What is sustainable fashion and why it's important

The word sustainable is being thrown around so much in the media recently, along with plastic, eco-friendly, veganism and environmentally friendly, how can you know what’s important and what you should focus on? We’ve been branded as the ‘guilty generation’ because everything seems to be happening in our lifetime and we’re trying to fix all of the world’s problems! You could either try and do a little bit for them all or educate yourself strongly about a few causes and try and make a difference there. Today, I’m going to chat to you about sustainable fashion because this is something that shocked me as I learnt about it and something that I think I can make a difference to.

#What is sustainability?
 The dictionary definition of sustainable is ‘to be able to be maintained at a certain rate or level’. Something that when, it comes to fashion, a naive version of me might have said, we’ll surely that’s all fashion. It’s being churned out so quickly but they wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t sustainable would they?

They totally would. Unfortunately the fashion industry is sustainable in terms of their economic status, ‘they’ (in terms of designers and producers and huge retailers) are finding it totally sustainable to create such fast fashion because their money probably won’t run out because we’re all still buying everything they put in front of us. What isn’t sustainable is the materials that are being used to create these items of clothing and the ways that it’s affecting the environment in such a life threatening way.

What are the facts?

Stacey Dooley recently put out a BBC documentary entitled Fashion’s Dirty Secret and I was instantly hooked by the name of it. I was shocked by the news she was delivering related to how much water it takes to create cotton (it’s literally shrunk an actual area of water from a sea to a small lake) and how polluted these clothing factories are making some of the most beautiful countries in the world. Stacey said, “There have been recent claims that the fashion industry is one of the top five most-polluting industries in the world, alongside the oil industry.”

Let’s not even get started on the people that are actually making our beautiful clothes, luckily a lot of big brands are reassuring us about their workforces but a lot aren’t making us think about the environmental effect our retail therapy is having. Because, why would they? We’d stop shopping.

According to curiosity.com it takes 2,000 gallons or over 7,500 litres of water to make one pair of jeans. This includes the water it took to grow the cotton and manufacture the piece of clothing but doesn’t include the water you’ll use to wash the jeans in the future, which is obviously a hell of a lot more. Of course, sustainability within fashion and beauty has improved as Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told the BBC; “We have already cut waste from plastic bags and microbeads. The amount of clothing thrown away is falling and we are funding research into new ways to deal with micro-plastics – but there is more to do". There definitely is more to do, Mike, that’s for sure.

#So, what can we do? 
 We all know we’re not going to stop shopping all together but we can shop less, shop smarter and recycle a lot more.

  1. Shop less. Only buy something if you’re super in love with it, it will get a lot of wear and you actually need it. If you have something similar or if it’s a one-time event and you could borrow something from your brother/sister or friend, don’t buy anything.
  2. Shop smarter. Charity shops have so many random designer bargains and vintage gems in them. I once found a vintage Ralph Lauren belt for a fiver in my local Oxfam and wore it for years as a teenager! People are listing a lot more good stuff on eBay as well, just this week I picked up a perfect condition sweatshirt that should have been over £100 new for £18.95 including postage. Remember, someone else’s trash could be your treasure.
  3. Recycle. This goes with the above too, donate your old clothes if they are wearable, to friends, charity shops or sell them on eBay to rack yourself up some extra cash too! 
 Once you’re in the habit of shopping like this, you’ll find it easier than you think. Scouring eBay and searching through charity shops can be a lot more fun than clicking ‘add to basket’ on your favourite online retailer. I’m not saying never shop new. I know that I will, of course, shop new in the future but I’m trying to do it a lot less. You can read how I’m planning to be more sustainable over on my personal blog too.

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