Sustainable fashion: how to consume clothes more consciously

  • By:karen-millen



Rocío Muñoz-Ledo

(CNN Spanish) — Being fashionable has its cost. Not only economic, but also environmental. The textile industry is the second most polluting in the world, according to the United Nations (UN).

While the expectation is to keep up with ever-changing trends, refreshing our wardrobe every few weeks or months, buying fewer clothes would help the environment.

Collectively, the global fashion industry produces nearly 4 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, or 8.1% of the global total, according to Quantis, a climate consultancy that analyzes the industry's environmental impact. of fashion. That calculation includes the seven stages of a garment's life, beginning with the creation of the fibers used to make it, for example, growing cotton, through assembling the clothing, and finally transporting and selling it.

Here we present a series of proposals that will help you to be more conscious when dressing:

Reduces consumption

This is, without a doubt, the most important point to take into account when thinking about strategies that take care of the planet. Reduce consumption in the face of a market that is constantly producing new collections to meet demand, not only at the cost of the environment, but also unsafe working conditions and violations of human rights.

Data from the UN Conference on Trade and Development shows that the industry uses excessive amounts of water to make garments, produces more carbon emissions than all international flights and ocean shipments, and dumps half a million tons of microfiber into the sea every year.

Extinction Rebellion members dressed in designs created with recycled items by fashion designers Trash Couture, during a demonstration against the fast fashion industry in Buenos Aires, in December 2021. (JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images)

Sustainable fashion: how to consume clothes responsibly more conscious

Used clothing, a popular alternative

There are several ways to reuse clothes, ranging from swapping clothes with friends to buying vintage or second-hand. The latter is an increasingly popular trend. So much so that by 2030 the used fashion market will be worth approximately US$77 billion, according to the annual report by ThredUP, one of the largest companies specializing in the online sale of used clothing and accessories.

Vintage has gone from being an economic necessity to having an aesthetic value, to end up as an ethical response. And there are different places such as boutiques, fairs or bazaars specialized in second-hand clothing where you can find different unique options that suit your style.

Give a second life to your clothes

Did you know that the amount of clothing, footwear and accessories that we accumulate constantly ends up incinerated or in landfills? Every second, a truckload of textiles is buried or burned, according to the UN.

So if you want to help stop the waste of clothes, you can bet on giving it a second life. Donate it to an organization that collects clothing, sell it at a thrift store, gift it to someone you know will wear it. Or swap clothes with your friends to add a fresh touch to your wardrobe. You can even turn it around and use your imagination to turn it into another piece of clothing that you can also wear.

Sustainable fashion created by students 0:32

Buy and sell on online platforms

Your clothes can have unsuspected reaches and not necessarily in the trash or the sea. Used clothing buying and selling applications are a very effective tool to boost circular consumption. In many of them you can sell clothes, shoes or accessories that you no longer use to people from all over the world and, at the same time, you can buy someone else everything that you no longer need.

Rent your clothes

Renting is a very convenient option when you are looking for a piece of clothing that you will wear once or twice or that you know will be something that will go out of style next season.

For the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which works to improve the industry's sustainability record, it is “a compelling value proposition, especially when taking into account changing customer needs; examples include short-term use, practical requirements, or rapidly evolving fashion preferences.”

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When it comes to recycling our waste, we usually think of plastic bottles or other food and drink containers. Clothing items are often not considered recyclable items and, as we have already seen, are often thrown in the trash.

Although the textile industry relies primarily on nonrenewable resources—oil to produce synthetic fabrics, fertilizers to grow cotton, and chemicals to produce dyes and finishes for fibers and textiles—its immense footprint extends beyond the use of raw materials , notes the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

“Its low usage rates and low levels of recycling, the current linear and wasteful system is the root cause of this massive and ever-expanding pressure on resources,” he adds.

In response to all this waste that has negative impacts on the environment, some fashion department stores have launched recycling initiatives in recent years that you can participate in. These are containers located in its stores almost all over the world where customers can deposit the clothes they no longer want. According to the Swedish multinational H&M, the idea is to increase collection and recycling rates for textiles, and reduce unnecessary waste to landfills.

It's worth noting that H&M was accused of greenwashing consumers by being vague about the sustainability credentials of its Conscious Collection launched in 2010.

What is “greenwashing” and how to avoid being fooled

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