Sustainability is the buzzword we’ve all been hearing for many years now. The term presumes that sources are finite, and focuses on the economic, environmental and social impact of industry. When it comes to the world of fashion, there’s a lot that can be done to improve sustainability. Where once we’d have a ‘Sunday best’ outfit that would be regularly re-worn for special occasions, today’s society has seen high fashion hit the masses, with low unit costs resulting in a throwaway culture. Indeed, we consume 400% more clothing now than we did 20 years ago and where once only the few would follow more avant-garde trends, we can now all pick up a frivolous item, and not worry about only being able to wear it a few times. This throw-away culture is supported by statistics – on average a garment is discarded after just seven uses. At best, the clothing will end up in a charity shop, or at worst, a landfill. But all of this comes at a cost, not only on the environment but also those working within the industry.
Here are five ways in which sustainable fashion can improve our impact on society and the environment:
1. Reduce pollution
This may come as a shock to you, but fashion is the second most polluting industry, after the oil industry. Data shows that 1,600 chemicals are used in the dyeing process alone, and only 1% of these have been approved by the Environment Protection Agency. Factories based in countries such as Indonesia and Bangladesh will dump pollutants in waterways, poisoning water supplies for millions of people, for many years to come. However, as long as the demand is there for mass production and cheap clothing, these factories will do little to curb their practices. We can make a difference by changing our buying habits; choose clothing with chemical content certification – such as GOTS and OEKO-TEX® – and buy less. Also, think about the type of clothing you’re buying. We may all love our wrinkle-free polyester tees, but these garments can not only take up to 200 years to decompose, but synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon are also responsible for releasing plastic microfibers into our waterways and oceans. So we need to be mindful not only about the quantity of clothing we’re buying, but also what it’s composed of.
2. Preserve water
Did you know that it takes 400-600 gallons of water to produce a t-shirt? Or that some 1,800 gallons of water are required to produce just one pair of jeans? In fact, every year the fashion industry uses a staggering 93 billion cubic metres of water. Water may be in plentiful supply on our island, but in hot and arid areas, where cotton is mainly grown, it’s a precious commodity. By not only being more mindful of our purchasing, but also the type of clothing we’re buying, we can all help. Switching to organic cotton is a great way to improve your sustainability, as it requires 88% less water than conventional cotton and is far kinder to the environment.
3. Save lives of animals
Animal print may always be in style, but PETA has done an excellent job of highlighting the use of real fur in the fashion industry. However, when it comes to animals, there are many ways in which the fashion industry can make improvements, and become more sustainable. These include using plant-based leather alternatives, made from sources including pineapples and cacti (yes, seriously!), buttons created from recycled metals, and silk created from yeast, to name but a few.
4. Support low-paid workers
We’ve all heard the horror stories of child workers being forced to work in clothing factories to meet the needs of the West, or awful working conditions for adults that would quite frankly be viewed as modern day slavery. By only buying from brands that follow ethical practices, you’ll be ensuring that the rights of global workers within the fashion industry are respected. Look for clothing certification such as ‘Fair Trade Certified’ to ensure that a fair salary is paid throughout the supply chain, and that safe working conditions are in place, wherever your garments are created.
5. Reduce carbon footprint
The global fashion industry has a massive impact on the environment. According to current research, it’s responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions – more than maritime shipping and international air travel combined – and by 2030, this figure is set to surge by more than 50%. Not only are fossil fuels used in the creation of fashion garments, but they are also transported vast distances – for example, a t-shirt can travel up to 3,500 km before reaching consumers. By choosing sustainable brands that use environmentally-friendly fabrics, the negative impact on the environment can be reduced. Also, when you shop, check where it’s made and try to purchase items that are manufactured within your own country. That way, you’ll be making an ethical choice and reducing your carbon footprint.
Of course, when it comes to the world of plus-size shapewear, you can make a difference by buying the right foundation garments, first time. The best shapewear will allow you to keep wearing your favourite clothes, even if you gain a few pounds, extending the life of your wardrobe. For help choosing the right shapewear for your shape, get in touch today at [email protected].