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What is sustainable clothing and how does fast fashion affect the environment?

More people than ever are interested in lowering their carbon footprint and helping to protect the planet. In fact, in November 2022, Forbes reported that ‘nearly 90% of Gen X (those born between 1965 and 1981) consumers said that they would be willing to spend an extra 10%* or more for sustainable products, compared to just over 34% two years ago (in 2020)’. Additionally, there’s also a rise in the number of holidaymakers looking for ways to travel more sustainably.

There are many ways to be more eco-friendly when preparing and travelling abroad for a holiday. However, today we focus on how the clothes we choose to buy and wear can impact the planet.

So, what is sustainable clothing?

Sustainable clothing is clothing that has been produced with the environment in mind. Sustainable clothing brands focus on reducing the negative impacts of the fashion industry on the plant with the conscious effort of making garments that are ethically sourced. This can be done by using textiles and materials that require less amounts of water and ensuring companies pay and treat their workers fairly.

How can you choose more sustainable clothing for a holiday abroad?

The first thing to think about before packing for a holiday is the clothes and accessories you currently own. If you already have clothes suitable for your holiday destination, pack those before heading to the shops for more items.

When looking for sustainable clothing it is always best to opt for more eco-friendly brands. There are companies that use more planet loving materials as well as focus on their production process to ensure the workers behind the scenes are well looked after and paid fairly.

Which brands make clothes sustainably?

Some sustainable clothing brands to look out for include, Plant Faced, Stella McCartney, Fanfare, Levi’s, Burberry, Seasalt and many more. Of course, there’s also the option to shop at charity shops, so that clothes are getting several leases of life before they go to landfill.

What’s good news is that nowadays many brands are making a conscious effort to think about how they source their products, how they treat they workers, and how they can help the sustainability movement grow more, and so are naturally encouraging other businesses to jump on board too.

For example, Nike, a popular sportswear company, have started to bring forward water-saving policies and use more recycled and organic materials in their products. Similarly, Marks and Spencer’s, a high street store, have also started to adopt more eco-friendly practice by using organic cotton for the majority of their clothing products.

Other clothing companies, like H&M, have made some huge changes to their production process. For example, they’ve started using used plastic bottles to create recycled polyester that can be used to make clothes. On top of that, in 2020 they were in the top 5 of the ‘Fashion Revolutions Transparency Index’, a tool created to compare companies and their transparency towards their environmental and sustainability efforts.

What effect can shopping sustainably have on the environment?

According to ACE (Action for the Climate Emergency), the fashion industry is responsible for around 10% of annual carbon emissions. So, by shopping sustainably, we can help reduce the amount of carbon emissions and lower the supply and demand cycle for fast fashion.

Alongside carbon emissions and greenhouse emissions, the synthetic materials and textiles used in the process of making garments uses tonnes of water. In fact, the ACE reported that for ‘a single cotton shirt to be made, it requires 2,700 litres of water, which is enough water for someone to drink for 2 and a half years.’ Crazy, huh!

On top of that, the online influencers we see today mostly promote a maximalist lifestyle, keeping us up to date with the latest fashion trends and encouraging us to purchase more clothes. With trends constantly changing and the pressure of social media impacting what we buy, we are producing more textile waste than ever before. Companies are also competing to provide high volumes of cheap clothes with a quick turnaround so we can get our hands on the latest must have trends. With this, there is more waste, plastic fibres and toxic dyes ending up in the oceans, harming sea life and polluting the environment.

By shopping smarter and thinking about the items you buy, you can make sure you are only buying the clothes you need. Other ways to be more sustainable are to shop in small independent businesses, buy second hand from charity shops, and look out for quality, timeless items that are guaranteed to last over the years. When it comes to fashion and sustainability, quality over quantity is one of the best ways to reduce our carbon footprint. With more quality items, you can travel time and time again with pieces of clothing that won’t let you down. And if you do need to revamp your wardrobe, you now know how to shop more sustainably and find clothes that have less of an impact on the planet.

If you’re heading on holiday soon and use this article to help you find more sustainable clothing to take with you, why not capture a photo of your suitcase and use the hashtag #BeMoreAlpha?


* Reports produced by Forbes state that nearly ‘90% of Gen X said that they would be willing to spend an extra 10% or more for sustainable products, compared to just over 34% two years ago.’

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