Sustainability has become a buzzword in 2020 and people are becoming much more aware of environmental factors. As a result of widely documented environmental issues, consumers are becoming more and more aware of sustainability and how damaging certain industries are to the environment. Sustainability refers to a process or state that can be maintained at a certain level and is defined by the United Nations’ Brundtland Commission as development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.".
There are three core pillars of sustainability: economic, social and environment. These principles are also informally known as profit, people and planet.
Sustainability can be incorporated into almost every aspect of our lives, from harnessing wind or solar power for energy, to choosing a vegan diet or shopping for sustainable clothing. The focus on sustainable fashion has been growing in recent years, but many consumers might find it’s hard to break the ‘fast-fashion’ habits they’re used to. However, being more conscious of the clothing we buy, and how much, is vital if we want to protect the future of the planet. With this in mind, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to sustainable fashion - what it is, why it’s important, and how you can do your bit by joining the movement.
What is Sustainable Fashion?
The fashion industry is big business in the UK and we buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe. Findings published in the government’s latest report on clothing consumption and sustainability show concerns for the so-called ‘fast fashion’ industry and its negative impact on the planet. The term first emerged in the 1980s and refers to the quick turnaround of new fashion collections, seasonal trends and low prices to meet consumer demand.
Sustainable fashion is a movement that’s emerged as a backlash to the principles of fast fashion, with a focus on the three pillars of sustainability mentioned above: economic, social and environment. It has some overlaps with ethical fashion and focuses on a total overhaul of the fashion industry through sustainable manufacturing processes, ethical labour and using sustainable clothing fabrics. The consultancy firm Green Strategy has identified seven main forms of sustainable fashion production and consumption:
● On-demand and custom made
● Green and clean
● High quality and timeless design
● Fair and ethical
● Repair, redesign and upcycle
● Rent, lease and swap
● Secondhand and vintage
We will look at a few of these seven forms in more detail, below.
Secondhand and vintage
Choosing vintage or secondhand clothing reduces your environmental impact by saving the clothes from being sent to landfill and reducing the potentially harmful production processes of manufacturing new clothing. Buying secondhand or vintage also reduces the overall consumer demand for new clothing to be produced, and it can save you money too.
Green and clean
This refers to clothing that’s produced in an environmentally friendly manner at every stage of production, including aspects like choosing sustainable fabrics and implementing eco-friendly production processes.
The fashion industry has one of the largest environmental impacts on the planet, due to enormous amounts of water usage, high volumes of clothes being sent to landfill and the pollution produced by chemical treatments used in the dyeing and manufacturing process. Sustainable fashion includes clothing that’s made in a ‘green’, eco-conscious way and this can take many forms, including using renewable energy in the production process, choosing eco-friendly dyes and recycling certain elements of the clothing.
Choosing sustainable fabrics is also important if you’re looking for fashion that is both ‘green and clean’. Sustainable fabrics are textiles grown or produced in an environmentally friendly way, using minimal chemicals and harmful dyes. They include materials such as:
● Organic cotton - cotton is naturally breathable, biodegradable and effective at absorbing moisture. However, because it’s in such high demand, damaging, intensive farming methods are often used. Organic cotton is grown using a slower process that’s much more gentle on the environment ( tu bym rozbudowala).
● Linen - this fabric is 100% biodegradable, and while it does have a tendency to crease, it’s a strong, durable fibre that doesn’t wear down from rubbing or abrasion.
● Hemp - hemp is one of the toughest plants around, requiring very little water to grow and possessing a natural immunity to many diseases and pests. Able to grow quickly and abundantly without the need for harsh chemicals, it’s also 100% biodegradable and eight times stronger than cotton, making it an almost perfect sustainable fabric. Zamiast tego dalabym coffee…po co nam pisac o linen I hemp?
● Bamboo - clothes made from bamboo are very strong but also soft, plus bamboo is naturally antibacterial so it’s a great material for sportswear (tez mozna rozbudowac).
● Recycled polyester - polyester is manmade, but it can also be endlessly recycled which saves the amount heading to landfill.
● Ramie - these fibres come from the stem of a plant known as Chinese grass (part of the nettle family). It’s another substance that’s 100% biodegradable and it’s often combined with other materials like cotton to make clothing that’s durable, mildew resistant and even stronger when wet.
Fair and ethical
Ethical fashion is a whole other complex issue, but there are many overlaps between ethical and sustainable fashion. Clothing is naturally more sustainable (in line with the core economic and social pillars) when it’s made under conditions that are both ethical and fair. This includes aspects such as workers having access to a living wage, appropriate working conditions and hours, health and safety standards and a commitment to upholding human rights.
Ethical fashion can also refer to using cruelty-free or vegan products and methods, such as vegan leather, recycled rubber, natural, sustainably grown fibres or recycled packaging.
Why is Sustainable Fashion important?
Around eight per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions come from the fashion industry, which is more than the aviation and maritime shipping industries combined. On top of this, around three-fifths of all clothing produced will end up in incinerators or landfills within a few years of being produced. These are concerning statistics and the impact of our fast-fashion consumption can cause huge damage to the planet via pollution and waste. Many believe that the future of fashion depends on its ability to adapt and adopt sustainability as a key concept.
The UK sends more than 300,000 tonnes of used clothing to landfill in a single year, so choosing sustainable fashion such as second-hand clothing drastically reduces the amount of clothing polluting our planet in landfill sites. It also cuts down on the use of harmful chemicals, GMOs, wastewater and non-renewable energy generated during the manufacturing process.
Sustainable fashion has a positive impact on many areas (environmental, social and economic) and the quality of the clothing itself is often much better. A shift towards sustainable fashion helps us lessen our dependency on imported raw materials and it makes people more aware of their choices and the impact on the planet.
How you can make a difference
For sustainable fashion to really make an impact, it has to work at both a macro and micro level. This means that both brands and consumers need to be involved when it comes to making the necessary changes. Brands need to consider how to create clothing which is considerate of both the population and the environment, using processes which leave a negative or neutral carbon footprint.
For consumers, it’s a case of consciously thinking about where our clothing comes from, doing the necessary research and thinking carefully about where we buy our clothes. There’s plenty you can do, from buying secondhand or vintage clothing to choosing clothes made from eco-friendly fabrics and making efforts to buy clothing locally. Shipping garments from afar produces a huge amount of CO2, so consider buying from local suppliers or vintage shops in your area.
It’s also about being more mindful when it comes to clothing, so take the time to visualise your wardrobe and think about how a new piece will fit in. Sustainable fashion is about choosing quality over quantity, so swap fast-fashion pieces for well-made classics that will last you for seasons to come.
Here at Starseeds, we’re proud to produce ethical and sustainable unisex apparel and yoga wear for the customer who’s both stylish and eco-conscious. All of our clothing is made using ethical processes and we’re committed to using only sustainable materials like bamboo, hemp and organic cotton.
As a ‘slow fashion’ brand, we’re at the forefront of the pushback against fast-fashion and the damage it does to our planet. Our clothing is functional, durable and strong for your best performance, while remaining so comfortable you might even forget it’s there.
Starseeds uses manufacturing processes that are 100% ethical and many of our materials our 100% biodegradable too, for your peace of mind. The utmost care has gone into every aspect of our clothing, from initial design to the fabrics and production process, meaning you look and feel good, both inside and out. To find out more and browse our product range, click here.