We spend all day talking about sustainable fashion around here, but we have never really tackled eco-friendly fashion. How dare we.
Each day there are more and more brands claiming to be eco-friendly (which is awesome as long as we don’t fall for greenwashing).
But what on earth does the tag eco-friendly even mean when we talk about fashion?
And no. It’s not about wearing hippie harem trousers and vegan Birkenstocks.
There are tons of ways to make your wardrobe more environmentally-friendly without compromising your style. We’ll talk about that later, so stick until the end of the post to learn my best tips.
Do you want to learn more about sustainable fashion? Check our series Sustainable Fashion 101 of download for free the Sustainable Fashion Beginner’s Guide here:
So what is eco-friendly fashion?
If I were to give you a very, veeerry simplistic answer, I’d just tell you that eco-fashion is fashion that doesn’t hurt the environment in any way (duh, Lidia).
And that’s the core idea of this whole thing, but if we want to be the ideal eco fashion enthusiast or create the perfect green fashion line we have to think about everything that happens between the moment our clothes are a crop or a pile of raw material and the moment we toss them away.
There are some things that seem more obvious and others that most of us have never thought about: the type of material (synthetic or natural?), agricultural techniques in the case of natural materials (intensive or regenerative?), the region they come from (industrialised countries or developing regions?), production scale (mass production or small-batch production?), energy resources (fossil or renewable?), waste management (discarding scraps or zero waste design?), and a long, long etc.
You know, sustainability can be exhausting, but I like to think that this is part of the beauty in it. To me, this only means that everything involved in sustainability is intentional and more mindful.
On the more businessy side of things, eco-fashion has a lot to do with balance and compromise.
See, eco-fashion brands find this healthy balance between meeting their financial goals – like any other functional business –, delivering great products and – well – not trashing the planet.
About eco-friendly materials
We will talk more about this topic in another post, so let’s just go over the basics.
Turns out that not all natural fabrics are eco-friendly. Probably you’re smarter than me, but I always believed that natural stuff was intrinsically eco-friendly and when I learned that things don’t work like that I was like “whaaaat”. Some examples:
- Cotton is often GMO, which is terrible for the soil and requires the use of awful chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It also needs lots of water to grow. The greener alternative is organic cotton, which doesn’t need all those nasties.
- Producing new synthetic fabrics requires a lot of energy. Now we have the technology to make synthetic clothes from recycled plastic: this helps saving plastic from landfills and oceans and is ways less energy-intensive. This is definitely a step in the right direction but they’re still synthetic, which means that they’ll release microplastics and all that ugly stuff, so they’re not a final solution. Read more about clothes made of recycled plastics here.
- Natural leather is not only unethical, but it’s also terrible for the environment. In this post, we talked about a river in India that receives 50 million litres of toxic water every day from leather factories. The alternative? Vegan leather. But vegan leather is often synthetic, so we’re back to the plastic problem. You can read more about vegan leather and its 100% eco-friendly alternative in this post.
And this is why walking around naked is the most sustainable option.
Jk, jk. There are actually quite a few of really eco-friendly material options that are not very well known yet and it seems like every month smart science people come up with new ones – speaking of which…we often talk about these things in my weekly newsletter, so if it sounds like something you’d enjoy learning about subscribe at the bottom of this post 💌
- Hemp and bamboo clothes. They both need very little water to grow and they grow pretty fast. Now more companies are using bamboo fibres. But hemp is a different case because…well…all the legal anarchy that comes with producing cannabis.
- Orange silk. See? If you were subscribed to my newsletter you would already know about Orange Fiber, the ethical and green alternative to conventional silk.
- Natural dyes. Dyes are a whole thing. Conventional dyes are actually incredibly toxic for humans, animals, plants, and the soil. But we still use them because they’re cheap, of course. There are alternatives that hurt no one and work beautifully like natural dyes that come from plants or spices. Good stuff.
Quality over quantity and style over trends
In the age of fast fashion, quality is so overlooked.
You say: ” oh, this blouse is only 5 $.”
I hear: “I’ll spend 5$, wear the blouse for two months, and when it falls apart, I’ll spend other 5$ and do this in loop for the rest of my life because I love perpetuating an unhealthy consumerism model based on the overexploitation of resources and fellow humans 🙂 .”
This is how fast fashion thrives. They need you to need stuff and become dependent on them.
We also create this fantasy in our heads about sustainable fashion being too expensive while maybe the reality is that fast fashion prices are ludicrous, absurd and absolutely unsustainable from an ethical, environmental and social point of view *drops mic*.
And don’t get me wrong. Having an eco-friendly closet is not just about consuming less, or about not consuming anything ever again. It’s about being selective and conscious of what you buy. And also being aware of what you already own.
Your clothes have a carbon footprint
Did you know that your clothes can affect your carbon footprint? Rather: the way you treat your clothes while using and washing them, and what you do with them after you can’t use them anymore can make the difference between a sustainable and unsustainable lifestyle.
Using your clothes more between washes and using the correct settings when we do wash them is something really simple that can have a great impact.
And how do we dispose of our clothes when we don’t want them anymore?
It really depends on your city and how the waste collection system works – some cities have containers for textile waste, some have textile recycling facilities, some have both and some neither. But before throwing your old clothes away I want you to ask yourself:
- is there a slim chance you might use those clothes again or want something very similar in the future?
- can you upcycle them?
- can you donate them?
- do you know someone who might need them?
A little bonus from me to you: how to build your perfect green closet
- Invest in timeless pieces that you can use as wardrobe staples.
- Spend some extra $$ on great quality clothes – it will pay off!
- Avoid buying on impulse. Have you heard of the 30 day rule? You basically wait 30 days before making a purchase to reflect on whether you need it or not. You can make it a 10 day, or 5-day rule, but either way, it does work.
- Research, research, and research before buying. Make sure the brand you’re interested in is honest about their materials and manufacturing process.
- Keep an eye out for greenwashers. In this post, you can learn how to tell if a brand is actually sustainable and in this one you can learn some greenwashing marketing strategies to avoid.
- Follow the care instructions on your clothes to make sure they last longer.
- Build your closet around your own style and not around passing trends.
- And if you want more tips like these, don’t forget to download the Sustainable Fashion Beginner’s Guide and go through the handy checklist I prepared for you at the end.