Sustainable Style #2: Facing Reality

The amount of pain and environmental damage the clothing industry has caused is absolutely devastating. I will admit that writing this post has been an upsetting experience so far. It has made me realize just how terrible parts of the industry are and it has shown me just how much I need to change my own ways. I will continue to see fashion and clothing as a way of expressing myself but I think there is a better way to accomplish what I want (a better way to interact with the industry). Many of us go through life relatively unaffected my the negative impacts the fashion industry can have. This often allows us to turn a blind eye to what is really going on. The most important thing we can do is recognize issues and begin to match our behavior to our beliefs.  

The fashion industry produces 4% of the world’s waste.

One garbage truck full of clothing is burned or sent to landfill every second.

Every year the average American throws away 82 pounds of textile waste.

The minimum wage for factory workers in Bangladesh is $64.

Burberry burned $40 million dollars worth of stock in 2017.

The documentary that kept coming up in my research of the fashion industry and sustainability was True Cost (on Amazon Prime right now). It is from 2015 so I can’t believe I haven’t seen it yet but I am glad I found it now. It covers a lot of ground and gives a good overall picture of the entire industry and who is impacted. It speaks to the recent move to fast fashion, from a four season turnover to constantly changing trends. As a side note, if you are not familiar with the term ‘fast fashion’ it refers to brands that are producing large amounts of clothing and selling them for low prices. The turnover for these brands is very quick since they are built on constantly creating new trends so people will continue to buy their products. The documentary also cover factory workers and how they are treated. This has received more and more attention but the working conditions of some factors are unacceptable. No one I know would want to work in such conditions, or have their children work is such conditions, therefore it is unacceptable to allow any company to permit these standards.  The film goes all the way down to the cotton industry and how fertilizers of such farms impact people.

This documentary gives a clear picture of the dangers of the industry for people. It also interviews some people who are really trying to do a good job in the industry. People who care about other people and who care about the environment. I overall highly recommend watching it! I will give a warning that this documentary shows real footage that is very graphic.

I will do a more detailed post in the future about clothing waste and how we can best go about reusing and recycling what we have but while I was researching for this I found out some things about the waste in the industry that I just had to share. Fashion houses engage in a practice of burning unsold stock. This completely appalls me, I almost have no words and I truly had no idea about this practice prior to writing this. I know that massive amounts of clothing end up in landfills every year, even from the things we donate. The waste part if the fashion industry is a huge problem and very multifaceted. We often don’t think about the waste that is generated when producing each item of clothing. That should factor in to the overall environmental cost of an item and of a company.

It is so important to first recognize that there is an issue and then focus on remedying that. I believe that companies (especially the big ones) have a responsibility to consumers, workers and to the environment. That responsibility should include both short term and long term goals toward better practices. I know that, for a company, the problems are much more complex since a priority for most is economic success. The issue is that I see economic success as a short term, immediate reward. Companies may have strategies for the next however many years that involved growth and increase in total revenue but there is a lack of vision when it comes to potential environmental or social issues. There will be no revenue for a clothing company if our planet falls apart. This sounds extreme but as a scientist and researcher I have witness many environmental issues first hand and I know just how devastating an impact humans can have on the world. It is all a circle because damaging the environment will also have negative impacts on our standards of living.

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From the Global Fashion Agenda 2018 Pulse Report: Four Transformational Priorities for Fundamental Change

I want to end with some final, tangible takeaways.

Buy less and buy better. I have been trying to achieve this throughout the past year but it has become so clear to me that I need to hold myself to a much higher standard and really stick to that.

Eliminate waste. I have been going through my closet recently as a part of this journey to made a more eco-conscious closet and while researching waste and what happens to clothing once donated I realized that I need to try my best not to throw away. Instead I need to find new uses for things.

Advocate for a better industry. For a few years now I have let myself believe that not causing conflict was best for my own interest and journey. I used to be very vocally passionate about multiple issues and have been criticized for that. Learning about the true issues with this industry have reminded me of how important it is to speak up and advocate for what you believe in. Change happens through awareness.

Facts and information come from the following sources:

Global Fashion Agenda 2018 Pulse Report

True Cost Documentary

Forbes article: Fashion’s Dirty Little Secret

The New York Times on H&M’s Declining Sales

Reuters Article on Burberry Burning Stock

By the Numbers: The Economic, Social and Environmental Impacts of “Fast Fashion”

The Fashion Law on Bangladeshi Garment Workers

Planet Aid Article on Clothing Habits

I would really love to hear your thoughts on this subject. It can be a tough one to deal with but hearing multiple opinions is a helpful way of looking at things. Thanks for reading!

Erin

Sustainable Brand Highlight: Everlane

UPDATE: I completely forgot to mention that Nordstrom is carrying Everlane right now.

Along with this new Sustainable Style Series that I am doing I wanted to highlight a brand every month that does a great job of creating clothing it a sustainable way. There are lots of factors that are involved in this process so I will do my best to explain how a brand is “sustainable” and what their views are on sustainable style. I am starting with Everlane since it is my favorite for basics. Everything is so cute, stylish and affordable. They are also very transparent about the whole process of making a piece (cost and all). I also think it is a brand that makes clothing that is high quality and lasts for a long time. That is such an important part of creating a sustainable brand since ultimately we don’t want to keep producing and buying.

I have been going to Everlane for pretty much everything before looking anywhere else. Before I share some of my favorites from them I wanted to share some things that I have had my eye on. First are these knit booties. I love that they are unique and stylish. I have not tried any Everlane shoes yet but I am hoping to in the future! Next are these wide leg pants. I usually stick to skinny or straight leg but I am loving these. Finally, I have had my eye on their puffer jackets since last year.

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This white sweater has been my obsession for several weeks now. It is such great quality, so comfortable and so classic!
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I will say that I have not tried many of there pants/jeans but they are all look amazing. I do have these black jeans that they are great (also on sale right now for such a great price)!
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This mock neck is from last year but they have a similar style here.
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Such a comfortable henley waffle shirt! I am also just loving this color for fall.
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There loungewear is also great quality. I can just tell it will last a long time. This sweatshirt is sold out now but the hoodie they do have in stock looks so comfy (that brass color is so nice).
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This might be one of the best purchases for value I have made all year. This t-shirt dress is so comfortable, a great color and affordable. It is sold out now but hopefully they will bring it back next summer (they do still have a cotton shirtdress in stock).

I also wanted to mention that I have an Everlane backpack and I love it. It is such great quality and mine is black so it goes with everything.

I hope you enjoyed! Let me know what your favorite ‘sustainable brands’ are!

Erin

Sustainable Style #1: A New Series

While I love fashion and I love expressing myself through what I wear, I am also a scientist, environmentalist and a nature enthusiast. These can be very conflicting seeing as how much of an impact the fashion industry has had on the environment. I have waited way to long to write this post and to take this issue seriously so it is very much time to hold myself accountable.

I will start by saying that even if you don’t really care about trends or style you can care about this issue because you still have an impact on the environment via what you wear because everything we buy has an impact. Beyond just direct environmental impact (throwing things away), our decision to buy something supports a certain company and sends a specific message. We might be supporting a company that doesn’t regulate their factories or uses highly impactful material or that produces a lot of waste, and not even know we are doing so. Therefore I think sustainable style is a problem for everyone, not just people who care a ton about what they wear.

I do think that, as someone who does love clothes and style, I should be even more conscious of the industry and impacts it has both socially and environmentally. My goal for right now is to go on a journey that delves into sustainable style and to revisit who I am as a consumer. I am going to share this journey through a series of sustainable style blog posts. I will start with one post a month. That post is going to be well-researched and it will always have a personal twist that gives some insight into how I am doing on this adventure and how I am going to change things or try things based on that month’s topic.

Over the past five or so years I have really struggled with expressing both of these sides of myself (my love for fashion and my love for the environment). I often sort of argue with myself about what to do and how to care for the environment while still expressing myself and sharing a big passion. I can’t say I have come to a place that I feel good about yet but I want to get there. I think this series is not only a way for me to share what I learn but also to really push myself to do better and be more conscious of my impacts. I want to feel good about both of these passions and feel like they can, in some way, interact positively.

I want to also give a disclaimer that I am not going to change my wardrobe or ways (as a consumer) overnight. I am not just going to throw things away and buy new things, from companies that are ‘environmentally friendly’, this also defeats the point seeing as I would be throwing a way a lot of clothing. I am going to be methodical and take time to figure out how to bring two worlds together (in the context my wardrobe and my closet). My goal for the next post in the series will be to focus on getting some real facts about the industry and some basics things I can do.

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Incorporating a vintage skirt into an everyday outfit!
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My absolute favorite crop top/sports bra right now is from The Girlfriend Collective.

I invite you will follow along on this journey, AND I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences throughout the process!!!

Erin