Sustainable and ethical fashion is a recent trend which, we hope, will not ever go away. The importance of considering where your clothes come from and whom they have impacted is not to be understated. Responsibly produced clothes don’t have to be expensive; in fact, you can find them on the high street. You don’t have to be rich or have vast fashion knowledge to be a sustainable and ethical fashionista either; all you need is some basic information on what to look out for on the label.
The use of animals for human vanity is not just an ethical problem but a sustainable one, too. Nearly everyone knows about the cruelty behind fur but most of us think leather is a by-product. In fact, it’s a highly profitable material that directly supports the meat industry and is environmentally damaging too.
Feather pickers and wool shearers are paid by the volume not by the hour, so they often pluck or cut animals’ ears, tails or genitals instead as they’re in such a rush. There really isn’t a “nice” way of taking an animal’s fur, skin or feathers away from them.
Burden on the planet
Aside from the ethical issues around the use of animals, many people forget about the environmental impact of the animal whose leather is used, such as the amount of food and water they consume as well as all the waste they produce throughout their lives.
The tannery industry is pollution intensive as the releases potentially contain toxic, persistent or otherwise harmful substances. It is not uncommon for tanneries to use more than 300 different chemicals in the leather-making process. According to the Higg Materials Sustainability Index, leather from cows is nearly three times as harmful to the environment as vegan leather, and wool is twice as harmful as polyester. This is in spite of PU leather and polyester both being plastics!
Truly sustainable materials
Thankfully, there are wonderful and often cheaper alternatives to animal-derived materials. Cheaper fashion means you can get more clothes – yay!
Alternatives include cotton, bamboo, hemp and polyester, which are all available on the high street. Leather can actually be made out of pineapples, apples, mushrooms and even coffee. The possibilities are really endless and often cost effective too. You can still wear your favourite designs and be fashionable without using any animal materials.
Check the label
The most straightforward way to shop for sustainable and ethical fashion is to check the label. If it contains ingredients like fur, leather, down, feathers, wool or silk, you know to put it down straightaway. In reality most clothing sold on the high street is vegan-friendly so you won’t have a problem finding a suitable . Make sure you only buy from companies that don’t allow unfair treatment of humans on the production line too – this is a quick way to narrow down your options.
Paving the way
Consumers are increasingly recognising that fur, skin, wool and feathers are only ever ‘natural’ on the animals who were born with them. Compassion, sustainability and innovation are shaping today’s fashion industry – and as the number of people adopting a vegan lifestyle keeps increasing, the industry is stepping up its cruelty-free game. Why not look out for sustainable and ethical fashion items the next time you go shopping?
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