We want to look our best, feel our best, and still do our best to live sustainably and conscientiously. But is it really possible to put all of those things together? It is! And it already has a name: ethical fashion.
Ethical fashion is based on the principles of minimal consumption and minimal impact on the environment. This means minimizing the impact of the production, manufacturing, processing, and distribution processes of our clothing.
This can be tricky. To give an example: you might decide on switching from cotton clothing to wool clothing because of the considerable amount of water consumption required for cotton processing. But afterward, you learn that wool processing produces nearly eight times more carbon emissions than cotton!
This balancing act can feel overwhelming. That’s why we’re here to help you take the first steps toward slow, sustainable, ethical fashion.
“Slow” Fashion vs. “Fast” Fashion
Fast fashion is about getting the trendiest items available for market consumption as quickly as possible. They’re cheaply and swiftly made; they’re produced in mass quantities; and they’re quickly discarded by both retailers and consumers. Remember the blouses with little mustaches you bought during the early 2010s? That trend was immensely popular and incredibly short-lived. Where are those items now? Probably in a landfill!
Slow fashion pieces are basic in design — and are designed to last. The idea is to purchase items of high quality, or items that are made with sustainably sourced materials on an infrequent basis.
This is the key to ethical
How Fashion Harms the Environment
To emphasize the importance of ethical fashion, we should outline just how harmful fast fashion is to the environment.
A. In the Air
The fashion industry’s carbon footprint is astronomical. This is mostly due to the bulk of energy used during the manufacturing process, as well as where the manufacturing takes place.
Consider a pair of shoes that are shipped to you from China, which still relies heavily on coal-based energy and produces a significant amount of carbon emissions during clothing manufacturing. And then, those shoes need to be shipped to you from overseas by air freight. On top of that, they need to be delivered to or picked up by you, the consumer.
B. In the Water
The fashion industry uses a ton of water — literally! On average, it takes 200 metric tons of water to produce just one metric ton of textile.
Furthermore, all the work that goes into textiles also does massive damage to water quality. Wastewater from dyeing and treating fabrics is full of chemicals; when improperly disposed of, it can devastate local water systems.
It gets worse: microfibers from today’s synthetic clothing are really microplastics–and these make up a staggering 35% of the microplasticsfound in the oceans today!
C. On the Ground
Did you know that 90% of the clothing we buy is prematurely thrown away? It means they are effectively discarded before they reach the end of their useful life. However, the waste is already accumulating beforehand, when the pace of fast fashion manufacturing produces waste that finds its way into landfills before the clothing products are even bought, worn, and dumped.
This is a grave matter because many synthetic fibers take an extremely long time to biodegrade — we are talking within the length of thousands of years. That is why it should be a foremost concern for every consumer before they purchase an outfit on a whim, or before they toss it away without considering alternative ways.
The next time you think about dumping a shirt in the waste bin, remind yourself that it will probably end up sitting around a landfill long after you (and your grandchildren and great-grandchildren) are
Getting Started with Ethical Fashion
You don’t need to be a gold-standard, award-winning, perfectly ethical consumer in order to make a difference. As Zero-Waste Chef Anne-Marie Bonneau puts it, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
Knowing the truth is where we start. What follows is knowing our options.
A. What to Do with Clothes You Already Have
Those aforementioned clothes we throw away while they’re still usable? It is fairly easy to find local clothing drives in your community that will take your unwanted items right to those who need them most. Otherwise, you can be confident using the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and American Red Cross if you’re based in the United States.
Your local municipality may have information on recycling pieces that are too far gone. Otherwise, Earth911 and RecycleNow are two valuable resources to help you find local recycling centers, and the popular fashion site ThredUp will sustainably recycle any clothes that can no longer be resold.
B. What to Do with Clothes You Don’t Have Yet
It is hard to resist those Amazon ads for sweaters on Instagram — after all, they are designed that way — but once you are keenly aware of the impact of fast fashion on the environment, you will find it easier to scroll past the temptations.
The ideal consumer is an infrequent buyer who makes each purchase last. In order to pull that off, it is also important to patronize brands with ethical practices. Nature is Beautiful is a fantastic example. Success Thru Style has a great guide on how to find sustainable new and second-hand clothing stores.
Nature is Beautiful. Let’s Keep It That Way!
Our goal at a.c.e. Nature is to live a life of environmental stewardship and make it as easy and accessible to everyone as possible. We firmly believe that we can support and love our planet while reaching our full potential — and that this is the best way to become happier and more confident.
Take your first steps toward ethical fashion today! Take a look at our eco-friendly, sustainable apparel and accessories. We also offer eye-opening books on how to connect with yourself and your environment. Check them all out here.