With more statistics and news pressing in from all sides about our planet's imminent doom, we search for ways to prevent this fate. We have all been taught the reduce, reuse, and recycle, and that fossil fuels are bad ... but little has been revealed on the environmental harm induced by the fashion industry. A buzzword has been "sustainable fashion," but what exactly does this refer to, and how or through what companies are we to achieve environmental stability?
Sustainable simply means something that is able to be sustained or upheld or carried through. So sustainable fashion refers to, according to the very trusted source Wikipedia, "a part of the growing design philosophy and movement towards environmental and social sustainability, the goal of which is to create a system which can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility." It involves supporting brands that are ethical in their behavior towards their employees and the environment.
According to sustainyourstyle.org, the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world (after the oil industry). Dyes and toxins run off from textile producers into water sources along with toxic cotton fertilizers. It takes up to 20,000 liters of water to produce just one kilogram of cotton. Two hundred tons of fresh water are needed to produce just one ton of fabric. Microfibers from washed materials like nylon are ingested by fish which then up the food chain eventually result in the fish we consume having plastic in them. Many clothes end up in landfills, as only 15% are donated.
So how do we alleviate these environmental burdens through choosing the clothes we wear? One way is to thrift shop. As a girl growing up with parents who shuddered anytime we passed a Goodwill, it took a while for me to get beyond the stereotype of used clothes being gross and unclean. Now I enjoy browsing through the odds and ends of thrift stores with my friends to find a super cute purse that's only $4, or a large Ohio State hoodie I can crop and wear to football games. On the flip side of this — donate your clothes! Either as hand-me-downs to younger siblings, cousins, or family friends, or organizations like the Salvation Army and the Big Brother Big Sister foundation. Goodwill has a history of exploiting disabled workers, so consider this before donating or purchasing items there).
Like the OSU hoodie mentioned previously, another way to support sustainability in fashion is to upcycle your old clothes. In one of my previous articles, I wrote about my experience with some DIY jeans. I took some old Aeropostale jeans and cut holes in them then rolled up the cuffs and voila! A new pair of jeans (that were kind of tight around the waist I must admit, but cute nonetheless). Cropping shirts seems to be in right now, so take your scissors to some old shirts. One of my friends took an old OSU hand-me-down shirt of mine and converted it into a tube top for game day. Get creative and you may surprise yourself, and it's much more satisfying to walk around with a "new" piece of clothing you produced than one that was $30.
Another way is to support brands that claim to be, and are verified to be, sustainable. What scares many people from these brands are their high prices, but not all are very expensive. Good trade has a list of affordable sustainable brands, one of them being Krochet Kids Intl. I bought a beanie from here years ago, and it's SUPER soft and a necessity when traversing the hellish landscape that is a college campus in midwinter. On the tag it includes a signature of the person who hand-knit your article of clothing, adding credibility and a personal touch.
So these are some methods of getting into sustainable fashion, and there are more to discover on the internet and social media every day. As long as nudity is socially unacceptable to society, fashion is an industry important to every person, and every person has an impact with the choices they make on the earth and the people on it.