How To Add Sustainability Into Your Fashion

Karina Ramos Villalobos, EcoNews Intern

Wear Are they now? art Installation by artist Chelsea Jensen for Outer Roominations festival.
Created primarily from rescued textiles donated by the trashcans and sidewalks of Eureka.

Some can care less about their fashion style. However, no matter what your scale is on fashion expression, people consume clothes and at some point it can become unsustainable. Most financial experts say people should budget around 5 percent of their paycheck when considering shopping for clothing. Take whatever your monthly income is and multiply it by .05. 

Many fashion products are now being designed and made specifically for short-term ownership and premature disposal; this is known as “fast fashion.” Clothing quality is decreasing, along with costs, and the increased consumption levels of mass-manufactured fashion products are pushing up the consumption of natural resources. The fast fashion industry is known for exploiting its workers, who are underpaid and overworked. This situation has increased unsustainable lifestyles for shopping and the aftermath of getting rid of unwanted clothing.

What can help improve people’s desire to purchase that cute top or necessary pair of jeans at a large, retail store is to critically think and analyze the product and ask if it is a sustainable product. Sustainable fashion refers to clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in ways that are environmentally friendly. 

Practicing a fashion sustainability lifestyle can help reduce one’s carbon footprint. According to the World Economic Forum, the fashion industry makes up 10 percent of people’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources and pollutes rivers and streams. Fashion production is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply. About 85 percent of textiles go into landfills each year. Washing clothes releases 500,000 microfibers into the ocean each year which is equal to 50 billion plastic bottles. According to World Resources Institute, a global research organization that develops practical solutions that improve people’s lives and ensure nature can thrive, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt; this is enough water for one person to drink for two and a half years. Also, polyester productions for textiles is carbon intensive. In 2015, production of polyester released about 706B kg of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, which is equal to 185 coal-fired power plants annual emissions. 

Hopefully all those statistics can encourage people to shop at locally owned businesses, as well as research sustainable brands. Another tool to use while sustainably shopping is look for materials from natural or recycled fabrics that require significantly less to no chemical treatment, little water, less energy and no fertilizer or pesticides to grow. 

Six tips to practice fashion sustainability:

  1. Know where you are shopping from: Many well-known clothing retailers use fast fashion. Fast fashion causes damage to the planet by using toxic materials, exploiting workers, exploiting prison labor, harming animals and using cheap materials to provide an “affordable-priced” product. A few corporations that take part in the production of fast fashion are Nike, Adidas, Forever 21, GAP, H&M, Urban Outfitters, and more, according to Panaprium, a company that prioritizes sharing and harnessing the power of fashion to drive change through ethical, vegan and sustainable lifestyles. 
  2. Research your products before purchase: Kevin Johnson, owner of Solutions, an organic, eco-friendly store located in Arcata, spoke with me about how being in business for 32 years has helped them cultivate many different products due to the amount of research along the years. “Our shop has always been geared just for that with products that make a difference,” Johnson said. He emphasized that it is important to look for small manufacturers with products made with organic cotton or hemp, compared to big corporations that would provide materials such as cotton which is known to have pesticides. Johnson recommends always checking your products after they are bought to ensure that it’s sustainable and environmentally friendly.
  3. Take something old and make it into something new. Upscale your clothes. If you find yourself with a pile of clothes you want to get rid of, there are a few different options for how to repurpose those garments. You can take old t-shirts and turn them into cleaning rags. You can repurpose any piece of clothing into a scrunchie, reusable towels, plant holders, headbands, and more.
  4. Use sustainable methods to get rid of your closet dump: Get together with a friend, family or groups of people to do a clothing swap. Clothing swaps are good for the environment. Instead of throwing away, selling, or donating clothing it is a sustainable way to clear unwanted pieces and reduce waste being sent to landfills. Clothing swaps can be fun and a great way to engage with family or friends, save money and build community. If you are a Cal Poly Humboldt student the Waste Reduction and Resource Awareness Program (WRRAP) conducts reusable office supply exchanges through the ROSE house and has resources for fashion sustainability such as Donation Dash, clothing exchanges and other related programs. 
  5. Learn where you can donate clothing: Local-owned thrift stores are a great resource to donate clothing and support locally-owned businesses within your community.
  6. Consider these local and global sustainable fashion brands: Studio Ten Fifteen, Karma Klothing Shop, Kunty Crochet, Mariposa Magic, Groceries Apparale, Solutions Arcata, Metamorphosis Mindset, That Curly Top, Buy From Bipoc, House of Amma.