The hottest trend is to not make our planet hotter.
The portion of global carbon emissions the fashion industry accounts for. Despite increasing awareness of the fashion industry's contribution to the climate crisis, global consumption of apparel continues to rise.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed we likely can’t avoid a global temperature increase of at least 1.5 degrees. Extreme weather, drought, and sea level rise will worsen; how much so depends on a global commitment to ending our reliance on fossil fuels and developing renewable alternatives. But fossil fuel companies — which have deep ties to the fashion industry — are fighting those efforts.
Oil and gas companies are banking on a continued increase in demand for plastic —including the synthetic fibers in our clothes, which are made from fossil fuels. The production of those materials alone makes up 1.35% of global emissions.
When the fashion industry churns out garments produced cheaply and discarded quickly, fossil fuel companies win.
While voting, protest, and finding other ways to hold powerful industries accountable for their impact on the environment is crucial, making sustainable lifestyle changes can collectively force change, too.
Let’s explore the ways in which you can build a fashionable wardrobe without harming the environment, starting with ways to buy less …
To give your clothes many lives, it helps to buy pieces that last. Investing in classic staples of higher quality rather than cheap — and cheaply made — fast fashion pieces can save you money in the long run, when those items last for many years instead of a single season.
The amount of waste, in tons, produced each year through the fast fashion industry. Fast fashion brands continue to churn out new lines and new styles, encouraging the purchase of cheap items that don’t last.
Ultra fast fashion is the single most dangerous business model in the industry. There is no “sustainable fashion” if that business model is not fully dismantled.
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In 2021, the European Commission investigated brands — including fashion brands — that make “green online claims,” and found that 42% of them exaggerate sustainability efforts.
So it’s important to learn how to determine whether a product is truly green or just greenwashed.
There are a lot of brands who are showing they care about sustainability right now. But I think very few brands are actually doing this.
Even without an “eco-friendly” label, smaller, local brands are almost always more sustainable than the retail giants.
In a 2021 fashion accountability report from the nonprofit Remake, small and medium-sized brands scored four times higher than big companies. The report determined scores based on traceability, wages and wellbeing, commercial practices, raw materials, environmental justice and climate change, governance, and diversity and inclusion.
Overall, big brands and retailers — whether luxury, high street or fast fashion — are not taking on the systemic reform needed to counter fashion’s negative impacts on people and the planet.
Reports like the one from Remake and third-party assessments of sustainability, like those produced by Good on You and Climate Neutral, can offer details on supply chains, materials, and tangible efforts to reduce carbon footprints — breaking down the often vague claims made by the brands themselves.
When you do go straight to the brands you love, look for information on their website that shows they’re taking measurable steps to reduce their carbon footprint and tracking those efforts.
As the industry exists now, purchasing new clothes will almost always produce waste and carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. But when we do shop, prioritizing sustainable materials from brands with local supply chains and fair labor practices will help push the industry in right direction.
The most fashionable trend right now should be to question big brands, avoid fast fashion, and cultivate a style based on reusing and reimagining the garments that already exist in this world we’re trying to save.