You may have noticed in recent years that more and more brands are talking about sustainability. As consumers have become more mindful of the environmental impact of their choices, the fashion industry has had to confront its own not-so-green reputation.
The impact of fast fashion, the water consumption required to create new fabrics and the environmental impact of dyes, making new synthetic material and shipping across the world all stack up. The fashion industry is estimated to be responsible for around 10% of the world’s global emissions — that’s more than the shipping and aviation industries combined.
No wonder many brands are moving to a more eco-friendly future. But what is sustainable fashion really? How can fashion brands be more sustainable, and what’s the difference between greenwashing your brand and actually having a positive environmental impact? Let’s dive in.
How fashion brands can be more sustainable
The problem with the term ‘sustainability’ is that it’s not strictly defined. Cotton is more sustainable than polyester, for example, because it’s derived from plant-based materials instead of oil and can biodegrade when the garment’s life cycle is over.
Some companies use sustainable materials but create poor-quality garments that seem to be quickly bought, worn once and then thrown out. Can we really argue that this is a sustainable way of doing business? Ultimately, the places you decide to buy sustainable fashion from are up to you, but here are a few things to look out for.
Using sustainable materials
So, cotton is better for the environment than oil-derived polyesters, right? Well, this is true, but it’s also true that new cotton production requires a lot of water to make. A single T-shirt requires 2,700 litres, while a pair of jeans needs up to 10,000 litres of water to produce.
If a brand uses a recyclable polyester to make a high-quality piece of clothing designed to be worn and last for many years, this may actually have a lower environmental impact than a brand-new white tee and jeans made from cotton. Chemicals are also a factor in the production of fabric, causing toxic by-products to be released into waterways.
This is why bamboo is becoming a popular alternative for sustainability-minded brands. It’s made from a fast-growing plant that can be quickly replenished, doesn’t use pesticides or fertilisers in its production and requires less water than cotton to make into fabric. As a brand committed to sustainable fashion in Australia, Bodypeace Bamboo Clothing uses only organic methods for our fabric dyeing and knitting.
Implementing sustainable production methods
Waste is another huge factor in the fashion industry. In Australia alone, around 260,000 tonnes, or 10kg a person, of discarded clothing is sent to landfill each year. One way to combat this waste is by producing it more mindfully. For example, by producing more focused, core collections rather than producing a lot of items that are only going to be relevant in the trend cycle for a short amount of time.
Sustainable fashion brands often need to revisit the way they do everything in the process of creating a finished garment — from cutting patterns that reduce waste on a bolt of fabric to using less energy in their manufacturing and embracing recycled fabrics, deadstock items and dye colours that are better for the earth.
It’s a fact that most sustainable fashion brands in Australia just can’t afford to manufacture their clothing here or even find the skilled workforce required to do so. But by establishing a transparent and good working relationship with overseas manufacturing partners, brands can ensure a better standard of living for those workers and make sure that sustainability is a consideration during the manufacturing process.
Reducing water usage and carbon emissions
At Bodypeace Bamboo Clothing, we specifically choose to work with bamboo fibre fabric for many reasons; it’s luxuriously soft, gentle on sensitive skin and UV protective — perfect for Australia’s sunny climate. It’s also made from a sustainably grown and harvested crop in a closed loop area of China; the mountains of Zhejiang, Guang Xi, Guangdong, and Sichuan Provinces.
It doesn’t require much water or labour to grow, and chemicals aren’t used in the repopulation of the crop. All of that means a kinder, gentler finished product that uses less carbon emissions and water than many other production methods of different fabrics.
Embracing a circular economy
Perhaps the best test of what is truly ‘sustainable’ in fashion and what isn’t is whether a brand’s garments can be part of the circular economy. If you haven’t heard of this term before, the circular economy considers all the steps that go from a garment being produced to the end of its life cycle.
From growing the materials to sewing them, wearing and repairing the piece, passing it on to the next person as a hand-me-down or donating it to the charity shop, and finally, what will happen when it needs to be thrown out.
Keep an eye out for not just how a brand makes their clothing but how they treat the value of garments they’ve already sold — do they accept returns for ill-fitting items, or is their price so low that they encourage you to throw things away if they’re not right?
Do they have repair services, or include things like extra buttons and matching thread so you can patch items to give them a longer lifespan? Is the quality of the clothing good enough that it could be sold, passed on or donated when your time with it is over? And when it is beyond repair, will it be composted and biodegrade, or languish in a landfill along with other plastic detritus?
Sometimes it won’t be possible for a sustainable brand to tick every box here, but if you can see how their clothing fits into a circle or use and reuse, it’s a good sign they’re a sustainable choice.
Looking to buy sustainable clothing online? Check out Bodypeace Bamboo Clothing today
No matter what a brand claims in its marketing, assessing the true sustainability of its business will always require a bit extra scrutiny from the discerning customer. If you want to buy sustainable fashion that’s high quality, ethically produced and feels great against your skin, Bodypeace Bamboo Clothing is a great place to start.
We focus on incredibly comfortable, buttery soft core pieces that are timeless and can be styled in many ways to suit your style and lifestyle. We pride ourselves in our transparent approach to every step of production, and we care about being part of a movement that’s better for people and the planet. Discover our range of easy-to-wear pieces online today!
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