What is Sustainable Clothing ?

In recent years we have become quite aware of the impact of our lifestyle on the environment. This influenced the shift in consumerism e.g., single-use plastic bottles, reusable bags for shopping, use of green products, purchase of organic vegetables and fruits, and many other eco-friendly approaches. As we realized that the fashion industry ranks 3rd in the most polluting industry in the world, sustainable and eco-friendly clothing became the necessary aspect where our attention should be drawn.

Sustainable clothing does not only mean creating clothes from eco-friendly materials. The holistic approach includes the choice of material, its durability, the minimal or reusable design, use of natural dyes, cloth made with renewable energy and local resources, and many other conscious efforts.

The trend of going towards the use of sustainable products has benefited the artisans working behind the scenes. Even the traditional knowledge of producing eco-friendly fabric and clothing is being valued in the market which is providing fair compensation to the artisans.

How to support sustainable living with clothing? 

It’s a hard fact that there is no way to achieve a 100% sustainable lifestyle with clothing but there are small steps and conscious efforts which lead towards more sustainable living. Following are some of the factors one can look for while buying sustainable clothes.

Recycled material: The waste generation from the textile industry is one of the biggest worries as only 1% of the total waste is being recycled. In the world of ‘fast fashion’, 50% of the produced products are being dumped within a year only.

Using the recycled material is an excellent choice to promote sustainable clothing as it also suggests the reduction in the production of fabric using new resources. With the creative heads of designers, pre-existing clothes can be converted into fancy products and it saves the entire negative effect of production.

Organic Material: The low-impact natural material such as silk, cotton, linen, wool, and cellulose fibers are preferred over synthetic materials such a nylon and polyester. The natural materials are biodegradable unlike synthetic fibers having toxic chemicals and fumes.

The deeper we go in this field, we can identify that some natural materials are more sustainable than others e.g., linen and organic cotton. There are some plant fabrics too which leave less impact on soil and are regenerative that helps to regenerate healthy soil.

One can choose Ahimsa silk over silk prepared with cruelty. Ahimsa meaning non-violent, suggests the production of silk without disturbing the ecology.

Eco-friendly dyes: When we are choosing natural fibers over synthetic ones, we should also consider the impact of the chemical dyes on the environment. Many dyeing processes include the excessive use of water and pollution of water with toxic chemical particles.

Eco-friendly dye includes dyes made from natural ingredients which include less water and pollution in the process of preparing it. In different parts of India, many indigenous textile crafts have their distinctive and traditional recipes of preparing natural dyes. Promoting such traditional knowledge makes it more satisfying as the artisans who create them get appropriate wages and identity in the contemporary market.

Low waste designs: The designs and patterns on the fabric are responsible for excessive waste generation. To achieve the desired shape or patterns, designers tend to throw away the cut-out residues of the fabric.

Sustainable fashion encourages the designers to create low waste designs which require the minimum alteration or generation of residues. Besides, the use of less- zero plastic packaging is one of the sustainable approaches in the textile industry. One can also opt for the recycled or biodegradable shipping materials in the process of transporting product from the manufacturer to the warehouse and the customer.

Locally made clothes:

The process of creating clothes includes weaving, dyeing, cutting, sewing, and then shipping; which has a high carbon footprint. The sustainable approach in this suggests the production of overall clothes from the same place or a closer place which reduces the carbon footprint of the product.

To lower the carbon footprint; the installation of solar panels and wind turbines for factories and offices providing renewable energy is suggested.

The local artisans that source the raw materials from the same region and produce the clothes with renewable energy would be the ideal choice to buy clothes from.

Durable clothing:

Fast fashion promotes clothes that are cheap and meant to be thrown away after using them a few times. Instead of that, slow fashion is preferred for a sustainable lifestyle. Higher quality and more durable clothes which can be worn again and again for several years are part of Slow fashion.

Taking care of clothes also makes a big and positive difference as it increases the life of the material. To keep clothes out of the landfill for a longer time, mending holes, dry cleaning, spot cleaning of stains are one of the alternative ways which increase the life span of clothes.

Green Wardrobe?

Sustainable clothing is not only about producing clothes in an environment-friendly manner but also about a more sustainable system of use and consumption which should be initiated by individuals with the shift in their attitude and behavior. You can convert your wardrobe to green by following the above strategies which encourage a more sustainable production and consumption system.

With the increased awareness of the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry, the sustainable movement is making its mark worldwide at slow, steady, and hopeful steps.

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