Because the word sustainable means different things to different people, it can be difficult to pinpoint an exact definition of the term sustainable clothing. For some, it’s all about buying clothing from responsible companies that do not carry profit as their primary pursuits. For others, it’s about resisting the urge to buy new clothes and turning to used clothing items instead. Still others use some combination of the two in order to have a sustainable wardrobe on multiple fronts.
There are a few things that have come to define sustainability in clothing designed for this purpose. One of those things involves the materials used to make the clothing. The sustainability of the material involves many things, including the source of the fibers as well as their renewability. But it goes deeper than this, including how the raw fiber is processed or manufactured into fabric – and the carbon footprint this process creates.
In general, sustainable clothing comes from fibers from either plant (cellulose) or animal (protein) fibers.
These fibers come from a wide variety of plant sources. Of course, you must also consider things like pesticides and insecticides used on the plants when considering how sustainable, or even green, the fibers may be.
Non-organic cotton, for instance, accounts for nearly 25 percent of the world’s use of insecticides and 10 percent of worldwide pesticide usage – making it not such a sustainable product after all. If you do prefer cotton clothes for their comfort and versatility, consider organic cotton
But don’t worry, there are plenty of sustainable fibers to consider, including:
Animals are also important sources of fibers and have been for centuries. Some of the most commonly used fibers in fine clothing come from animals, including:
When it comes to fashion, sustainability isn’t only about buying clothing that has been manufactured for the purpose of sustainability. It’s about adopting new ways to shop responsibly for clothing. It’s about getting back to the basics of sustaining the planet.
These three words are the fundamentals when it comes to saving the planet. They are the minimal effort families from all walks of life need to do in order to do their part.
Giving New Life to Old Clothes
The options below allow you to breathe new life into old clothes. No matter whether you’re the one donating, purchasing, or transforming, by extending the life cycle of these clothing items you are helping to make them more sustainable.
Donate old clothing that you or your children have outgrown. Don’t simply toss it in the garbage to go to the local landfill. Churches, community organizations, and even schools are often all too happy to take your old clothing items to give to others. Consider organizations like the following for your clothing donations:
If you’re willing to devote a little bit of time and effort, and one or two weekend days, you can actually get a little bit in return for holding a garage sell and allowing those who are less fortunate, or less inclined to dole out precious dollars on clothing, to purchase your old clothing items.
Another possibility is consignment shops that allow you to use their shops to sell your old clothing items (and those of your children) for a cut off the profits.
Even online auction sites like eBay allow you the opportunity to sell your used clothing items so that someone else can get new life and wear from them.
Thrift shops, consignment stores, garage sales, swap meets, and online auctions allow you to purchase or trade items to get gently used clothing items for yourself and your family. These practices help to keep clothes out of landfills, gives them new life, and helps to diminish the impact they’ve had on the planet by keeping them in circulation.
In addition to shopping to get used clothes, many people buy used clothes in order to transform them into something else. For instance, you can transform gently used jeans that have frayed ends into cute shorts by cutting them off and hemming them. Alternatively, they can be turned into an adorable skirt by cutting them short and adding layers of ruffles all around.
Old tee-shirts can become dresses with the help of the tasteful application of ruffles and frills in all the right places. Some people even refer to this as upcycling. You can even turn old tee-shirts into comfortable – incredibly soft pillow cases.
The bottom line is that there are countless ways to reuse old clothing by transforming it into something else.
Have younger kids in the family? Even if they aren’t your own children, chances are good that you have a relative who will be glad to accept any children’s clothing items you’re willing to pass along. Even if they aren’t in perfect condition, they make great clothes for art days at school or play days at home.
A few wise clothing manufacturers are beginning to take notice of the needs of the planets and designing clothes with that in mind. Some offer carbon offsetting, while others simply practice greener manufacturing processes and material selection. These are just a few of the brands you might want to consider:
When it comes to sustainable clothing, there are abundant options available from the economically earth-friendly choice of used or second-hand clothing items to high fashion runways from top name sustainability designers.
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