The average American’s fashion habits contribute 1620 Lbs of carbon emissions yearly. Here are tips to bring that number down.
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Here’s the bad news. Fashion contributes to 20% of global wastewater, and textile dyeing is the 2nd largest polluter. Since 2000, Americans have doubled the number of textiles they throw out to equal about 80 lbs per person. As a nation, we dump about 21 billion lbs into landfills yearly. Continuing the cycle of CO2 emissions, those landfills emit greenhouse gases, CO2, and methane as they break down. Now, here’s the good news. The ethical and sustainable fashion market is expected to grow by 8.3% annually. That growth is contributed to consumers. Surveys show that sustainability, material sourcing, and ethical-production are increasingly becoming factors when purchasing new clothes or footwear.
The fashion industry still has a long way to go to become ethical. And shoppers have a long way to go to say ‘goodbye’ to the fast fashion model. As consumers, we can continue to support brands and designers pursuing ways to minimize waste and pollution and ensure living wages. Ethical shopping tips can further help us to craft conscious wardrobes instead of falling into the fleeting fast fashion model.
1. Make A List
The simple act of taking 10 minutes to assess your closet and write down what you need can help avoid buying items that you don’t need or won’t wear. It’s also a safe wall against flash sales, which often expose shoppers to items that they don’t need while inspiring a sense of urgency and excitement to make purchases.
When you focus on buying what you need, you’ll most likely get a few more wears out of your clothing. This means fewer textiles hitting landfills and fast fashion is replaced with slow fashion.
2. Realize You Don’t Really Need 20+ Shirts
Fast fashion has conditioned us to buy clothing in bulk. When you buy what you need and walk away from what you don’t you might notice that your closet is shrinking. That’s okay. After all, the average American woman only wears about 20% of her wardrobe.
You’re better off buying a few well-made pieces that are tailored to fit your body and lifestyle. Minor design flaws, baggy or tight fits, and styles that don’t fit into your personal lifestyle will mostly not be worn.
3. Go Natural.
Just as clean beauty is formulated with natural ingredients and without toxic chemicals, clothing should be as well. Read labels and look for organic or natural fibers like cotton, linen, silk, wool, hemp, and bamboo. The second best is recycled synthetic materials like nylon and polyester. Dragging behind in 3rd place are synthetics like polyester and nylon that haven’t been repurposed from plastic bottles or other post-consumer products.
Take a step further towards clean clothing and research brands to see what chemicals they use to dye, treat, and finish their clothes. Some fast-fashion brands have come under fire for using Phthalates in their clothing. Others have had their clothes tested by Greenpeace only to find cancer-causing amines dyes used in their clothing.
4. Don’t Be Afraid To Try ‘Pre-Loved’
Once upon a time, vintage, recycled, thrift, and pre-worn were dirty words. Thanks to stylish vintage-loving fashionistas, pre-loved is receiving new love. Referencing the past infuses your wardrobe with cool pieces that you might not find anywhere else. As ethical shopping tips, ‘thrifting’ and vintage shopping also prevent clothes from being tossed into landfills. After all, if a floral 1970s dress can get another 10 years of use, why throw it away for a new replica?
5. Mend And Repair
From the early 1900s to the 1990s, skills like sewing and mending were passed down from generation to generation. Mending skills that weren’t taught at home, were taught in school during home economics class. A lot has changed since then.
In 2019, Business News published the headline, “More Than 8 Million Brits Throw Repairable Clothes In The Bin”. When asked why they didn’t mend their clothes, 25% responded with “it’s easier to just buy something new”. “I can’t be bothered” was the response heard from 18%.
With 20+ billion pounds of clothing thrown out annually, we should be bothered. When shopping, check to see if extra buttons are included. Look for jeans that have a high cotton content as these will usually be sturdier and less likely to rip than spandex jeans. And, avoid pre-ripped, torn, or distressed items as those holes in your t-shirts will only become bigger with each wash.
6. Remember, Water Is For Drinking
It costs about 7,500 liters of water to make a single pair of jeans. Annually, the fashion industry drinks up to 93 billion cubic meters of water. To put that into perspective, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimates that to be enough to meet the needs of 5 million people. Yet, jeans aren’t the only thirsty industry. A single t-shirt sucks up about 2,700 liters of water during production.
In the long run, it’s a collective of small, everyday actions that will make a difference. The World Health Organization offers farmers innovative solutions to raise cotton crops with less farming and fewer pesticides. Some denim labels have begun recycling water and focusing on ways to use fewer resources in manufacturing. Shoppers like you and I can support these brands and buy fewer items.
Say ‘no’ to slow fashion and ‘yes’ to water.
7. Get A Little Exercise
If you’re one of the 1.8 billion online shoppers, know that there are a few changes you can make to lower the number of fumes it takes for packages to reach your home. Adopt a few ethical shopping tips to reduce your carbon footprint and increase your walking one. Cluster your purchases, opt to have items shipped to your local store or a pickup locker, and choose standard instead of expedited delivery. These tips follow the idea that bulk shipping reduces the number of shops that a delivery truck will make and reduce carbon emissions in the process.
8. Buy For The Long-Term
The combination of cheap materials and cheap manufacturing results in clothes that won’t last past a few wears. Flimsy cotton easily pills. Stitches that aren’t reinforced quickly come apart. And, garments that aren’t tailored well become misshapen. Adding to that, on-trend styles quickly feel outdated by the time the next collection hits stores by the end of the week. Fast fashion isn’t meant for longevity. It’s made to bring in a continuous stream of money. But, what happens when we say ‘no’?
When you spend a little more on high-quality clothes you’ll invest in a wardrobe that will last. Well-made coats will keep you warm for a decade or more. Perfect-fitting jeans will continue to hug you in just the right way for years to come. In the long run, closets will last longer and landfills will shrink.
9. Support Ethically-Made
The last of our ethical shopping tips revolve around supporting brands that are doing what is right. Fairtrade brands use 3rd party auditors to affirm that factories are safe and workers receive livable wages. Some even take it a step further and donate a portion of their proceeds to support the education of local communities or nonprofits that protect wildlife.
So, when shopping for a new dress or coat, why not support the brands supporting their workers instead of brands that put profit before people?