How to Get Into Eco-Fashion
Updated on September 7, 2021 by Amber & The Team.
This article may recommend products we find helpful or cute! Read our full disclosure here.
There is a lot of buzz about vegan, sustainable, and environmentally friendly fashion right now. Anyone interested in the environment, and that is everyone hopefully, and fashion might be wondering what it means exactly.
The chances are you already know why you should be using cruelty-free and sustainable beauty products. Animal testing and such have been well documented over the last few decades, but you may not think about the clothes you are wearing in the same way.
The fashion industry can and does cause great harm to the planet and people as well. By changing the way you dress, you can help improve workers’ lives and the health of the planet too. But, how do you go about making those changes effectively? Let’s find out!
Why choose eco-fashion?
Manufacturing garments can come at quite a cost to the planet. The amount of water used to make clothing could supply five million people for a year. When you consider the number of people in the world without access to fresh water, that number is startling.
Manufacturing clothes produces about 10 percent of all carbon emissions globally each year. That figure is higher than the emissions produced by international shipping and flights put together!
Chemicals are used in dyes that pollute rivers and destroy ecosystems. Workers are subjected to these chemicals also which can cause many unpleasant symptoms and worse. Lung, skin, and eye irritation are common from some chemicals as can be cancers and reproductive problems.
Changing to more eco-friendly and sustainable manufacturers can improve many, many areas.
How to Get Into Eco-Fashion
Check those hang tags
One of the simplest ways to know that you are buying eco-friendly clothing is to check the hang tag. You know that piece of card tied to the shirt you are holding up in front of you? That’s a hang tag.
Reading the hang tag can reveal a wealth of information about the item you want to buy. Any company that is using organic materials free of dye, manufactured ethically, is likely to advertise this on the tag. Essentialy, hang tags are the eco-fashion shopper’s friend!
Anyone making their own fashion range should consider putting hang tags on so their consumers can understand what they are buying. Companies such as Dutch Label Shop produce hang tags for this very purpose.
Finding the right materials
Possibly the first thing that you should be looking for when switching your next purchases to eco-friendly ones, is the material. Organic materials are usually the best option for yourself and the environment.
The best eco-friendly options are hemp, cotton, and linen. Hemp has often been described as the most versatile material on the planet and is a very sustainable plant for producing clothing. Organic cotton is very popular now and is one of the better options for environmentally friendly materials, especially when it is not dyed. However, cotton uses a lot of water so there is a downside to it there. Linen lies somewhere in between hemp and cotton as it uses more water than the former but less than the latter.
When you are looking for what materials are included in garments, check the hanging tag. The label inside the t-shirt you are admiring will meet the legal labeling requirements, but the hang tag can often tell you much more. Manufacturers will often put more details on these tags to inform consumers that the materials used are fully organic and do not contain any chemicals or dyes.
What materials should be avoided?
Bamboo is often listed as an environmentally friendly alternative to other materials, and to a degree, it is. Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant that the planet has and that makes it ideal to use in the manufacture of a variety of products including clothing. It grows naturally and is hardy enough not to need pesticides, and therefore, is very eco-friendly.
The problem arises when it comes to being processed. Like many other materials, it requires some strong and toxic chemicals to process it into something that can be used for clothing. A similar process is used to make rayon, which is one of the worst materials known to man. The chemicals used in bamboo processing can lead to serious health implications, and even in low amounts, the fumes can cause headaches, fatigue, and nerve damage to workers.
If you must use polyester, consider looking for rPET as this is made from recycled plastic – so at least more than use is being made from this problem material. Acrylic and leather both have to go through chemical processes to be worn also, and vegans will want to avoid the latter for obvious reasons.
Using vintage and charity shops
One of the biggest problems with fashion is that not enough use is had from the garments that are made. Making purchases from charity and vintage stores can help alter that.
If you want to know how to look expensive and dress with style, and without breaking the bank, then these stores might be the best solution! Charity shops in upmarket areas of cities and towns can often have designer clothing donated, meaning that you can get a bargain and help to save the planet at the same time.
When buying second-hand, it doesn’t matter so much about the materials as you are helping to keep clothes away from the landfill, but vegans should be wary of vintage clothing. Check the labeling and the garment for leather trim or detail, and any fur or feathers should be inspected to see if they are real.
Recycling will help
Donating your hardly-worn or lightly used clothing to thrift stores and the like can also help. Being environmentally friendly when it comes to clothing doesn’t always apply to your purchases, it is also what you do with the garments later on that matters.
There are around 100 billion new garments made each year and yet less than 1% of worn clothes are recycled to help make new clothing. Not only that but 10 million tons of clothing gets sent to landfill and 3 million more just gets incinerated every year in the US alone! Ouch.
At least some of this could be avoided simply by donating your unwanted clothing or dropping it into recycling boxes in your city.
Fast fashion is causing many problems that are hidden from consumers
The landfills are just full of waste, but what is the knock-down effect of all this cheap clothing? The workers are not being given a fair deal.
Consumer’s demand for cheap throwaway garments means that corners get cut on health and safety, working conditions, and wages…
Looking at just those carbon emissions and considering that dyeing processes account for a fifth of all waste water in the world, it is clear why eco-friendly fashion matters.
To improve your wardrobe and the lives of the workers who help fill it, simply make a few changes to your shopping. Switching out materials such as rayon for linen and hemp will help in many ways. Avoid unnecessary dyes if possible, and donate your old clothing.
Also, note that fast fashion is causing landfills around the world and the low costs paid by consumers are fed back to the workers. Buying less clothing but of higher quality is good for you and for everyone, including the environment.
Like these tips? Scroll down for more!