We have a problem, a plastic problem. In order to change how and what clothing brands produce, we need to not only adopt eco-friendly shopping habits, but practical habits. We know all fabrics eventually break down and release small filaments known as, “microfibers” during manufacturing, washing and wearing. These microfibers inevitably find their way into the environment and water systems. On the other hand, natural fibers disintegrate over time.
The non-profit organization Ocean Wise reported that nearly 878 tonnes of synthetic microfibers enter our oceans annually. Did you know that during 2015, roughly 18% of microplastics, microfibers and nano fibers were produced by the USA and will triple by the year 2050? Yikes.
Extracting these microfibers from water systems is almost impossible due to the variation in size and amount of micro-pollution. But you can make a difference in the amount of plastic pollution you produce by changing how you shop and buy clothing!
Check out these “6 Sustainable Gift Ideas” to get you started!
Here is your guide to eco-friendly shopping:
Information is a tool, so be aware when looking for clothing brands that are promoting a sustainable initiative that diverge from their usual business model. Companies and clothing brands will sell an idea or a design to increase revenue, but if there is a lack of information, vague statements or insufficient credibility backing-up such advertising, dig.
For example, H&M’s “Conscious Collection,” is an attempt to target eco-conscious customers by using “sustainability” as the collection’s statement. This is false. If H&M were committed to making a difference, the company would change the entire business model to fit those standards. Instead, look for companies that provide proof of their certifications like, “Fair-trade” and “Global Organic Textile Standard” (GOTS) and exhibit consistent transparency with their customers.
Here are some great brand examples:
LOOK AT THE TAGS! Garments made of polyester, rayon, acrylic and nylon are fossil fuel-based fibers, releasing tiny plastic strands during manufacturing, washing and wearing.
Instead, seek out clothing made of natural fibers such as linen, organic cotton, wool, flax, etc. It is completely understandable that your wardrobe may not consist of only linen, organic cotton and other natural materials listed above, but the aim is to incorporate more eco-friendly textiles and slowly weed out the man-made fibers that cause harm to the planet and ourselves.
While not all local clothing shops sell eco-friendly, or sustainable garments, you have the ability to influence the type of merchandise being sold. How? Small clothing shops listen. More often than not, owners are more accessible and have more to lose compared to big name brands. You have a bigger chance of being able to contact the owner of a shop downtown, versus big industry stores like H&M, JC Penney, ASOS, and Topshop.
In addition, visiting local thrift shops or consignment stores are cost efficient options when buying clothing or reused items. Not to mention, the increased interest in thrifting has provided more options online. Donating used clothes is also a great way to up-cycle and keep clothing out of landfills.
Less is more. When you consider our consumerist habits and the constant push for the latest and greatest you begin to realize that material goods are just things that will bore and lose value over time. Clothing and products in general, are not built or created to last anymore because if we owned products that held up against the test of time, we wouldn’t continue to buy at the same rate as we currently do, putting companies out of business.
When looking to adopt eco-friendly/conscious shopping habits, it comes down to quality over quantity. Are you are buying an item for its durability and longevity or temporary satisfaction? Figuring out what kind of shopper you are will benefit you in the long run, as you begin to adopt the eco-conscious guidelines into your daily routine!
Use the 3 “Ws” when shopping for new clothes!
W is for WHAT. Read the tags – that’s why they’re there! What do you see? 60% polyester and 40% Acrylic? That’s garbage! You’re paying $10+ for a similar plastic that goes into making a $2 water bottle. Instead, be on the look out for everyone’s favorite friend group: cotton, linen, hemp and tencel (plant pulp).
W is for WHERE. Where is this item from? China? India? Egypt? Consider some of the biggest manufacturing countries: China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and India. These countries are the four biggest manufacturing countries in the world and are well known for mass-production at very low prices for the company.
W is for WHY. Do you need it? Do you intend on purging clothing that you don’t wear often or have outgrown? Asking yourself these questions is key to being a responsible, eco-conscious shopper!
Photo: Lisa Fotios – lisa_indever