Snuggle-up or step out in style in ethically designed and sourced apparel
What feels better than snuggling up in a big fluffy sweater when it’s cold outside? The comfort of knowing you’re supporting a sustainable clothing brand, and making a difference. Oh, the warm fuzzies inside and out!
We know you want relaxation this holiday season. That’s why we’re making it easier than ever to evaluate sustainable clothing brands for you and your loved ones.
There are a lot of factors when it comes to selecting sustainable clothing brands. The fact is that no clothing brand is 100% eco-friendly (you’ll have to go nude to achieve that!) Sustainability is a complex issue in the fashion world. That’s why we want to keep you well-informed.
The Fashion Industry’s Dirty Laundry
Not to totally oust the fashion industry or anything, but we think a look at the facts and figures is a good place to start on your sustainable clothing brand journey.
- Textiles account for 6% of trash entering U.S. landfills every year – that’s about 10.5 million tons
- 1 kilogram of cotton, the equivalent of a t-shirt, takes 20,000 liters of water to grow
- Over 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions are produced by the apparel industry
- 60% of garment workers in India have reported verbal or physical abuse and harassment in the workplace
- One pair of jeans takes about 7,000 liters of water to produce
- 80% of China’s groundwater is deemed unsuitable for human contact
Horrified by these staggering statistics? Read on – starting your own sustainable clothing journey can help change the story!
What Makes A Sustainable Clothing Brand?
Sustainable clothing brands have an incredible number of factors to consider in determining how to do the least harm.
- Production Emissions – Farming, fiber production, yarn preparation, fabric preparation, dyeing, finishing, assembly, and distribution. In other words, every part of the process from hazardous pesticides, to toxic dyes and finishes, to truck emissions, is an opportunity for pollution. Who doesn’t want fresher air at home or in the atmosphere?
- Water Usage – As you can tell from the figures above, growing virgin cotton – used to make over 50% of textiles – takes an unimaginable amount of water. On top of that, water is used in the fabric preparation, dyeing, and finishing processes. With clean drinking water becoming a premium even in developed nations like the U.S., sustainable brands make an effort to limit water usage.
- Garment Life Cycle & Waste – One of the best ways to buy clothes sustainably is to buy second hand and keep your clothing longer. “Fast fashion” refers to cheap clothing that banks on styles changing seasonally. On average, clothing is worn only 4 times before it heads to the landfill. Now, you can shop for stylish, timeless, barely-worn clothing from awesome online retailers like ThredUP and Poshmark. You can also shop sustainable clothing brands that make an effort to design simple clothes that never go out of style, crafted from durable, long lasting materials.
- Fair Trade – Many of the hazardous chemicals and gratuitous water usage affect local working class populations and laborers. More often than not, these laborers are abused in the workplace and paid no more than minimum wage. Make sure you buy from a sustainable clothing brand that sources its products from trustworthy and ethical employers.
Materials Used By Sustainable Clothing Brands
If cotton is such a water-sucking, land-grubbing crop, what other options do sustainable clothing brands have? As it turns out, a lot. Here are just a few materials sustainable clothing brands use to circumvent excessive waste. Some are reclaimed and recycled, while others are futuristic and functional. All are better than contributing to the cycle of buying new clothes only to ship them to the landfill.
Organic & Upcycled Cotton
Organic cotton lacks pesticides that are harmful to you, laborers, farmers, and groundsoil. Organic cotton farmers use crop rotation to keep the soil healthy and fertilized. While cotton requires a great deal of water, ethical farmers buy land in locations where their crops are primarily fed with rain water.
Upcycled cotton is made from industrial cotton waste and/or cotton from post-consumer textiles. Production emissions are still a factor when fabricating upcycled cotton, but water usage is typically cut way down.
The secret that hemp is a sustainable alternative to cotton and trees has been out for years. However, society is still getting over the stigma of its association with its psychoactive cousin marijuana.
What’s so great about hemp as a textile? Well, it can be grown almost anywhere, it grows remarkably quickly, it fertilizes its own soil, requires very little water, and naturally repels insects. Not too shabby for shrub! One of the oldest textile fibers in the world, hemp keeps you warm in the winter and is light and breathable in summer.
Tencel is a cellulose fabric that looks and feels like cotton. Made from the pulp of the fast-growing Eucalyptus tree, Tencel doesn’t use pesticides or insecticides. It’s farming doesn’t require much water or high quality farmland. In fact, it uses a fifth of the land required by cotton and a fifth of the water, too. The company behind Tencel, Lenzing, uses a closed-loop water system, meaning water isn’t washed away as wastewater.
If you’re down with recycling, you’ll be impressed by Econyl. Econyl reuses plastic waste from oceans and landfills, such as fishing nets and fabric scraps, to create its 100% regenerated nylon. Furthermore, you can trust that Econyl doesn’t use hazardous chemicals to dye their fabric as they are Oeko-Tek certified.
4 Snuggle-Worthy Sustainable Clothing Brands For Fall & Winter
Sustainable, Ethical, Impactful
Threads 4 Thought uses organic cotton, recycled polyester, and Tencel to create their stylish looks. They work only with manufacturers vetted for their ethical standards. They look for factories with the highest industrial certifications to be sure their workers are treated and paid fairly. Shop their Women’s, Men’s, and Kid’s departments for winter looks you’ll want to keep wearing year after year!
Global Impact, Social Impact, Environmental Impact
Alternative Apparel strives to be as impactful as possible throughout the entire process. They use oxo-biodegradable mailer bags. They ensure all their factories adhere to Fair Labor Association guidelines and code of conduct, with most of their factories WRAP-certified. And they design clothing using organic cotton, recycled polyester from 1.8 million plastic bottles annually, and low-impact dyes.
Sustainable, Ethical, Impactful
So, you do pay a little (or a lot) more to get the Reformation look, but this high end fashion brand makes sophisticated dresses for any holiday function with exceptional effort as a sustainable clothing brand. They pull from 12 different waste-reducing fabrics and audit all their factories twice a year to ensure they’re sustainable clothing brand is making the smallest possible impact while ensuring high-fashion quality.
Sustainable, Salvaged Material
Looking for a new tote or backpack this season? Better yet – Rewilder’s 100% salvaged material bags make fantastic gifts for the holidays.
Rewilder uses salvaged beer filter cloth, advertising mesh, airbags, and silver car covers to create durable backpacks and totes. Upcycling the benefits of some of these materials, such as UV and waterproof protection, Rewilder combines intentionality with design. Don’t want your Rewilder backpack anymore? They encourage you to send it back to be mended or repurposed!
If you’re looking to make a difference in your daily carbon footprint, start with your closet. Opting for thoughtfully crafted, earth-friendly garments can make a bigger difference than you know!