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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

What Makes a Clothing Item Sustainable?

If you’ve been following our blog series on sustainable clothing (or even if you didn’t) you may be keen to get started on buying sustainably, ethically, responsibly and mindfully. That’s awesome, but how exactly can you tell if a clothing item is sustainable or not?

We’ve broken it down into 3 main groups to look out for:

  • Who made it?
  • What is it made from?
  • How was it made?

Pro tip: check out our selection of sustainable options on the edit. Or in case you missed them, read about the advantages of buying sustainable brands or the idea of sustainability here.

Featured Image: @yourdaywon

Who Made It

When looking at who made the clothes that you want to buy, think about not just the brand who are selling the item but also the workers who make them. 

Ethics

Ethical brands pay everyone involved in the supply chain fair living wages and take responsibility in making sure that working conditions are clean and safe. 

A quick way to find this out is if they have a Fair Trade badge or equivalent on their site.

About Us

Next, take a closer look at the About Us and Sustainability pages. For some brands, the sustainability pledge is included within the About Us section but it’s a major red flag if they don’t have either of these.

Greenwashing

Keep an eye out for greenwashing. While it seems like the whole world is jumping on the bandwagon, some may claim to be sustainable but actually have little or no transparency in their supply chain.

Of course, changing the way you do things doesn’t happen overnight. So even if a brand only has a couple of sustainable items in their collection right now, they may be working on ways to make their supply chain sustainable in the future. Read up about their policies and plans to help you make an informed decision.

Giving Back

One thing we really love about sustainable brands is that many of them give back to society. For some (like us) this means planting trees for every order in a bid to be more carbon neutral. 

Others donate a percentage of their profits to charities and/or are part of the 1% For The Planet organization.

What It’s Made From

The second thing you want to think about when deciding if a clothing item is sustainable, is the fabric that it’s made from. 

Natural Fibers

Natural fibers rather than synthetic ones are clear winners as they are biodegradable. This means that they will decompose naturally. 

However some fibers are thought to be more sustainable than others eg. linen over conventional cotton. This is because of the amount of energy that’s used in their production and/or use of pesticides and other chemicals.

Recycled Fabrics

Technology is seriously cool, I mean who would have thought that you can make clothes out of recycled plastic bottles! 

In fact, whilst we know that polyester is probably one of the worst fabrics for the planet, it is now recyclable. Meaning that fibers from polyester, nylon and PET plastics can be used again and again rather than going straight to landfill.

How It Was Made

Even after you’ve checked up on the brand and the fabrics they use, to be sure that a clothing item is sustainable, consider how it was made.

Carbon Footprint

We mentioned earlier that some fabrics use more energy in production than others but pioneering sustainable brands are finding ways to reduce their impact on the environment - a.k.a their carbon footprint.

One way of doing this is the closed loop system. By reusing things like water and chemicals, the number of resources used can be massively reduced.

Fast Fashion vs. Slow Fashion

A significant difference between fast fashion and the sustainable model of slow fashion is the number of items they make. 

Mass production in the fast fashion industry can often mean that there is a whole lot of waste. They also rely on what’s in right now so you can bet that once a trend has left the building, so do the clothes. 

For slow fashion, the focus is more on creating timeless pieces that are high quality and will be your closet must-haves for years to come.  Clothes are made in small batches to reduce waste and for many, this also means that they are hand-made.