As consumers become more committed to protecting the planet, more and more people are voicing concern over the ethical issues surrounding fast fashion. This has caused many buyers to switch to sustainable fashion for their wardrobe choices.

What is sustainable fashion? How can you support it? And why should you? We provide the answers to those questions and more in this detailed guide to the movement behind environmentally friendly clothing, shoes, and accessories. 

But first, let’s look at the opposite of sustainable fashion: fast fashion.

Lady shopping for sustainable clothing

What is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion refers to mass-produced, trendy clothing that seeks to imitate runway or celebrity styles. Fast fashion is usually made of inexpensive, lower-quality materials and is produced and shipped to stores as soon as possible to capture consumer whims. 

Fast Fashion’s Rise in Popularity

Fast fashion is attractive to clothing brands because it allows them to sell cheaply made items at a higher price by attracting impulse buyers and trend-conscious shoppers. 

The amount of clothing produced to meet the demand for fast fashion is massive. Previously, traditional fashion houses would release a new collection quarterly. Now, fast-fashion stores can have new collections available every week. 

The Effects of Fast Fashion on the Environment

Fast fashion is controversial for a few reasons. 

1. Fast Fashion Is Not Made to Last

Fast fashion pieces are made quickly with inexpensive materials. Little attention is paid to seams, hems, and other workmanship details. 

2. Fast Fashion Creates Textile Waste

Because of the lack of focus on quality, fast fashion pieces wear out quickly and have to be replaced often. While this drives consumerism and sales for businesses, it also creates an excessive amount of textile waste that ends up in landfills. 

3. Fast Fashion Uses Harmful Chemicals

Fast fashion also often takes shortcuts by using dyes and toxic chemicals that are not biodegradable. Some of these chemicals can be harmful to humans. 

How to Identify Fast Fashion

Not sure if the stores you like to shop at practice fast fashion or not? 

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Does the store sell mass-produced clothing? 
  • Do the collections change frequently (i.e., weekly?) 
  • Are the materials certified for sustainability? 

Once you’ve identified a store as selling fast fashion, you’ll have to decide whether to continue shopping there. 

A clothing item with a recycled fabric tag

What is Sustainable Fashion?

Sustainable fashion is clothing, footwear, and accessories that are produced using materials and processes that do not negatively affect the planet. 

Sustainable fashion emphasizes quality and durability over the speed of production. Sustainable fashion uses materials that have been certified for sustainability, ethicality, and transparency. 

Learning how to support sustainable fashion requires a conscious effort to change your buying habits and attitudes toward shopping.

Benefits of Sustainable Fashion

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of purchasing sustainable clothing is the knowledge that you’re helping to support efforts to make Earth a cleaner, greener planet. 

But there are other more concrete benefits, too, such as:

  • Decreases waste in landfills

One of sustainable fashion’s biggest benefits is its environmental impact. By buying sustainably, you are decreasing waste. When you’re done with the garment, you can recycle it or, in some cases, allow it to biodegrade. 

  • Safe for your skin

Sustainable fashion is made without harmful chemicals or dyes, so you can feel good about what you are putting on your body. 

  • Offers a positive impact on your wallet

While sustainable fashion is more expensive up-front than fast fashion, in the long run, you will save considerably by buying sustainable pieces that can last through years of wear rather than having to replace them every few months. 

  • Great for decluttering

You’ll free up space in your wardrobe by buying a few high-quality pieces as opposed to many low-quality fast fashion garments. 

How Does Sustainable Fashion Help the Environment? 

The effects of fast fashion on the environment are enormous. In the last 15 years, clothing production has doubled, mainly due to the fast fashion industry. But for all the clothes being produced, only 1% of the material used to make clothing is recycled into new clothing. The rest is discarded in an unprecedented amount of preventable waste. 

Sustainable fashion helps the environment by not adding to landfill waste. It also follows practices that can be sustained without depleting or polluting the earth. 

Choosing sustainable fashion demonstrates to large companies that you do not support fast fashion practices. These small acts can send ripples through the fashion industry and encourage positive change with enough people. 

Sustainable Materials

Despite what many might think, sustainable clothing is made with ultra-comfortable and versatile materials.

Some examples of sustainable materials include:

  • Organic Cotton
  • Recycled Cotton
  • Organic Bamboo
  • Cork
  • Organic Hemp
  • Wool
  • Cashmere
  • Silk

When searching for sustainable clothing, remember to always look for certifications proving the sustainability of the textile before you buy; the material alone is not always enough to guarantee its sustainability.

How to Find Sustainable Fashion Brands

To find sustainable fashion brands, look for brands that don’t change their collections every week. Choose brands that are transparent with their material sourcing and can show the certifications of those materials. You can also search a brand’s website to see information about how their clothing is sourced and produced to see if they are sustainable or not. 

How to Support Sustainable Fashion?

To support sustainable fashion, look for brands that have committed to sustainable and ethical production. Shop for fashion made with materials that are not only good for the environment but also durable and can be worn many times without fraying or fading. 

Look for source material certifications on the tags and labels of clothing as you shop. Supporting local businesses can also be a good alternative to shopping at fast fashion stores. Thrift shopping is also considered sustainable, as it gives garments a second life rather than sending them to landfills. 

Live Sustainably

Loving and respecting the planet requires a commitment to sustainable living. There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint and the amount of non-recyclable waste your household produces. 

Choosing sustainable fashion is just one step in your sustainability journey. Switching to Spring Power and Gas is another. 

Learn how you can live a sustainable life with these additional resources.