Is your closet sustainable yet? If not, it’s high-time you started shopping for eco-friendly, fair-trade, sustainable fashion. Not only is it the responsible choice, you’ve also got a lot of fun choices.
But first, the bad news: fashion is the second highest polluting industry in the world. Eighty-two pounds of textile waste are produced per person every year, just in the U.S. One new pair of jeans takes 900 gallons of water to produce, and to top it all off, nearly 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from synthetic textile dyes for that perfect periwinkle or hot pink.
And shopping isn’t just bad for the environment — about 99 percent of clothes being sold in the U.S. are not made ethically, according to Business Insider, with most of the garments that we buy being made in sweatshops by underpaid, overworked laborers–including children, despite laws and global efforts to reduce child labor.
Why has it gotten this bad? Because we’re addicted to shopping. A 2008 study from Stanford, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon showed that while most people don’t want to spend money, they do want the pleasure of buying new things. Enter the world of fast fashion, which has evolved to allow consumers to buy lots of low-quality products, renewing their closets every year (or even more often) with ever-changing trends. We’re currently buying 400 percent more new clothes than we were just two decades ago.
So how can we do better?
Ruby Veridiano, an advocate for social responsibility in the fashion industry, has a few ideas. Shopping vintage or secondhand is a good place to start, especially because only ten percent of clothing donated to thrift stores is actually sold (much of it gets thrown away.
Veridiano also champions eco-fashion champion Livia Firth’s 30-wear rule when making a purchase.
“It’s the idea that before buying something, first consider if you can commit to wearing it at least 30 times,” Veridiano says. “The 30 wear rule guarantees that you buy quality items instead of buying in quantity, which means that you might buy less, but keep it for a longer period of time. Not only does it reduce waste in your closet, but it also helps reduces waste on the planet.”
But perhaps the biggest change that you can make to really ensure that your fashion choices are sustainable is choosing to support ethical brands.
“Ethical brands are made with integrity and support a socially responsible ethos,” says Veridiano. “The challenge is finding them, as they are not always readily available.”
That’s what inspired Veridiano to start the now extensive list of ethical brands on her website, if you’re just getting started, here are three ethical, sustainable fashion brands we love.
1. People Tree
People Tree is one of Veridiano’s personal faves, and we can see why. A major player in the ethical and sustainable fashion industry for the past 25 years, the company has established partnerships with Fair Trade producers, and its very mindset is founded in the creation of an alternative to fast fashion.
“Slow Fashion means standing up against exploitation, family separation, slum cities and pollution – all the things that make fast fashion so successful,” writes People Tree, whose clothes are made from sustainable materials and by people in rural communities who make a living wage.
Now that’s all well and good, but what are the clothes like? Well honestly, we love them. Tons of simple classics like button-up shirts, wrap dresses, hand-knitted sweaters, and even t-shirts, made from high-quality materials in neutral patterns that you’ll be able to wear again and again.
As this infographic shows, glasses aren’t exempt from the eco-fashion police: the materials used to make glasses and sunglasses – particularly plastic ones – are the sorts of things you should probably avoid if you want to live sustainably.
Eco – a brand created by boutique eyewear brand Modo — makes trendy glasses whose frames are made from 64 percent bio-based and recycled materials, like eco-friendly plastic, which is made with oil from castor beans instead of crude oil, or high-density polyethylene plastics recovered from the sea.
Not only are you cleaning out some of the eight million metric tons of plastic dumped into the oceans every year if you choose one of these pairs of trendy frames, you’re also contributing to replanting the world’s forests, as Eco plants a tree for every pair sold.
For all of your accessory needs, choose Vavavida, which sells bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, and bags that are handmade by fairly paid artisans. The high-quality products highlight the craftsmanship of the people – often women – behind these unique pieces.
Vavavida is all about empowering local craftspeople, and founder Antoine even posts some of the artisans’ stories on the Vavavida site, so that you can get to know the women who crafted your favorite statement necklace or bangle.
To top it all off, Vavavida donates ten percent of its revenue to non-profit organizations empowering women.
These are just a few of the brands that are slowly but surely paving the way to increasing the choices in the world of sustainable fashion. Now it’s time to do our part and vote with our dollars for our favorite pieces.
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Our 5 Favorite Upcycled Fashion Designers from the USA
Fashion image via Shutterstock