Just because we believe in responsible shopping and letting go of addictive consumerism, it doesn’t mean that we don’t care what we look like. In fact, some people in the Postconsumers office would be described as pure fashionistas. You may be surprised how they put their fantastic looks together, but that’s a topic for another article. Today, we’re actually talking about eco-fashion. We’ve found in the past that this topic is surprisingly popular with our audience. What’s really “eco” about eco fashion, what is better and what’s not? Those are some of the topics we’ll be considering in these ten facts about eco-fashion.
Fact One: There Are Actually Multiple Certifications, Loosely Regulated
Unlike organic produce, which has set definitions of what makes it organic and is highly regulated, organic clothing labels can vary and aren’t nearly as unified. There’s the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) label, the International Oeko Tex Association and the Blue Sign Seal of Approval. That doesn’t mean that people who tell you that their clothing is organic but don’t have a label aren’t being honest. There’s no true regulation and, to a certain degree, you’re going to have to trust the company’s marketing about the eco-status of their clothing.
Fact Two: People Are Seeing the Value in Organic Cotton
Between 2008 and 2009 alone, sales of eco-friendly cotton products increased by a billion dollars. That’s good news for advocates, who will have to convince designers and manufacturers that eco isn’t just a passing trend.
Fact Three: Your Bamboo Clothing Isn’t Really that Eco-Friendly
Bamboo fabrics have been extremely hyped because bamboo grows and regenerates quickly making it an incredibly sustainable material. That’s great if you’re building a floor. However, in the world of garments (and curtains), it actually requires extremely high amounts of toxic chemicals to ultimately turn bamboo into garment-ready fabrics.
Fact Four: Just Say No to Nylon
Did you know that nylon can’t be recycled? So every piece of nylon clothing or material that you buy will die when it dies (hopefully after some thrift store cycles!). And if you see a nylon clothing product that says that it’s eco-friendly, know that you’re being greenwashed.
Fact Five: Be Aware of Blended Eco-Friendly Clothes
That said, you may not be greenwashed if your nylon garment is part of a blended eco-friendly garment. Blended eco-friendly garments include some parts that are eco-friendly and some parts that aren’t. They’re not a bad thing, but you want to be sure that you find out how much of your garment is actually eco-friendly. Because the industry isn’t very regulated, it’s possible that it’s only a small part of your garment that is made using eco-friendly practices. In fact, that part can be as small as the label!
Fact Six: Water Matters
Of course water matters! When you really start to dig in to how much water is used to dye, stain, wash and steam garments to make them market-ready, you’ll question if anybody cares at all about the global water crisis. We’re not ones to typically endorse brands here, but since almost all of us wear jeans, we’ll point out that Levi makes Water<Less jeans using an eco-friendly process we wish more garment makers would use.
Fact Seven: You Determine How Eco-Friendly Your Clothes Are
While the process used to create and sell your clothing can make an impact on how eco-friendly it is, the biggest impact comes from you. Fifty percent of the eco-impact of a piece of clothing comes from what you do with it after you buy it, including how you wash it and how you dispose of it.
Fact Eight: So, Based on the Above…
You can make a big difference just by reusing and upcycling. The average North American throws away about sixty-eight pounds of clothing and textiles per year. Are you sure you don’t have a second life use for the ones you’re throwing away?
Fact Nine: The Most Eco-Friendly Clothing Is Purchased at …
Second hand, consignment and thrift stores. Every time you purchase first-hand clothing, even if it’s eco-friendly, you’re contributing to packaging, processing and shipping practices that leave a big carbon footprint. Before you write off second-hand clothing, do some research. You may be surprised what amazing fashion finds you can come up with.
Fact Ten: Eco-Friendly Doesn’t Mean Postconsumer-Friendly
Every person needs to find his or her own comfort level when it comes to postconsumerism and deciding how much is enough for today. That said, remember that “fashion” by default is part of a larger consumer cycle that encourages you to shop, buy stuff, respond to media messaging and be absorbed in trends. Just because you’re buying from an eco- or socially conscious manufacturer, it doesn’t mean that you’re beginning to learn to separate yourself from the consumer machine. For a healthy life, work on both aspects of being fashionable.
Did we miss a fact about eco-fashion that you really, really feel that we should have shared? Tell us about it on the social media channels below.
Photo Credit: Jason Hargrove via Flickr