The Affordability of Sustainable Fashion
As Earth Day draws closer, I’ve been reading a lot of articles and musings on sustainable fashion and how we all can be more conscious consumers. The fashion industry is one of the major polluting industries in the world. The production and distribution of the crops, fibers, and garments used in fashion all contribute to differing forms of environmental pollution. Ethical issues in the industry include low wages to workers in second and third world countries, child labor, unsafe working conditions, and animal cruelty. The list for both the environmental and ethical issues within the fashion industry is long and extremely alarming. So, it’s no wonder that over 80 percent of people agree that the industry needs to become more sustainable.
I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer here with the dismal facts. I know when I’m bombarded by information about how negative the effects of my daily choices are on the environment, I start to feel hopeless. This then makes me almost feel paralyzed on where to start since the problems seem insurmountable. I recently listened to the podcast “Good Together” and heard the founder of Sheets & Giggles, a sustainable bedding company, discuss how sustainability conversations and products are often led with depressing facts, negativity, and anger. This really resonated with me because it is exactly how I have felt while doing all the research in launching JOLA.
But here is the one question that keeps bothering me: How can sustainable fashion be affordable to everyone?
Yes, I hear the arguments to this about how we can all buy less and buy second hand to reduce waste. But, buying second hand isn’t desirable or easy for everyone. I know people who won’t even check out books from the library because they are slight germaphobes (I’m not judging), so there’s no way they’re wearing someone else’s used clothing. And let’s say you are a very hard to fit size? Thrifting for the perfect shirt with a great fit takes a lot of effort, and many don’t have the time or geographical access to second hand stores.
Sustainably made clothing costs a lot more money than fast fashion garments do, and with good reason. They are made from fabrics that are natural fibers which cost more than fast fashion synthetic fibers do. Manufacturing processes are used that are better for preserving natural resources and create less pollution. Making ethically-conscious fabric and clothing is better for the people who are producing it too. But these sustainable practices cost much more money than the less desirable ones used to make fast fashion items. People with lower clothing budgets aren’t always in the position to be able to make these more sustainable choices. What’s a solution that everyone is able to make no matter what their socio-economic situation is?
Here’s the number one option that we all can choose: BUY LESS! No matter if you are able to afford a $10 t-shirt or a $200 t-shirt, do you really need it? If so, will you wear it for years to come? Or is it a shirt that will get worn a handful of times before you move onto something new? Do you really need a new dress for the wedding you were just invited to this summer? Or can one that you already own be reworked with different jewelry and shoes? I’ve been taking the time to put much more thought into how I can reduce the amount of waste in not only my closet but in what could potentially end up in a landfill and won’t break down for 200 years or more. Just this small shift in thinking has made me realize I don’t need to purchase as much as I have in the past. I’d much rather have a smaller, more efficiently organized closet of clothing than one packed full of a lot of items I no longer wear. And this can apply to everyone whether your closet is full of fast fashion or sustainable fashion. Buy less, buy second hand if that’s an option for you, and buy classic styles you will wear for years.