Eco-friendly fashion implies making sustainable choices in a world driven by fast-paced trends and disposable clothing. But then the term "sustainable fashion" itself is an oxymoron.
As defined in Cambridge Dictionary, 'fashion' means a style that is popular at a particular time, and on the other hand, 'sustainable' means able to continue over a period of time. Despite this contradiction, the notion of being fashionable while embracing sustainability is not only possible but also increasingly essential in our modern society.
Impact on Environment
The fashion industry has long been associated with a significant ecological footprint. It's a leading contributor to pollution, water consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. Following are some of the industry's most pressing issues:
The rise of fast fashion has led to an accelerated production cycle, where clothing is designed, produced, and discarded rapidly. This contributes to massive amounts of textile waste.
Traditional textile production relies heavily on water, energy, and chemicals. Huge amounts of electricity and heat are required for cloth and garments manufacturing. Most of the factories operate in areas that are largely dependent on coal for producing energy, causing huge gas emissions.
Dyeing and finishing textiles release harmful chemicals into waterways, polluting ecosystems and endangering human health.
The fashion industry generates vast amounts of waste, from unsold inventory to discarded clothing, much of which ends up in landfills.
Given these environmental challenges, the fashion industry is under increasing pressure to become eco-friendly and embrace sustainability.
Rise of Eco-friendly Fashion:
In recent years, eco-friendly fashion has gained traction as a response to the industry's environmental and ethical concerns. Eco-friendly and sustainable fashion focuses on minimizing harm to the environment and improving social conditions throughout the supply chain. Here are some of the key aspects:
Sustainable fashion prioritizes the use of eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton, hemp, Tencel, and recycled fibers. These materials are produced with lower environmental impact.
By prioritising sustainability, brands engage and support the local communities and provide safe, healthy, and fair working conditions for the labor.
Sustainable brands aim to be transparent about their supply chains, making it easier for consumers to trace the origin of their clothing.
It promotes the idea of reducing, reusing, and recycling or upcycling clothing. This includes repair services, resale platforms, and clothing rental services.
Fortunately, consumers are also becoming more conscious of these issues and demanding green alternatives. By adopting some of the following eco-friendly practices, individuals can reduce their carbon footprint and make a positive difference.
Choose Sustainable Fabrics
Opt for clothing made from sustainable materials like organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, Tencel, or recycled fibers. These fabrics are produced with less environmental impact compared to conventional ones.
Thrifting and shopping at vintage stores not only reduces waste but also gives clothing a second life. You can find unique, pre-loved items that contribute to a more sustainable fashion cycle.
Support Sustainable Brands
There is an increasing trend of brands that prioritize sustainability. One should opt for them and support. Look for certifications like Fair Trade, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), or B Corp to ensure ethical and eco-friendly practices.
Quality Over Quantity
Invest in high-quality, timeless pieces that will last longer instead of fast fashion trends. Quality clothing often withstands wear and tear better, reducing the need for frequent replacements.
Repair and Upcycle
Instead of discarding damaged clothing, learn basic sewing skills to repair or upcycle them into something new. This can prolong the life of your garments and reduce waste said Dr Mukesh Kwatra, founder of Smiling Tree .
Overwashing clothes can wear them out faster and consume more water and energy. Only wash your clothes when necessary, and opt for cold water to save energy.
When you do wash your clothes, use energy-efficient appliances and eco-friendly detergents. Line drying your laundry or using a drying rack can also save energy.
Create a capsule wardrobe with a limited number of versatile pieces that mix and match well. This reduces the need for excess clothing and streamlines your style choices.
Support Local Designers
Support local fashion designers and artisans who often produce on a smaller scale and may use eco-friendly materials and practices.
Rent or Borrow for Special Occasions
Instead of buying formal or occasional wear that you'll rarely use, consider renting or borrowing these items. This reduces the demand for single-use garments.
Choose sustainable accessories made from recycled or eco-friendly materials, such as cork, reclaimed wood, or upcycled metals.
Stay informed about sustainable fashion trends and practices. Attend workshops, read books and articles, and follow influencers and brands that promote eco-friendly fashion.
Being fashionable and sustainable is about making mindful choices that align with your personal style while considering the environmental and ethical impact of your clothing.
By embracing eco-friendly fashion practices, you can not only look good but also feel good about your contribution to a more eco-conscious and socially responsible industry. It's being more responsible towards nature, towards our mother Earth.
All players, from the consumer to the company director, the manufacturer, and the farmer ought to take responsibility for their part in the supply chain and the creative process and for the choices they make.
(Dr. Mukesh Kwatra, founder of Smiling Tree)