Fashion Editor Megan Fox breaks down the materials to look for, and what to avoid.
Fashion is currently the second biggest polluter of the planet after oil, which seems crazy! If we can all make little changes, no one has to be perfect, it really will do wonders for our little world. It’s not even about depriving yourself of buying lots of new clothes, but more about buying smarter and looking after what you already have. You definitely do not have to compromise on style to be sustainable.
Cotton is an extremely thirsty fabric and requires a lot of water in the process of making garments. It takes the insane amount of 2,700 litres of water to produce one (ONE!) t-shirt! But water usage is not the only issue here. Cotton also uses many chemicals and pesticides in its process and so leads to contamination of local soil and water systems, which is harmful to those living and working in these areas. Cotton farming and the process of bringing a garment to fruition is often linked with extremely poor labour conditions. Problems such as child slavery and unfair pay are still unfortunately an ongoing issue.
Organic cotton is grown in a much more ethical fashion. Pesticides are not used and so the health of those farming the crop is at much less risk. Organic production systems also replenish and maintain soil fertility, meaning farmers are able to grow more than one crop, resulting in a better quality of life and better income. Organic cotton will potentially still undergo some sort of dye process or treatment before being turned into your new favourite T-shirt, so it’s still important to know whether the dye that has been used is also organic or not.
To avoid ‘greenwashing’ – or in other words, brands being slightly misleading about how organic or eco-friendly their garments are – you can look out for symbols such as The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
This is a fabric made of fibres from the by-product of the pineapple harvest. The leaves of the pineapple plant are usually discarded in the fruit industry, so Piñatex® is saving the by-product from going to waste. The fibres of the leaves are dried and fused together to form a leather which is growing more and more popular among brands. Who wouldn’t want to wear clothes made of pineapple?!
This man-made fabric rose to glory due to the fact that it’s easy to produce, blends well with other fibres, is quite handy to wash and is basically crease-free, which makes the life of the consumer much smoother. However, put simply, polyester is an oil-based plastic. It is not bio-degradable like other natural fibres would be.
Thus, when it is simply thrown away and ends up in landfill, it will most likely sit there for hundreds if not thousands of years. Polyester also releases tiny little microfibres into our water systems when being washed. These tiny particles end up in the bellies of fish in our oceans and ultimately then we are consuming them too.
Linen is one of the most eco-friendly and biodegradable fabrics in the fashion world, particularly when it hasn’t been dyed and is used in its natural colours. Made from ax plant fibres, linen is renowned for its durability. Over time the fabric actually gets softer and more comfortable to wear resulting in more longevity for your clothing. A worthwhile investment. Feel chic and cool particularly in the summer time in this fabulously sustainable fabric.
Try the Ecoegg
This laundry egg is a complete replacement for laundry detergent and fabric conditioner. Simply throw it into the drum of your washing machine and allow the natural mineral pellets within the egg to do their thing.
Watch your temperature
Wash only with cold water (everything washes just as well at 30 degrees celsius), and to save water only wash full loads and dry clothes on a line rather than your tumble dryer. When it comes to denim, why not try putting your jeans in the freezer. This will kill any bacteria and odours!
Throw in a Cora Ball
Inspired by the way coral filters the ocean, this swooshes around in the washing machine with your clothes and just like coral picks up tiny little things with its stalks in the sea, the Cora Ball picks up microfibres that are released from fabrics such as polyester, preventing them from flowing into our water systems. While scientists have identified that the Cora Ball has managed to save just 26% of microfibres from entering into our waterways while washing our clothes, this is still a significant benefit for our environment.
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Visit designer exchange stores
Shop your favourite high end designers at a fraction of the price! Stores such as Siopaella ensure that your preloved designer goods are 100% authentic and in lovely condition for you to take home. Giving these pre-loved items a new home is a great way towards a more circular economy.
Look out for stores with a transparent production line
Reformation are a brand that are strong on outlining their resources and materials used in the production of their garments. They have ‘ref fibre standards’ outlined on their website from a grade A – ‘Allstar’ which are natural plant based fibres, to ‘E – Eww, never’, or fabrics that have too much of a negative impact on the environment, which they try to avoid as much as possible. While keeping all of this in mind, they do not compromise on style.
Go for biodegradable glitter
When owner Alex O’Neill realised that wearing glitter can be just as harmful as single use plastics to our environment, she decided to take action. The end result: The Glitter Bugs, a 100% plastic free biodegradable glitter. It has zero waste and plastic-free packaging, coming in the cutest little glass bottle with a cork top which Alex packages herself. The Glitter Bugs is as reflective and pigmented as conventional plastic glitter.
Try out a rental boutique
Online rental stores such as Borrower Boutique are the perfect solution to finding that new going ‘out-out’ outfit that you only really want to wear once. The girls have an ever-growing collection of designer and high street brands to choose from, and even supply a try-on service for you.
Buy made to order
The Silk Lemon is a gorgeous online site that have a made to order strategy in an aim to reduce the amount of textile waste generated and subsequently destroyed. Packaging is manufactured using 100% recycled cardboard, and the wrapping paper is also acid-free. Allow yourself five to 15 days for delivery – slightly longer than other online deliveries but well worth the wait!