Sustainable Fashion, part 1: What our attire has to do with the environment

Fashion is anything but sustainable, an unpleasant judgement on the clothing industry. It is the second most polluting industry and discredited violating human rights. Various documentaries tackle these issues such as River Blue, The True Cost, or Fashion Factories Undercover. Find out how fashion impacts the environment.

Fast Fashion vs. Slow Fashion

Addressing the fashion industry’s harmful impact, you should distinguish between Fast Fashion and Slow Fashion. Fast Fashion describes the conventional clothing industry repeatedly changing collections caused by our increasing demand using up numerous resources. Time and again you can read about scandals in the Fast Fashion industry, reporting about undignified and unsafe working conditions, or companies burning new fashion goods to create space for upcoming collections. As a negative side effect of the Fast Fashion trend, we value our clothes less and dispose of them much faster, being far from sustainable. Slow Fashion, on the contrary, is characterized by slower production cycles providing more time for the sewers due to a smaller number of collections per season. The idea is a more conscious decision about what we purchase. Buying less, yet high-quality materials and thereby reducing the ecologic and social footprint.

Kleider auf Bügel
It is usually better to own less, but more consciously chosen clothing © Lynn Anders

Washing out micro plastics from your clothes

Micro plastics pose one of the major problems in our oceans these days. You often hear about micro plastics in our cosmetics, however, most of the plastic pieces derive from rubbed car tires and synthetic fibers detaching from our clothes while washing. Since the plastic pieces are too small to be filtered in sewage treatment plants, they find their way into the oceans through wastewaters and rivers. Many sea dwellers confuse the tiny plastic pieces with plankton; they not only unbalance the marine ecosystem but often end up on our plates. Since micro plastics attract bacteria and toxics, they are hazardous to animals and humans. That is why you should avoid synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, and acrylics, and high-tech fibers mainly used for outdoor wear such as GoreTex or Symaptex. Just check the labels inside the clothes before you buy them. In case you still decide to buy a piece made of synthetics, get yourself a special washing bag or washing ball that collect the micro fibers in the machine.

Guppy Friend Waschbeutel
The Guppy Friend washing bag prevents micro plastics from finding their way into the sea during washing © Lynn Anders

Environmental toxins in our clothes

Fast Fashion products are anything but uncontaminated when we pit it inside our wardrobes. Toxic chemicals are utilized to dye the clothes, fix the dye, or to create effects like “non-crease,” or “leather look.” Those chemicals can cause allergies or cancer at worst. Hence, you should wash your clothes before wearing them for the first time because we absorb harmful substances into our skin easily. Particularly baby clothes should be produced organically, though organic apparel is recommended for adults and the environment alike. Look out for certified and independent labels when buying.

When buying clothing, look out for organic quality and certified labels © Lynn Anders

What Fast Fashion means to the workers

Let’s take into account how the cheap prices of Fast Fashion effect can be offered:  usually, conventional farming means using harmful pesticides, specifically in cotton growing. These do not only harm the farmers on site, but the environment alike. Furthermore, Fast Fashion implies less protection is taken for the workers and the environment while they dye our pants and jumpers with toxic chemicals. On top, the toxic wastewater finds its ways to rivers without being treated leading to fish mortality and increasing ailments of humans. All that being paid a starvation wage. With every single Fast Fashion piece we buy, we support the industry and exploit humans and the environment.

Luckily, we do not have to give up fashion completely since we can decide buying sustainable fashion. Find out, what you should take care of when purchasing next time, and how you can recognize fair and sustainable fashion in part two.