For clothing to be sustainable, it is not as simple as using recycled materials. The materials themselves must be grown/harvested in ways that drastically reduce the carbon footprint left by manufacturing. The workers used in the process must be doing so of their own free will and be compensated appropriately. Sometimes, clothing can be considered sustainable if it lasts a long time and can be resold. Let’s dive deeper into what makes clothing “sustainable”.
The Work Force
According to a report released in 2012 by the International Labor Institue, 14.2 million workers worldwide were trapped and forced to work in improper working conditions. An example of the effects of unsafe working conditions is the collapse of the Savar building collapse in 2013. This 8-story building in Bangladesh collapsed killing over 1,100 people and injuring over 2,500. The accident was attributed to a “structural failure”.
All over the world, people are forced to work as modern-day slaves to produce what are called “fast fashion” items. Fast fashion can be described as “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly”. These producers pay their workers very low wages and adopt irresponsible/unethical manufacturing practices to create/inflate their margin.
Leading Sustainable Clothing Materials
Examples of the most promising sustainable clothing materials are:
• Linen – This plant-based material is made from flax. Perhaps the most intriguing positive for using flax is that it can grow in terrain that is unusable for farming which leads to the more efficient use of the land.
• Cotton – Cotton is one of the most well-known fabrics on the planet. It is found a multitude of textiles. The key to cotton being used as a sustainable fabric is the manufacturing process. Cotton can be manufactured with minimal chemical use. One drawback is that manufacturing requires a lot of water.
• Wool – It is durable and resilient. It lasts a long time and it can absorb a ton of moisture without feeling damp. If you can get past the fact that we get it from sheep, you could be accepting the most sustainable fabric there is.
Clothing That Already Exists Can Be Made Sustainable
Recycling clothing by using secondhand stores is a great way to give clothing that is already made, a sustainable quality. Keeping clothing that has significantly impacted the carbon footprint out of landfills is an important way to lessen the impact of clothing on the Earth. Goodwill and The Salvation Army are good places to start. In recent years, a number of online thrift shops have popped up.
Swap.com, thredUP, and Posh Mark are great places to find high-quality, previously used clothing.
Utilizing socially responsible outlets for clothing does not have to mean you spend more money. If you are willing to do the research, you can actually save money!