Shopping sustainably sometimes means not shopping at all. Have you heard of slow fashion? It’s a movement to get away from the fast fashion that has been wreaking havoc on the planet.
Fast fashion is a business model that is all about high profit. The big companies don’t care about what it cost you, the laborers or the planet, as long as it fills their pockets with money. They copy the latest catwalk trends, produce them with cheapest synthetic materials in low paying sweat shops, and then sell them to you at the highest markups. To keep the money flowing they cycle through trends faster and advertise in a way that makes you feel like your current clothing is out dated. Think about how quickly trends have been cycling lately. For example, skinny jeans, flared jeans, torn jeans, it seems like every few weeks, we’re saying, “Hmmm... well I guess that’s back in fashion again.”
Tasha Lewis, a professor at Cornell University's Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design says this about fashion cycles, "It used to be four seasons in a year; now it may be up to 11 or 15 or more." According to the EPA, “Landfills received 10.25 million metric tons of (Municipal Solid Waste) MSW textiles in 2018. This was 7.7 percent of all MSW landfilled. The fashion cycles so fast that it’s estimated that over 30% of those discarded textiles were never even worn. The waste is astounding! According to the World Resources Institute, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt. That is just one cotton shirt weighing less than a quarter of a kilogram! Now imagine that multiplied by 40,500 (4x10.25 MT). That’s over 109 million liters of water. The even crazier part is that all those clothes were sent to the landfill when 95% of textiles are recyclable.
Sustainably minded individuals are trying to address this issue with Slow Fashion. It’s a fashion based not on profits, but saving the planet AND your budget. How can you be a part of this movement? First of all, STOP THROWING CLOTHES IN THE TRASH!!! If you must discard clothing, recycle them. Then, when deciding how or what clothes to purchase, go through the following process.
Do I need it?!? Or do I already have something suitable in my closet. Sometimes, just going through your own closet can feel like a shopping spree. If your hangar rack is actually getting kinda sparse, then proceed to the next step.
Try second-hand clothing. When you shop at a thrift store, you give clothes a second chance AND you support local communities. You’d be surprised by how good the quality of second-hand clothing can be. As I mentioned earlier, it’s estimated that over 30% of textiles are never even worn. Plus, there is a special thrill of finding a garment that normally sells for $50+ for less than $5. If you have searched through your local thrift stores or don’t have time to enjoy the “thrill of the hunt,” then proceed to the next step. If you’d like to support members of Plastic Free Sea, click on the link for a list of links to their Poshmark Closets.
Buy sustainable clothing - Preferably, clothing made from recycled materials. Recycled cotton and recycled polyester require over 70% less water to make and produce nearly 80% less carbon emissions than their virgin counterparts. If you’ve exhausted all your options for steps 1 & 2, please try your hardest to search for a garment that falls in this category. To help, we are doing our best to gather as many sustainable options for you in our Shop. Click the link to Support Plastic Free Sea. Unfortunately, this market has not progressed as much as needs to, so I do understand if you can’t find what you need in this step. I have a teenager that goes through clothing faster than I can find replacements. And, he’s not easy to shop for! He’s got my broad shoulders and his mother’s longs legs! So, I get it! Really! I do!
Cotton, or other plant based textiles. IF, and I do mean IF, you can’t find second hand or clothing from recycled materials, than search for clothing made from the most sustainable sources: Hemp fibers, cotton, or bamboo rayon. (in that order) At least, that order seem to be the most agreeable consensus. But, hemp and bamboo clothing seems to run for a similar price to silk. And, it just seems wrong to pay that price for clothing for a teenager that’s just going to tear up his clothes while chasing the sheep or the dog around. So cotton is my Go-To material. And, don’t bother with the “organic” label. With trades, processing and multiple washes through synthetic detergents, none of it is “organic” by the time it gets to you.
There you have it folks. There should be NO WAY on earth that you can’t find a sustainable shopping option to suit your needs. Or, should I say, suit your body. The earth NEEDS us to practice slow fashion.
Now, as a disclaimer, I feel I should offer one more option that is more sustainable than Slow Fashion. And, that is No-Fashion. But, trust me, naturism isn’t for everyone. Nor, is it legal in most areas. But, hats off to those individuals. I mean, you most certainly cannot get anymore sustainable or carbon-neutral than that! 😀
Image Source: EPA.gov