Eco-Friendly Clothing: A Buyer’s Guide
We all know we could do more to help the environment, but eco-friendly fashion can seem complex and overwhelming sometimes. The words “sustainable” and “vegan” get thrown around a lot, but products that are labeled as such aren’t always what they seem, especially because of the fashion industry’s widespread greenwashing. Luckily, you’ll be glad to know that there are many small steps we can take as individuals to reduce our carbon footprint on the planet.
Unsure where to start? Here’s our comprehensive buyer’s guide to eco-friendly clothing - we’ve started with some definitions:
What Does Eco-Friendly Clothing Actually Mean?
The opposite of fast fashion, the term eco-friendly clothing encompasses how a product is made (from growing/synthesizing the material to manufacture, dying, transport, waste generation & disposal, and even community impact) in relation to sustainability. In other words, to qualify for this definition, garments must have a low environmental impact on our planet.
Read our article on Fast Fashion: What Is It and Why Should We Care?
What Does Greenwashing Mean?
Similar to the word whitewashing, greenwashing is the use of marketing to exaggerate the sustainability of a product (e.g. clothes, skincare, etc.) and to mislead customers into thinking that it is eco-friendly. For example, a company might claim that a garment is organic due to the use of organic cotton in its production, whereas the reality is that it only makes up a small percentage of the item and is blended with other materials, such as polyester.
Step-By-Step Buyer’s Guide for Eco-Friendly Clothes
1. Do We Really Need New Clothes?
I know we’ve just seen Kim Kardashian sporting the latest in fashionable leggings on Instagram and none of us wants to answer this question right now - but do we really need new clothes? In order to significantly reduce our impact on the planet, then we have to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones and cutting down on our buying habits is one of the most effective steps to becoming more eco-friendly
2. Eco-Friendly Clothes Swap Party
Did we just say party? You’re darn right we did! Turn your requirement for new clothes into an opportunity to socialise with your nearest and dearest (after we’re all done with social distancing, of course). You never know, this might be your chance to get your hands on your best friend’s dress that you’ve always had your eye on! Exchanging is much more eco-friendly than buying new clothes because it gives garments new lives instead of simply throwing them away.
3. Repurpose, Donate or Recycle Unwanted Clothes
If your clothing or swimwear has reached the end of its life then why not repurpose it instead of chucking it in the bin? You could sew up the leg holes of a swimsuit and make an eco-friendly bag or do something else creative - we love this cute headband made from bikini bottoms!
Not feeling too artistic? It’s possible to donate or recycle old garments - did you know that only 15% of unwanted clothing is actually recycled? We can significantly reduce our carbon footprint simply by disposing of our swimwear and other clothes correctly. Nowadays, lots of big brands are accepting them as part of their recycling schemes, including Patagonia, H&M, Nike, and North Face. In addition, there are plenty of charities that accept donations and some councils offer suitable recycling services.
4. Buy Consciously and Make Informed Eco-Friendly Decisions
When a clothing company touts itself as eco-friendly, the first thing you should do is check out its transparency. Do they state what their clothes are made of? Are they open about their production practices? If they don’t have information on their websites, do they reply with honesty after you contact them? As a consumer, you should be aware of the source of a product, as well as where and how it is manufactured, and the measures the company is taking to reduce its impact on the environment.
Check out our article on The Life Cycle of Plastic: How Does It End Up In Our Bikinis?
It sounds a bit complicated but, once you’ve done an initial bit of digging, you will become aware of the best sustainable brands to buy from and what to look out for in the future.
5. Care For and Repair Sustainable Clothing
Once we have all bought ourselves some amazing eco-friendly clothes and swimwear, it’s time to look after them! Most of us wash our clothes too often, which can shorten the life of a garment, not to mention the carbon footprint it creates. Consequently, clothes could be washed less frequently to reduce our environmental impact.
What’s more, if our clothes start to fray, the most sustainable thing to do is to repair them. If you’re anything like me - and sewing is not really your forte - there are plenty of YouTube tutorials out there that can help you extend the life of your garments.