Fashion is one of the most polluting industries on the planet, responsible for about 5% of total carbon emissions globally, more than maritime and aviation combined. And as fast fashion brands push prices down and increase their output, garment makers are forced to work in unsafe environments and for dangerously low wages.
For shoppers wanting to reduce their impact and support brands doing the right thing by people, the planet and animals it can be a difficult road to navigate. But there are a few simple ways to reduce your impact that will help the industry as a whole and reduce your environmental impact dramatically.
1. Buy quality clothing
2. Make shopping a proactive not reactive action
The garments that you buy on a whim end up being the ones that get thrown to the back of the wardrobe and, in the worst situations, never worn. Australians buy about 27kg of clothing every year but throw away about 23kg. That’s a massive waste of resources and bad news for landfill. Instead, shopping should be a proactive action. Shop with the intention to buy something specific for your wardrobe. Compare multiple options. Only add what you need.
Tip: Eco fashion leader Livia Firth suggests applying the #30Wears rule to every purchase. That is asking yourself whether you’ll wear a garment at least 30 times. If the answer’s no, put it back.
3. Try to buy natural fibres
Fast fashion is mostly made from cheap, synthetic fibres. Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon are made from large amounts of oil and release harmful toxins during production. Furthermore, the fabrics take anywhere between 40-200 years to break apart in landfill, releasing more hazardous gases in the process and leeching microplastics into the ocean. Brands like dk active are helping to reduce the size of this problem by using recycled nylon and quality products that last, but natural fibres (cotton, wool, linen, hemp etc) are the best option for the majority of your wardrobe.
Note: Activewear requires stretch so a form of synthetic fibre is required for quality, durability and performance. d+k use a blend of recycled nylon and other quality fabrics for its activewear.
4. Buy second hand
When it comes to shopping sustainably, the next best thing to not buying anything at all is buying second hand. Research in the UK found that extending the life of clothes by just nine extra months reduces carbon, water and waste footprints by about 20-30% annually. Therefore, by purchasing clothes second hand and extending the lifetime of the clothing, you’re creating a more sustainable wardrobe. Thankfully, there are plenty of options for buying second-hand clothes both in-store and online. Op shops and vintage stores curate great second-hand clothing, and online platforms such as eBay, Gumtree, Depop, Facebook Marketplace and even the swap and sell pages on Facebook make it easy to shop the brands you love, second hand.
5. Rent clothes for special occasions
If you’re going to stay true to points one and two in this list, rental will be necessary. Buying clothes for one-off events isn’t sustainable for the environment or your bank account. Clothes rental platforms such as GlamCorner and Outdress allow you to rent up-market outfits for your occasions without the big price tag so you can keep up Instagram appearances in style, sustainably.
Britt’s List is an online fashion publication dedicated to telling the stories behind Australian fashion brands that lead their industry in environmental sustainability and ethical treatment of people and animals.