Sustainability is a very important concern nowadays, as it aims at meeting our current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Many businesses and well-known brands have started to demonstrate sustainable acts towards the environment, as caring for the environment is also a part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and it increases goodwill. Some firms stopped giving plastic bags to customers, while others adopted recycling and installed environment-friendly machines. However, the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, and it is quite pertinent that we switch to sustainable clothes. Here’s everything you need to know about these clothes, and why you should start buying ethical and sustainable brands.
How Is Sustainability Associated With Business?
Most people think that sustainability is only associated with environmental conservation, however, it has 3 pillars, including economic and social factors that promote our well-being while protecting the environment. Economic growth is not the same as economic development; economic development is improving economic activity sustainably. Economic growth doesn’t take into account the depletion of natural resources or the growth of informal sectors and black economies, unlike economic development; which alleviates people from low standards of living into proper employment and shelters. 32 years ago, the world pledged to fix the Ozone layer, and countries came together and decided to go on a mission; the Montreal Protocol Treaty. Thanks to this treaty, about 135 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions were prevented from reaching the atmosphere, and the ozone layer recovered at a rate of 1-3% per year since 2000. Not only should this reduce many health risks, but the global and economic benefits were also expected to amount to $2.2 trillion as a result of averted damages. That is why many businesses, including the fashion and clothes industries, have been taking action and changing their behaviors so that we can meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDGs are our universal call to action to protect the planet and enjoy prosperity by 2030.
Sustainable clothes are garments that are manufactured and produced most sustainably, taking into account the social, environmental, and economic impacts. From materials, production, transportation, and storage, to reuse and recycling products. Sustainable brands ensure efficient use of natural resources during production, use renewable energy resources like solar energy, wind energy, or tide energy, align with good ethics, and adopt the best eco-friendly and fair trade practices. Sustainable brands also encourage sustainable consumption patterns and eco-friendly solutions , by helping people follow green strategies and raising awareness. Their distribution and marketing practices are directed towards greater sustainability. We have seen a plethora of sustainable innovative ideas in the clothing industry throughout the past years:
A Finnish start-up is now making shoes from waste coffee
- A Hong Kong startup is turning food waste into stylish, high-quality garments through a process called food dyeing. This process uses kitchen waste, extraction, coloring, and liquid preparation to make dyes that can naturally decompose.
- The famous brand H&M uses fabrics made from pineapples and oranges. Yes, you heard that right! They use orange peels to create an eco-friendly alternative to silk, and pineapple peels as an alternative for leather which produces tons of wastes.
What all these sustainable fashion firms have in common is that they use processes that don’t yield any pollution or emit toxins into oceans or rivers. Besides, they have shifted to degradable plastics and ditched the synthetics.
Why Should We Switch To Sustainable Clothes?
Fashion is a serious problem for the environment. Fast fashion significantly impacts our lands, from pesticides used in growing cotton which degrades the soil, to chemicals making their way to water supplies. As well as the greenhouse gases that are emitted during the production and manufacturing of garments. It’s said that the fast fashion industry emits more harmful gases than international flights and shipping combined. The carbon dioxide, Sulphur dioxide, and Nitrogenous gases resulting from air pollution can result in heart diseases, respiratory diseases, severe headaches, and nerve damage. When clothes factories dump their wastes in the water, they contribute to water pollution, and the bacteria, chemicals, and parasites in the water can cause cardiovascular illnesses, gastroenteritis, and nausea.
Other health effects of the pollution include:
- Cancer risks
- Lung diseases
- Skin Irritation
A lot of these garments also end up in the dumps and are burned in landfills every second. Let’s not forget that most fast fashion clothes are made of polyester which does not decompose or break down in the water, and compose up to 31% of pollution in the ocean.
To keep their costs down, many fast fashion industries operate in developing countries to exploit the conditions and give workers very low wages, not to mention the horrible health and safety conditions. They also force workers to work up to 16 hours a day all week, and their wages are so low that they can’t refuse overtime. By switching to sustainable brands, you know that the money you spend on these brands hasn’t been used to take advantage of workers. These ethical brands don’t use child labor or exploit factory workers.
Sustainable Fashion Pillars
Sustainable fashion strategies have 4 pillars; respect for nature, respect for people, animals, and circular solutions.
- Respect for nature: sustainable clothes use organic materials like viscose, which is sourced from renewable sources.
- Respect for people: sustainable clothes industries are keen on making a positive impact on people and workers, and treating all stakeholders fairly
- Respect for animals: They use cruelty-free methods and never use animals to make clothes.
- Circular solutions: These firms also use regenerative production methods, and are always experimenting with eco-friendly and recycled fabrics.
The growing markets for cheap clothes and new styles are taking a toll on the environment. By understanding the problem, the next steps we need to take are very easy. Try to be an informed consumer by taking up mindful purchasing and supporting sustainable and ethical brands. Do your background research on brands before buying any clothes, start advocating for a greener world, and spread awareness so that we can slow down environmental damage and improve people’s well-being.