-friendly practices, empty promises are not enough.
- Always read clothing labels to find out what materials the garments are made from.
- Don’t be put off by higher prices of eco-friendly clothing. In the long run, they’ll come cheaper than fast fashion garments because you won’t need to replace them frequently.
- Choose to buy pieces which can be combined with many different garments from your closet – that way, you can build many different outfits even when your closet size is more limited.
- When you are looking for any trendy pieces or something you know you’ll only wear a few times, buy those garments second-hand and re-sell them afterwards.
Hubbubuk. “Why Choose Organic Cotton?” Hubbub Foundation. Web. 25 Nov. 2020.