6 Checks to Ensure You are Buying Sustainable Ethical Fashionshayonti
Making a conscious choice to buying sustainable ethical fashion is commendable. Yet, many of us make this shift without truly understanding what sustainable fashion means. If you are starting this journey, we are here to help make this process as fun and enjoyable as it can be!
But first, what is sustainable fashion and how is it different from ethical fashion?
Sustainable fashion involves the process of making garments and accessories in a way that leaves minimal damage to the environment. This would mean to move away from fashion brands that:
Dump toxic waste which can take many years to decompose.
Leaves huge carbon footprint while extracting the material, manufacturing and producing.
Consumes gallons of water and rely on harmful pesticides (e.g.: traditional cotton).
Use plastic in the process of making the garment or accessory.
Ethical fashion goes one step beyond environmental considerations to also take into account various humanitarian aspects.
Are the brands ensuring a fair wage to their workers?
Do they guarantee a safe and cruel-free work environment?
Are they transparent in providing all relevant information to their consumers?
Most importantly, are they dependent on child labor or test product on animals?
If the answers to the first three questions are affirmative and the last is negative, the brand is ethical. Taking the first few steps into this world of sustainable and ethical fashion can be overwhelming. However, enough and more evidence points to the adverse impact of fast fashion and with the abundance of information available, you can no longer be ignorant or misinformed. Awareness and self-education can clear many myths and enable one to see through “greenwashing”. Mainly since, more and more brands are loosely tying their brand values to sustainability to make a social impact, when in reality there may be none. That said, you may feel the need to research a lot for every piece of fashion accessory you buy. Yet, the key is to remember that your small actions are what make the biggest difference.
In this regard, use this checklist below as a starting point to help you identify if the clothes and accessories you buy are sustainable and ethical.
Is the Fabric Eco-Friendly?
The initial step in buying sustainable fashion is to check the fabric. The most sustainable fabrics are organic silk, organic cotton, linen, Tencel, and hemp. Typically, all organic fabrics are regarded as sustainable, eco-friendly, and hence a better option.
Sustainability check: Check for the source of the fabric and extraction process. Are chemicals and pesticides used in the process? Are the materials easily degradable? Do they use toxic dyes? How much water is used in the process of extraction and production?
Ethical check: Are the farmers getting a fair trade in exchange for the fabric, from the brand? Are animals harmed in the process? Essentially, does the brand use cruelty-free and vegan produce while manufacturing the product?
Understanding of the Brand and its Treatment of Workers
Read about the brand, understand its history, origin, customer reviews, locations, how they treat their workers, do they pay fair wages, etc. A holistic understanding of a brand should answer all your questions on sustainability and ethics.
Sustainability check: Fast fashion brands are global, leaving a huge carbon footprint in transportation and production of materials. One way to easily move away from this is by switching to local brands. Most often, local brands, use locally source materials that are sustainable and eco-friendly. They do not involve transportation across borders, thereby leaving a minimal carbon footprint.
Ethical check: Global brands, consequentially, have major regulatory concerns with employee treatment, fair wages, the prevalence of sweatshops, exploitation of farmers from a different region, etc. On the other hand, local brands have a better understanding of local contexts and better relationships with farmers, manufacturers, and retailers. This removes any room for human rights and animal rights violations on a large scale.
Check for Certification
Various certifying bodies offer certificates to brands based on their sustainable and ethical practices. Such certifications come marked on the label of the product, so make sure to check this before making the purchase. Many online and boutique stores showcase such certification on the website as well.
Sustainability Check: Certificates awarded by Global Organic Textile Standards, Fairtrade, OEKO-TEX, USDA Organic, and Textile Exchange, are some that ensure that the brands are environmentally friendly and sustainable.
Ethical check: Certificates awarded by Fair Wear Foundation, PETA Approved Vegan, Social accountability 8000, and World Fair Trade Organization, are some that ensure that the brands are ethical in their practice.
While certifications are a great way to check for the credibility of the brand, they are highly expensive, making it hard for upcoming and small scale brands to apply for one. Hence, we recommend you reach out to such brands directly, either through their social media handles or by email, asking them the information you need to ensure they are sustainable and ethical. Brands that are true to their word will not be shy of sharing any information you seek.
How Long and Often are You Planning on Using it?
The Key ingredients of sustainability are reuse, recycle, and reduce. By these principles, consider how long you plan to keep and use the fashion products you buy, and for how many occasions you can multi-purpose them for.
Sustainable and ethical fashion is not cheap. Compared to fast fashion, you may spend double or triple the amount on a textile piece or accessory. As a result, the longevity factors in greatly. Additionally, moving to a sustainable lifestyle requires building a capsule wardrobe. That is a small, yet highly functional, wardrobe where all your products can be mixed and matched for different occasions. If you cannot do this with an item you are looking at, it is not worth the investment.
Read the Product Tag and the Label
Lastly, read the price tag and the label thoroughly before investing in anything. They offer a lot of information about the brand without having to search the web. This can be your starting point. You can easily identify the material and details on the location of production. Typically, sustainable and ethical brands showcase this explicitly on the labels!
Check the Brand’s Social Media Activity
Many brands actively engage themselves on social media. Going through their latest posts would offer great insight into the brand, their history, beliefs, values, and mission. This also creates an opportunity for you to connect directly with the brand to seek more information before making your purchase. Additionally, a brand’s social media presence can reveal a lot about the brand. If the brand runs a functional website, be sure to also check their “info/about us” page as well.
Author- Manasa Ram Raj