Being environmentally friendly is something that really hits home with me. Almost daily I talk about how much I wish I had the chance to study biology further and get to know and experience this glorious planet in a little more depth. This earth provides us with absolutely everything we need and we seem to do very little in return to make up for it.
By this point in time I’m sure you’ve become aware of the effects that plastic is currently having on our environment. I’ve written a post about it here along with many others and in all honesty I’m pretty late to the bandwagon. My parents have always been quite conscious of waste and pollution. It wasn’t uncommon for either of my parents to go out of their way to pick up other people’s rubbish and dispose of it properly. Eventually the proper recycling schemes were put into place by local authorities and we took it up quite religiously. So to me it’s not a new thing to be environmentally friendly and conscious. However when we were lucky enough to get tickets to the premiere of the documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean’ in October 2016, I really was kickstarted into to trying to make a change for our planet.
In this day and age it is really easy to be wasteful. It undeniably makes life more convenient and sometimes cheaper. I understand it is less of a faff to throw your rubbish in the bin then to sort it into recycling. I get that buying a pair of jeans from Primark for £10 is more appealing that spending £80 on some from Levi’s, and potentially it’s some people’s only option. However, do we ever really think about where these things have come from and where they will inevitably end up?
Fast fashion is a term used to describe the constant demand for fashion trends to be available on the high street to us mere mortals, but it usually comes with an environmental cost. As a 22 year old woman I understand the want for new trends, I get the need for a new outfit for a big event or the want for a new pair of shoes. We are human and we want to impress people, right? And all the better if we can get it for as little as possible, who doesn’t love a bargain?!
We all understand the way a business works though don’t we? We understand that for a business to survive they need to be able to make more than they are spending or else they would run themselves into the ground and out of money. So has it maybe ever occurred to you that for companies such as Primark and Boohoo (and loads more) to be able to sell you clothes for next to nothing then they must be making them for next to nothing as well? Not only does this mean the they are exploiting workers (Remember BBC’s blood, sweat and t-shirts years ago?), but they will also be using cheap and potentially toxic materials.
Funky prints and bright colours are both things that make garments desirable but to make these on mass and at a cost effective price they are often made with very harmful chemicals. Chemicals that have been banned or are very strictly regulated in some countries due to the hazards they posses. They can be toxic, disruptive of hormones, bio accumulative and even carcinogenic. ‘Everything these days is carcinogenic’ I hear you mumble. Well yes it really does seem that way, however, please bare in mind that textile tanning and dyeing is actually the second largest polluter of clean water in the world. It should also be noted that the countries in which garment factories are usually based tend to be poorer countries with already poor water conditions and illnesses and diseases such as cholera are already running high and so are unlikely to have the facilities to clean the water before it is consumed by both animals and humans.
Making things for as little as possible is what they are trying to achieve and to do so not only do they use cheap dyes but they also use cheap materials. Polyester is the most commonly used fabric in the high street fashion world. The down side to this is that polyester is plastic and so when washed it sheds plastic microfibres that get washed down the drain. These fibres are so tiny that they pass through all water filtration systems and find their way into our oceans and sometimes even our drinking water supply. As they are plastic they do not bio degrade meaning that they get consumed by aquatic life and end up in our food chain.
Another popular material is cotton which again boasts its own rage of problems. Most cotton these days is genetically modified to make it grow quicker and to be resistant to different pests. Unfortunately this doesn’t eradicate the need for pesticides and as pests are getting more resistant the formulas are becoming stronger and stronger. It goes without saying that this can cause harm to the wildlife surrounding these areas but it is beginning to cause harm to the workers surrounding them also. Recent studies have shown a link between use of pesticides and several serious conditions such as asthma, autism and learning disabilities, birth defects and reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, and several types of cancer. It’s heartbreaking to thing that our need and constant demand for the next big thing can be causing so much harm to others with out us realising.
Fast fashion has a tendency to leave a trail of leftovers behind it. More people are buying more clothes but keeping them for a shorter time. Our wardrobes are full of everything we need and so to keep us buying more we are continuously convinced that what we already own is no longer fashionable and so end up tempted with newness.
Busier lifestyles leave us with less time to do things. We are working all the hours we can and when we aren’t working, life always provides us with with something else to keep us busy meaning that it is often easier and more time effective to just buy replacements when things break than to wait and pay for someone to come and fix it. Despite that we are earning more than we have been before meaning that there is a higher level of disposable income, only fuelling our lack of want to learn how to fix something due to the fact that it’s easier to just buy it again. I guess it comes down to your laziness really and the feeling of triumph when you get a bargain. This and the constant barrage of seasonal sales causes fashion to seem ‘disposable’ in a way it has never been before.
Recycling textiles however is on the rise. The work of vintage and charity shops allows discarded garments a new lease of life, some resold as they are and some being reworked. However despite this recent rise, the recycling of clothing is still pretty low. There are donation banks all over the place these days, so many stores have a deposit scheme allowing you to leave your old unwanted clothes for them to recycle and there are donation points in carparks and at all charity shops, but still over half of brits still throw away their old clothes instead of donating.
There will likely always be something that isn’t 100% eco and ethical about the products we are surrounded by but there are a few steps that you can take to try and help. For example, read what is in the products you are buying. Organic threads may seem like the better option but they will come with their own downfalls. Most threads tend to end up dyed before they end up on our shelves, have a look at the dyes that were used as there are more conscious alternatives available from companies that care more. But the major one for me would be really research where you are buying from. Many companies are much more ethical than others, many companies actually make a continued effort to be ethical. A good way that I judge brands is through the site https://rankabrand.org they give you a rating based on things like industry trends, best practices, available standards and guidelines as well as positions of NGOs when it comes to climate impact, environmental impact and labour conditions. Granted there are some brands that aren’t on there but it gives you a good staring point when you’ve decided to start making some changes.
I am not in anyway saying spend every shopping trip reading labels and googling a company’s ethical ratings, but I am saying be mindful. Take a step back and really think about where your clothes are coming from. Think about every step that item has taken and think whether being able to pick up a tee for £3 is more important than the damage it has made along the way. Once you dip your toe into the world of sustainable fashion you’ll realise that in the long run it saves you money. Yes it costs more to begin with because it isn’t so easily made, but in the long run you’ll only spend £15 on a tee that lasts 5 years instead of £3 on a tee that’s fades after your first wash and will need replacing in 6 months time.
It is easy to think ‘Out of sight, Out of mind’ with most world problems at the moment and that is how we allow ourselves to continue on with stuff that we know is morally wrong. However I hope I have shone some light on a pretty horrible situation and that it allows you to start thinking a little more about where our belongings come from and where they ultimately end up. Rid your minds of the idea of throwing things “away”. There is no “away” it does not exist. It just ends up somewhere else and if it’s going to stay on the planet for a while, why not put it to use? REDUCE - your consumption. RESUSE - wear/use it as many times as possible. Then sell them on or give them to someone else to use. RECYCLE - if the other two Rs aren’t an option then make sure you are sending it somewhere it will be put to good use. Don’t throw it “away”.
Curtesy of www.fashion-conscience.com
For items made from organic materials; which are free from non-natural pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and fertilisers.
Companies who are actively reducing carbon emissions in their manufacturing process, limiting the carbon footprint of their product through it's carbon travel miles or offsetting their carbon emissions by investing in carbon reduction projects, credits or tree planting.
The use of natural, vegetable or Azo-free dyes and processes in the manufacture, or natural adhesives.
Quite simply, made in the UK thus reducing carbon miles within the manufacturing process and supporting UK workers and factories who operate under European health, safety, minimum wage and employment laws
Companies who are investing in the development of local communities where the product is manufactured. This could be by assisting in education, building of infrastructure, demanding adequate health and safety standards, as well as paying fair prices.
This denotes fabrics or processes which are sustainable. For instance some of our designers organic silk carries the SBV mark (Sustainable Biodegradable Product) as it is 100% biodegradable and is finished in accordance with Skal criteria, or elements maybe sourced from sustainable FSC managed forests.
Made with fair trade principles in place, the manufacturers and designers endeavour to ensure that workers, from harvesting materials to manufacture, are paid fairly and not expolited in 'sweatshop' or equivalent conditions.
An item which is 100% or partially made from recycled or vintage materials.
Supports, rather than exploits and harms wildlife, and conservation projects.
Agrocel cotton is produced by Agrocel Industries Limited, in conjunction with Vericott Ltd and Traidcraft Exchange, who have defined and branded the cotton fibre Agrocel® Pure & Fair Indian Organic Cotton. Agrocel co-ordinates organic fibre cultivation with a select group of local farmers while constantly ensuring it adheres to International Organic Standards.
Fairtrade Certified Cotton
This is the symbol of the FairTrade Foundation established in 1992 and license the FAIRTRADE Mark to products which meet internationally recognised standards, and work to raise awareness and deepen understanding and sales of fairtrade certified products. It symbolises that the cotton farmers have been treated fairly and have a guarantee of a minimum price plus a further premium to be used for community development. It does not guarantee that the manufacture of the garments is fairtrade however.
IFAT The International Fair Trade Association
Only 100 per cent Fair Trade organisations, who are members of The International Fair Trade Association, may use their symbol and it guarantees fair trade practices from production through to manufacture. Their mission is to improve livelihoods and well being of disadvantaged producers by linking and promoting fair trade organisations.
The EU Eco-label scheme has drawn up a set of environmental and performance criteria for judging products and takes into account all aspects of a product's life, from production and use to eventual disposal (cradle-to-grave approach). The products should inflict less damage upon the environment than other products of the same type.
The International Oeko-Tex Association has been testing for harmful substances according to Oeko-Tex Standard 100 for textile products of all types which pose no risk whatsoever to health, since 1992. It's a uniform, scientifically founded evaluation standard for the human ecological safety of textiles tested for safety for skin-friendly clothing and other textiles.
The Soil Association is the UK's leading organic organisation. The Soil Association symbol can be found on over 70% of Britain's organic produce - a guarantee that it has been grown or produced to the highest standards of organic integrity. Soil Association Certification Ltd enforces these standards through certification and regular inspections of producers, processors and suppliers.
SKAL organic certification
A Dutch organic certification body which not only certifies that no pesticides and fertilisers have been used it also guarantees the working conditions of farmers.
This symbol denotes that a product or part of a product has been sourced by specially managed sustainable forests.
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