In this post we are going to discuss a question that many of us have found ourselves pondering at some point: What should I wear? That said, we will not be discussing the latest fashion trends or runway styles -- instead, we are going to look at how we can best navigate the ever-changing fashion landscape through the lens of environmental sustainability.
I am sure we are all familiar with the notion of environmental sustainability: it is the idea that we should both produce and consume in a way that, at least, attempts to limit the degradation of natural resources. However, as a consumer, it is not always so straightforward: How do we know what is, and is not, sustainable? And, equally as important, how do we know which retailers best fit the aforementioned criteria?
While these questions are not easily answered, there are some general guidelines. First, as was mentioned previously, you can rarely go wrong with either buying second-hand or making your own clothes. For many of us, however, buying mass-produced apparel - to some degree - is an inescapable aspect of our lives. With this in mind, let’s look at how we can be best informed to make eco-friendly decisions:
How does environmental sustainability apply, generally, to the fashion world?
Undress Runways provides a nice overview of the issue here. They summarize their thoughts with the following:
Sustainable fashion is about being kind to our environment, responsible with our resources and treating our fellow garment workers like human beings. This means looking at the tag, using what you have and being creative in our wardrobe choices.
They go on to explain how we must consider the process as a whole: from the materials used, to distribution, to how we care for our apparel after we have purchased it.
How can I evaluate retailers according to these principles?
This is a much more difficult question, as answers often rely on information that is nearly impossible to verify. Nevertheless, one resource which claims to address this question is Rank a Brand:
Rank a Brand is an independent and reliable brand-comparison website that assesses and ranks consumer brands in several sectors on sustainability and social responsibility. Our rankings and assessments are fully transparent.
Here is an overview of their ranking process:
- "Our rankings are based on the answers to lists of very specific, closely targeted questions."
- "Brand by brand, we scour their websites and other public sources for the answers to our carefully targeted questions."
- "For each brand, we make an online report card, which is shown on our website on the page for that brand, at the bottom of that page. Each one shows you exactly which questions we asked, and where we found the answers."
You can read the full details about how they work on this page.
A Call to Action
While we attempted to answer some key questions above, one of the most important factors in achieving sustainability is continuing to seek out information. So the next time you find yourself wondering what you should wear, perhaps you should also take a moment to evaluate how well your choices meet the criteria of sustainability.