What should you consider when buying sustainable?
Perhaps you’ve recently decided that you want to shop a little more consciously, choosing loose fruit and veg instead of in plastic packaging, buying sustainable products over cheap mass made ones. But what happens when it comes to clothes? Where do you find sustainable fashion items and how do you know if the products they make are actually better for the environment? There are many big brands and businesses that are jumping on the sustainable living bandwagon which is definitely in the right direction, but we have to be careful that we’re not being reeled in by greenwashing campaigns. I’ve put together a few things to look out for when shopping for sustainable clothing and footwear.
1. The brand
Although this isn’t a perfect rule, many smaller sustainable businesses usually care a great deal more about the finer details, digging deeper into their manufacturing line, finding out where their suppliers get their material from etc and will only settle when totally convinced it is the right path. Buying from small businesses also has loads more benefits. If you are looking to make a purchase from a bigger, more well known brand, they should have some information attached to their website relating to the materials they use and where they source them from. If they don’t, ask them! If they are selling ‘planet-friendly’ products, they should be able to back up that claim.
2. The materials they use
Most sustainable brands are much more transparent with exactly what their products are made from. You will usually be able to find material information on the product page or somewhere else on their website. It’s worth noting here that there is no one material that doesn’t have an environmental impact. The aim is to be using materials that have the smallest footprint. For example, cotton requires a huge amount of water to grow, but organic cotton requires a lot less, produces up to 94% less greenhouse gas emissions, plus it doesn’t use pesticides which is a huge win for the bees and the people that grow it. Although fabrics like polyester and acrylic are made from plastic, don’t instantly dismiss them. They are a lot harder wearing and quick drying which is essential for items such as shoes, swimwear and rain jackets. It also means that the products you buy will last a lot longer which slows down the rate of new items we buy. Some businesses now are also now using recycled polyester and leather which involves making use of waste products instead of sending them to landfill.
3. Their ethics
We have a responsibility to not only look after our planet, but also those who live on it too. Sustainable and ethical business practises usually go hand in hand which means that many sustainable businesses may also be members of ethical organisations. Certified companies are required to meet strict rules on ethical practises including fair wage, gender equality and access to basic services. Check for stamps of approval like Fair Trade, Fair Wear or GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). The issue with these organisations is that it can be quite expensive to get certified. Although some small businesses may not be able to afford the sustainable and ethical certificates, they are usually always very transparent and happy to answer any questions. If you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask!
So how do you go about finding these amazing brands? There are some apps now that rate brands on their ethical and sustainable effort such as Good On You who do all the research for you. Searching social media is great as this is an easy and cheap way for small businesses to start promoting their products. Try scrolling through hashtags such as #slowfashion, #ecofashion or even something more specific like #sustainableshoes. Start following some sustainable influencers or bloggers as they usually do a lot of their own research into a brand before they agree to promote it.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to whether a brand can back up their claims of sustainability. By searching sustainable you can find some amazing new brands, and if your favourite brands don’t seem to be doing enough, tell them! Don’t forget that as a consumer you have power to force change!
This blog is in partnership with Wildling Shoes for Fashion Revolution Week. Check out their information on sustainability below: