Sustainable fashion meaning
Shopping sustainably means being able to distinguish between ethical, or responsible shopping, and disposable fashion, commonly called “fast fashion”.
Unfortunately, fashion is an industry that destroys the environment and is often synonymous with abuse in the way employees are treated.
Sustainable fashion means using materials that last longer, paying workers fairly, and leaving the smallest imprint on our environment. It means using better resources to minimize pollution and reduce fossil fuels as much as possible, encouraging proximity and thereby avoiding long distance transportation – something we mentioned in our article about sustainable travel.
Key figures in a world dominated by non sustainable fashion…
Ludhiana, the industrial capital of Punjab, in India, is the 4th most polluted city in the world.
In the region, the number of cancer cases has risen, from 800,000 in 2001 to 1,220,000 in 2016.
Thirty to forty sick children have been detected per village (cancer, autism) because of the heavy metals and pesticides used in the manufacture and dyeing of clothes.
A factory employs an average of 800 people, working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, for €90 a month.
Facts of an unsustainable fashion world: How did we get here?
Consumers want cheaper brands, or simply can’t afford to buy clothes if prices are not slashed.
Globalization has seen textile companies relocate over recent decades in pursuit of higher profit margins.
So everyone should be happy…
But one day the truth comes out.
We learn what is happening in China, India, Bangladesh, and now in Ethiopia, a new Eldorado for fast fashion brands…
We see human disasters with factories collapsing, and ecological disasters with rivers so polluted that the people who depend on them are losing their natural resources and falling ill. It’s loss of life on an epic scale, and it’s so serious we don’t know where to turn. Regulations drawn up thousands of kilometers away are much more difficult to enforce.
And yet, the brands continue to comfort us, everything is done better now (things are made of better quality now?), and on top of that, they bring development to emerging countries. Greenwashing? Probably.
A closer look reveals a host of problems.
So how can we not want to go back to the roots of this huge problem?
Good practices that lead to sustainable fashion:
Habits that we adopt may end up encouraging the fashion industry to change theirs.
And until there are stricter regulations on imported products, it is up to us to find a way to consume in a more sustainable, responsible and ethical way.
Yes, just like in the good old days when we used to collect our cousins’ clothes! Except that here, we have the right to choose!
- Go to flea markets
Buying second hand is an excellent solution to use resources that have already been produced.
- Buy local
On the one hand, it’s much easier to control ethically, and on the other hand, it reduces contamination by avoiding the transport of goods from the other side of the world.
And if we really want to buy a brand…
- Search and share sustainable clothing brands:
That’s the whole purpose of our address book: this collaborative directory will help you find sustainable brands, but we are at the very beginning of our project and we need your help to grow. So if you know of any store or brand in your area or online, you can share the address here.
Note: We prefer on site businesses and brands for several reasons:
- The environmental impact is less compared to the home-delivery model,
- It’s easier for small and medium size businesses to keep on their feet,
- It helps towns and cities to stay lively for the people who live in it, but also for those who visit them.
But we know that online shopping can be a great solution for those without public transportation nearby or for those who have health issues.
- We prefer organic cotton
It’s not perfect, but one of the major problems of large-scale producers like India is the widespread use of pesticides and toxic dyes, which pollute soils and rivers and lead to health tragedies, with the onset of chronic diseases and cancers.
In the Punjab, insecticides that are banned in France are breathed in by workers and children working with their parents in the fields.
- or recycled materials:
More and more brands are offering the option of buying clothes made from recycled material. But beware of greenwashing – read the labels carefully as sometimes brands use the trendy word ‘recycled’ to get you to buy clothes that are in fact produced with very little recycled material. Ask the brand for the percentage to be sure.
- Check where a garment was made:
Look at where it was made. Brands often manufacture in neighbouring countries, like Italy, Morocco or Turkey (Planeta Sana is in Spain). The further away our clothes come from, the more CO2 they emit due to the transport involved. And in terms of labour rights and environment protection, it’s also more likely that legislation will be stricter in a EU country than a developping country.
- Boycott the worst fast fashion companies:
I can’t give you a list of the worst companies, but there are many… Anything that is extremely cheap is questionable.
What can we do to dress more responsibly?
- Take care of your clothes and repair them to make them last as long as possible.
- Buy a laundry bag to avoid microplastic pollution from your synthetic clothes when washing them in the washing machine.
- Renting: The rental of clothes is an emerging trend.
- Choose alternative materials: We know that cotton requires a lot of water and is often treated with pesticides. There are alternatives, such as tencel, a new generation sustainable and ecological fibre grown in Austrian forests, which requires a lot less water and is pesticide-free.
Even with the adoption of these practices, things are far from perfect. There will always be an impact, because even sustainable clothing involves the manufacture of material, its processing and transportation.
There is no such thing as zero impact. So it’s up to us to be minimalists and to stop buying too much, especially to calm our frustrations when we’re not feeling so great… There are other solutions than shopping. Meditation, mindfulness, music, creating art, meeting friends, watching a good movie, etc…
Do you have any suggestions for better fashion consumption? Or remarks about eco-friendly clothing, ethical fashion, which fights against what is explained here?
Planeta Sana is a collaborative platform where the community wants to improve itself, to learn from others, with the only common goal being to preserve our planet and the health of the communities that depend on it. So if you have any interesting information that is not covered here, please don’t hesitate to share it in a comment.
Don’t forget: if you know of a local sustainable fashion designer, fashion brand or a local fashion store that has responsible and/or inclusive practices* please share your recommendations with us.
You can also follow us on Instagram. We are not a sustainable fashion influencer, because our range of topics goes well beyond fashion. We want to talk about all aspects of sustainability, not only in regard to clothing. But we have read from many sources that the fashion industry is one of the main sources of pollution on the planet and that’s why we want to raise awareness around this.
If you want to read more about what’s new in sustainable fashion, we also invite you to join Planeta Sana private Facebook group.
*Inclusive manufacturing means thinking about people of all sizes, very small or very large, or with special needs, for example, brands of shoes adapted to wearing insoles, or bags designed for people with back problems, etc…