8 Easy Steps to Make Fashion Smarter and More Sustainable
The future of fashion is sustainability and yet even though the industry has made considerable progress in adopting a more sustainable outlook, there is not yet an accepted definition covering all aspects of sustainability. Understanding this challenge, Modavanti.com — an online retailer for stylish sustainable fashion, has established an unique badge system that makes it clear to customers how the textile industry is moving fashion forward, and why sustainability in fashion is critical to saving our environment and our future prosperity.
The Made in USA tag signifies that the garment was constructed from start to finish here in America, ensuring better labor standards and lowering energy consumption in the supply chain.
Buying clothes that are made in the USA strengthens the American economy, upholds labor standards and benefits the environment.
Did you know that almost 98 percent of all clothing purchased in the United States is imported from abroad? Imagine if we can bring the production of just a small fraction of these foreign-made clothes back to American factories.
This category promotes products created by, or sourced from, artisans and workers in factories that meet fair-labor standards in developing countries. Such standards include fair wages, safe working conditions, job training, empowerment and transparency for workers. This badge relates only to products made outside of the USA.
Goods that are Fair Trade Certified receive an independent, third-party-verified guarantee that the farmer received a fair price for their crop and is empowered to compete in the global marketplace through direct, long-term contracts with international buyers. Access to these markets helps lifts farming families from poverty, keeping food on the table, children in school and families on their land.
This category promotes products made with previously used materials that have been discarded and re-purposed. Examples include recycled plastic, dead-stock fabric, rubber, and textiles that designers have turned into new clothing and accessories.
Did you know that…?
• The amount of textiles in U.S. landfills has increased more than five-fold since 1950 while rubber and leather have tripled.
• It takes 1.5 billion gallons of oil to manufacture 1 million ton of clothing. Recycling textiles can save up to 15 times the energy compared to incineration.
• If everyone bought just one reclaimed woolen garment each year, it would save an average of 300 million gallons of water and 400 tons of chemical dyes.
• Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour, the majority of which are thrown away and end up in landfills or the ocean.
• Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year.
Vegan products are made from alternative materials that are not derived from any animal byproducts. This excludes traditional materials such as leather and fur.
Each year more than a billion animals are slaughtered for their skins and hides. 30 million animals are raised in cages worldwide to be killed for their fur, and 10 million wild animals are trapped and killed. Many are trapped using a steel-jawed, leg-trap hold, which is notorious for its cruelty. Methods of killing these animals include breaking the animal's neck, gassing, lethal injection, genital electrocution and anal electrocution.
Alternatives to other materials are also available — such as faux fur (often made from acrylic fibers) and faux leather (often made from rubbers and other synthetic materials) — enable vegans to find stylish alternatives to items traditionally made with animal products.
These toxins are harmful for workers, consumers and the environment. Workers have to breathe in their fumes during the manufacturing process. Millions of gallons of toxic dye are also discharged into lakes, rivers and oceans. Natural dyes, however, are made from natural materials using processes that have remained the same for thousands of years, and do not have the same harmful effect.
Why use organic materials instead of conventional materials? Because a lot of clothing is produced using crops that were treated with pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and Genetically Modified Organisms that are harmful to humans, animals and entire eco-systems.
Conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other crop. Each year it is estimated that cotton producers use nearly 25% of the world’s insecticides and more than 10% of the world’s pesticides. Such pesticides poison farmers all over the world, including those here in the United States.
Pesticides also seep into run-off water after heavy rains, poisoning lakes, rivers and waterways. Pesticide residue has been increasingly discovered in foods, farm animals and even breast milk.
Buying clothing made with organic materials can dramatically reduce the use of harmful pesticides and protect the lives of cotton workers, protect wildlife, and improve our own health as well.
This category promotes efforts by brands to reduce their environmental impact through the use of alternative and earth friendly materials and practices such as bamboo, modal, natural wools, low impact vegetable dyes and chemical-free materials and processes.
What materials are considered eco-friendly and why?
Bamboo: Unlike cotton, which is a land- and water-intensive crop, bamboo requires minimal water to thrive. It is also land efficient, as it grows in dense clusters. Most important, bamboo is renewable — unlike hardwood trees, bamboo regrows after harvesting. A mature bamboo stock can grow over three feet a day and can be harvested every year for the life of the plant. Renewable materials like bamboo help reduce deforestation, a critical economic and environmental problem in many parts of eastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Modal: A man-made and 100% natural biodegradable fiber, modal is made from high quality wood pulp (usually from beech trees), making it a renewable natural resource. Modal is roughly 50% more hygroscopic (water-absorbent) per unit volume than cotton yet still holds dye at a similar consistency to cotton.
Tencel: A naturally engineered from wood pulp cellulose in a waste-free production process, tencel offers a unique combination of fabric properties and is as absorbent as cotton.
Hemp: Is one of the faster growing known biomasses and can grow up to 25 tons of dry matter per hectare each year. Hemp is also environmentally friendly because it has no insect predators and thus requires no pesticides or herbicides
Low-impact Vegetable Dyes: Prepared from raw-materials like acacia, Himalayan rhubarb, indigo, red sandalwood, onion skin, sappan wood, henna, pomegranate fruit rind and guava leaves, natural vegetable dyes are not only less harmful on the environment than their synthetic counterpart but they are also more suitable for coloring silk, wool and nylon.
This category promotes efforts by brands to reduce their consumption of raw materials, and lower energy and water usage and minimize pollution. It also includes products that are specifically constructed to reduce material waste through pattern cutting and re-purposing of scraps.
In a world in which almost one billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, the fashion industry wastes 70 million gallons of water each year. To produce enough cotton for just one t-shirt takes between 700 and 2,000 gallons of water. Globally, cotton production uses 210 billion cubic meters of water — or 3.5% of the total amount of water used in crop production worldwide — and pollutes 50 billion cubic meters of water every year.
On top of this, in Uzbekistan, intensive cotton farming activities have had severe repercussions on local natural resources, shrinking the Aral Sea to just 15% of its former volume. This was recorded as one of the worst environmental disasters in history.
Here are a few other interesting facts about the amount of resources used to manufacture our clothes:
• It takes 132 metric tons of coal to produce the 60 billion kilograms of textiles made each year.
• Cutting back on just 2.2 pounds of material can help reduce carbon emissions by nearly 8 pounds.
This category promotes products that are unique, one-of-a-kind creations made by skilled artisans and craftsmen at home and abroad. Handmade products often preserve traditional crafts and processes, which uphold many of the core values of sustainability.
Mass manufactured commercial clothing wastes enormous amounts of energy and produces toxic waste. In contrast, handmade clothing, which is crafted by individual artisans or smaller companies, limits waste by producing in smaller quantities. This process also reduces the amount of excess merchandise.
Handmade clothing is made out of high quality materials, with a higher level of personal attention and quality control from the designer. It is made to last for years, rather than to be discarded after one or two seasons, in stark contrast to the fast-fashion consumerism that fuels demand for mass production.