Simple Guide to Adopting Sustainable Fashion
The positive aftermath of the horrific Rana Plaza incident is that it highlighted the dark reality of the billion dollar fashion industry to the everyday consumer. Taking this forward, we bring light to some vertices to consider in order to adopt a sustainable fashion lifestyle.
- Buy only when needed: The 100 billion new articles of clothing manufactured yearly do not all get sold. What’s left is often discarded by huge conglomerates who rather discard than offer discounted pieces. The most sustainable clothing is the one that is already in your closet. Purchasing more only adds on to the pile of clothing that you already own. Try styling your clothes differently by pairing with different accessories and creating entirely new looks. For instance, a shirtdress can be paired with a pant, tugged-in on another occasion, with a skirt, with a pant and a belt, or pant and a corset. Let your creativity get the best of you and contribute to have the least impact on the environment. With increasing awareness of sustainable fashion, many startups promote second-hand clothing worldwide, offering you the latest and best of trends after intense wash care protocols and sizing customisations.
- Choose natural/recycled fabrics: Synthetic fibres, such as polyester, are plastic fibres, therefore non-biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to decompose. Synthetic fibres are used in 72% of our clothing. Cotton is the most used fabric worldwide followed by polyester. In India, up to 20,000 litres of water are needed to produce 1kg of cotton while 100 million people do not have access to drinking water. 99.3% of cotton is grown using fertilisers and genetically modified seeds. Cotton represents 10% of the pesticides and 25% of the insecticides used globally. According to the UN, 200,000 people die a year from pesticide poisoning. Every time we wash a synthetic garment made of polyester or nylon, around 1,900 individual microfibres are released into water which are ingested by aquatic organisms, which are eaten by bigger fish, introducing plastic into our food chain. This means, around 190,000 tons of textile microfibres end up in the oceans yearly. These microfibres result in 85% of human-made debris found in shorelines worldwide. Recycled cotton is made of landfill-bound waste and requires no pesticides in comparison to conventional virgin cotton. Other natural fibres such as hemp or orange fabric come from renewable resources, use little or no chemicals at all, and are fully biodegradable.
- Choose organic dyes: Most sustainable fashion brands pay attention to sustainable fabrics but often neglect the dyeing process. According to the UN, 80% of wastewater is dumped into rivers untreated, including in the fashion industry. Nearly 20% of water pollution comes only from textiles treatment and dyeing. 200,000 tons of dyes are lost to effluents every year. Organic dyes are less permanent, more difficult to apply and fade out more easily which is why brands fail to consider this. In some cases, organic dyes may require harmful mordants, which fail to serve the purpose. The organic dyes used at zy-lk are from natural sources and do not use harmful mordants, and therefore do not harm plant life even if discharged in soil.
- Care for the workforce: The workforce behind brands are often overlooked. It is important to know who is behind brands to ensure that they are given fair wages, safe working conditions and no child labour is involved. For instance, in Uzbekistan (the 6th largest exporter of cotton in the world), more than 1 million people are forced to pick cotton for little or no pay every year. It is important to select brands that empower labourers who find it difficult to find jobs anywhere else and avoid using it to their advantage. Always remember to ask #WhoMadeMyClothes.
- Adhere to care instructions: Care instructions are often disregarded and care labels are usually cut and thrown away. Strictly adhering to care instructions reduces wear and tear of the garments, thus prolonging the life cycle. Extended active use of clothes for as less as 9 months can bring about at least a 20-30% decrease each in carbon, water and waste footprint.
- Re-dye, Repair, Recycle and Donate: Natural dyes are bound to fade after a point, and that’s when re-dyeing can be considered. Lighter shades can be re-dyed at the comfort at your homes by watching YouTube tutorials. Torn garments can be repaired with the local tailor or a new design can be created with patchwork. In the worst case, more tears can be made and styled differently. With the growth of sustainable brands, recycling has become all the more easy. YouTube and Pinterest turns out to be a great source of knowledge for recycling worn out garments and giving birth to entirely new accessories. As the last resort, worn out clothes can also be donated to sustainable fashion brands involved in recycling, many of which can be found online, giving a new life to your old garments without ending up in landfills.
Head over to our 2020 Collection to explore sustainable clothing options and stay tuned for upcoming blogs about #sustainablefashion.