Guide To Sustainable And Ethical Fashion

Posted by Leandra Nobs on

Did you know that industrial fashion processes account for more than 8% of Earth’s degeneration? That is, for every wear you put on, mother Earth takes huge fumes to the heart. Poor planet. The rise of sustainable fashion has however narrowed the damages as many now take note of what they wear, just as they do with what they eat.

The concept of sustainable fashion is however still remote to most. It is therefore understandable that you do not know where to look or what to look for to begin. This article was written to be your firsthand guide to sustainable fashion, and as you read, keep in mind that the earth needs more ethical superheroes.

Finding Inspiration For Sustainable Fashion

Unsustainable fashion is everywhere around us. How then can willing shoppers identify the brands or wears to go for when making choices? There are a couple of resources that could inspire or guide you in starting your foray into sustainable fashion. I have hand-picked the most effective three to keep things smooth and fast.

1. Good On You App

This is basically the best of the lot. Upon the disastrous collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh in 2013, the Good on Your app was developed to help users find fashion products that adhere to the core forms of sustainable fashion. The app keeps a network of scientists, advocates, writers, developers and professional fashionistas who are interested in developing an eco-friendly fashion system.

These experts combine to help users identify and recommend fashion brands based on transparency and interest in a more sustainable ecosystem. The app grades the labour, environmental and animal treatments and values of every brand, and at the same time highlights how and why the criteria were determined. The platform suggests relevant articles, programs and even investment trends pertaining to sustainable fashion as well. Via Good On You, you find that you can truly change the world through your wears. This is just your own way of saving mother Earth!

2. Buycott App

The Buycott app presents a number of cases or campaigns supporting sustainable living. You could join any niche you’re interested in to start. When you begin, you have to register your beliefs underneath whatever cause you’re supporting.

This app, unlike Good On You, is not limited to fashion only. You may use it to investigate or make inquiries about items, ranging from food to fashion items. To do so, scan the product’s barcode via the app and you’ll be notified if the item clashes with any of your ideologues as well as inform you of any scandal that the owner brand could have been in. The Buycott app also allows you to send your thoughts to the manufacturer, explaining why you won’t purchase or use the product.

3. ReGain App

Researches show that every second, a garbage truck of clothing is incinerated or sent to the dumps. This is a depressing stat, considering the hazardous effects that each process poses to the atmosphere. The reGain app seeks to reduce this unfortunate occurrence, particularly in the United Kingdom.

Via reGain, you not only help to save the planet; you are even paid for it through discounts on fashion and food items. To get this reward, box at least 10 unwanted items and dispose of the nearest or most convenient UK drop-off box. This will give you access to the discount coupons available in the app. Upon dropping off your clothes, they are recycled or donated to the needy.

Other notable mentions are YCloset, Yeechoo, Rent the Runway and the Fat Llama app.

New or Second-hand Clothing?

If you are just starting to embrace sustainable fashion, the idea of second-hand clothing might be discouraging or repulsive. However, a fundamental core of sustainable fashion is the reduction of manufacturing counts. Experts, therefore, propose the purchase of used clothes for new products.

To begin with, second-hand clothes are still in good shape, having been worn by people who have understood the idea behind ethical fashion. Used clothes do not need to undergo any manufacturing or dying process that would ultimately lead to the release of toxic chemicals into the environment.

All you have to do when you buy second-hand clothes is some basic cleaning, design or customization. This will save the environment in more ways than you think. Furthermore, the vintage look could be very appealing when rightly done.New or Second-hand Clothing

The Dangers Of Fast Fashion Stores To The Environment

Having impressed upon you why you should prefer recycled clothes to new ones, it is as well necessary to highlight the hazards caused by the millions of fast fashion stores abound worldwide.

1. Did you know that a whopping 10% of all humanity’s carbon releases are manufactured by the fashion industry? That’s more emissions than wastes from all maritime shipping and international flights combined. Needless to say, the effects are very harsh on our planet. You can start with the depleting ozone layer.

A more frightening fact is that the figure is projected to rise to 26% in 2050 if the current trend is maintained.

2. The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply. Unbelievable, right? Here’s the math. Producing one cotton shirt takes about 700 gallons of water. This could seem meaningless until you realize that this quantity would provide an average person with eight cups per day for three-and-a-half years.

As a testament, the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan dried up after 50 years due to the intensive cotton cultivation.

3. The fashion industry contributes 20% to the planet’s entire water pollution. How so? To start, dyed water is released into ditches or streams, consequently finding their way to bigger water bodies.

Furthermore, washing clothes releases 500,000 tons of microfibers into the ocean annually. That’s the equivalent of 50 billion plastic containers. Now, here comes the scary part: these wastes contain polyester (a special plastic found in 59.99% of garments). Brace yourself for impact! Polyester never dissolves or breaks in the ocean.

The effects of this on aquatics are better imagined.

I could go on and on about the shocking consequences of manufacturing processes undertaken by fast fashion stores, but the aim is to help you understand reality. Quite an eye-opener, eh?Bangladeshi_women_sewing_clothes

Human Rights Violation In Fast Fashion Production

Does the heading surprise you? Don’t be. Fast fashion does not only violate the environment, but it also tramples upon our rights as well.

The cheaper the price you pay for cloth, the more someone somewhere pays.

Let that sink in slowly.

Fast fashion is the fastest and cheapest method of producing garments. But this easy availability of wears comes at great prices, and the worse part is you’re not at the receiving end.

You might think the process is quite straightforward: work for me, and I pay you. Simple, isn’t it? It isn’t. The price that’s paid far outweighs the benefits.

Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights posits: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.”

Did you know that 97% of fast fashion production is done in foreign countries, in particular Asia? This is due to the despicable standard of living. To the seemingly casual observer, labor isn’t slavery. But it is with fast fashion production. How? Forced labour is a result of the huge pressure to keep prices low. Fast fashion manufacturers have forced the price of workers to be ridiculously cheap and low such that slavery and servitude are more or less propagated.

The rapid, consistent demands of fast fashion forces the supplier of raw materials, cotton in especial, to be sold at abysmal prices. Workers in countries, such as India, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan have no choice at all. They are held in a position which they have to work for the available prices or find themselves totally unemployed, all thanks to fast fashion.

Article 23: “Everyone has the right to just and favourable conditions of work.”

An in-depth analysis of the fast fashion labour industry may make you think that cotton farmers are not included in the above doctrine. Cotton is produced under very stringent conditions and demands immense concentration and efforts to cultivate. Cotton farmers have to be absolutely committed else there would be nothing to show at the end of it all. But for what returns?

Fast fashion companies seem to have reached a consensus never to buy cotton from farmers above a certain price. This is merely to actualize their goals of profit maximization. This, consequently, affects the living conditions of the farmers. I mean, 80% of these people make little or no gains for all their efforts, and that’s just by the way.

Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

In major cotton-producing countries, women make up 80% of the labor force. This is because hirers believe they are easier to control and cheat. Any erring worker is immediately fired without any compensation. These women work in horrible conditions yet their safety isn’t assured. Metrics show that at least 14% of fashion workers in Bangalore have been sexually abused while an average of 45% has been humiliated. This is utter degradation.

Article 25, subsection 2: “All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.”

It gets just worse. In South Asia, estimates posit that 16.7 million children aged 5-17 work. Fast fashion employs at least 50% of these children. Debilitating. Mothers prefer to take their kids to the cultivation fields as it means more money for the family and to the farm owner, more labour: no complaints. But who speaks up for the child?

This is not the only form, however. Fast fashion encourages the employment of children as they are the weakest and most vulnerable. And they are available in abundance. Just for daily living, children have to work in horrible conditions as well. Yet, fast fashion conglomerates turn a perpetually blind eye to all these. To realize the full extent of violation by these fast fashion stores, I suggest you watch the documentary ‘True Costs’.

Future of Sustainable Fashion

Going by present signage, sustainable fashion holds the prospects of a promising future. Taking cognizant of the change in the customer demand curve, top fashion lines have begun the use of environment-friendly machines and processes to manufacture wears. That isn’t enough though. Advocate for sustainable fashion wherever and whenever you can. All hands must be on deck to make the process faster. We must save mother Earth. There’s more again. The next time you’re tempted to acquire that fine garment, remember that poor Asian cotton farmer or unprotected child. Go for sustainable fashion always.

1. Income Metrics
2. Labour Population Stats
4. Abuse Metrics


Leave a comment