We’re all trying to do our bit when it comes to living more sustainably, but with so much to process on the topic, sometimes it can be hard to know what is actually going to do some good.
The content of our wardrobes is a good place to start.
But while it’s clear there’s a big appetite for sustainable fashion, with 67% of consumers considering the use of sustainable materials as an important purchasing factor, according to stats from AOVUP, there are some misconceptions about what makes an ethical purchase.
Of course, cutting down on how much we buy is the first step.
‘In the UK the average shopper buys 67 new items of clothing a year. This is more than every other country in Europe, and it’s just too much,’ explains Besma Whayeb, founder of ethical living blog Curiously Conscious.
Besma continued: ‘I’d recommend spending some time defining your style – what clothing do you really like, and can see yourself wearing over and over again?
‘What’s comfortable for your body? And practical for your daily life? Buying clothes we’re excited and happy to wear over and over again can be one easy step to avoiding overbuying and having a wardrobe full of worn-once items.’
We asked the sustainable fashion expert what she thinks are the most common misconceptions to look out for when it comes to shopping with an eco-friendly lens.
Sustainable fashion is expensive
‘While it may be expensive to simply switch from buying high street fashion to buying from smaller, more sustainable labels, approaching fashion more sustainably is accessible to all,’ Besma explains.
‘Buying less clothing costs nothing at all. Buying second-hand can save a lot of money compared to the RRP. Investing in a repair or alteration is cheaper than buying a new item outright. And outfit repeating reduces the cost per wear considerably!
‘There are lots of ways to save money and enjoy fashion sustainably, but it does cost a bit of effort in the process.’
It’s worth researching your dream ‘luxury’ items – whether that’s a classic trench, cashmere jumper, Chelsea boots or a dress from a certain brand – then looking out on websites such as Vinted where you can buy second-hand items for less.
Luxury fashion is inherently sustainable
‘While it may be true that luxury fashion tends to be of a better quality than fast fashion, this doesn’t mean that it’s made from sustainable materials, nor with ethical labour. We need better transparency across all fashion supply chains – including the luxury sector,’ Besma explains.
Recycled polyester can be recycled again
It’s worth bearing in mind when shopping for garments made with sustainable materials, that when something is labelled ‘recycled polyester’ this can be misleading.
‘While you might have spotted the trend of clothing being made out of recycled plastic bottles, sadly that’s where the recycling process stops.
‘Recycled polyester cannot be recycled after its creation – meaning it is barely any better than virgin polyester,’ Besma explains.
‘And both still shed plastic microfibres, which have worryingly been found in our bodies and in nature.’
‘Sustainable collections’ from unsustainable brands are eco-friendly
‘Sustainable collections made by unsustainable fashion brands are peak greenwashing. How can a garment made with a percentage of organic cotton be called ‘fair’ or ‘conscious’ when it’s still made in the same way as the not-so ‘fair’ or ‘conscious’ items?’ Besma says.
‘We have to break out of this dual-option thinking: that you either buy sustainable or not. Instead, how can we buy less, buy better, and buy items made fairly? How can we enjoy clothing over and over, rather than for one night or one pic on Instagram?’
All hand-wash-only items need to be hand-washed
‘Now don’t go putting all your delicate garments in the washing machine just yet! But did you know that it’s common practice for fashion retailers to put a ‘hand wash only’ label on some garments simply because they haven’t been tested in a washing machine?’ Besma explains.
‘One way that fashion brands can be more sustainable for us is to test their clothing in washing machines – and for 30 times or more.
‘This way, they can design better garments that can be worn over and over – rather than skipping this step and putting the blame on you when an item gets ruined in the wash.’
Finally, beware of recycling bins in high street stores
While we may think we’re doing some good by emptying old clothes into recycling bins, a recent study found this may not actually be the case.
‘I recently read about an investigation done into clothes recycling bins placed in high street stores. Did you know that four out of five items donated in these bins end up burnt, shredded, or shipped to countries like Ghana, who then have to deal with the waste? That’s pure greenwashing,’ says Besma.
‘Instead, try to keep clothing at its highest value – so resell unwanted items, or donate them directly to charities, who inevitably will have to dispose of some items, but do at least try to resell them.’
And while it is on us, as consumers, to make better choices and shop sustainably, Besma also makes clear that we all need to be working towards better fashion systems.
More Better Living from Metro.co.uk
‘Shopping sustainably is half of the battle when it comes to making fashion more sustainable,’ she says.
‘The other part is making fashion systems more sustainable. So if you care where your clothes come from, call for fairer garment worker rights.
‘It takes 28 minutes for [the average] fashion CEO to earn what a garment worker makes in a year. That isn’t right.’
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