How to Save the Planet With Your Clothes

Want to save the planet? Here’s how sustainability and fashion come together.

Are you saddened, overwhelmed and unsure what to do when you see headlines about the destruction of the environment? You may be inspired to take action but don’t know where to start. I think it’s really hard to live with the fact that you know environmental destruction, habitat loss, polluted oceans are happening BUT you don’t know what do in your everyday life to make a difference. Especially if the issue is halfway around the world. If you really want to save the planet, rainforest, elephants, it can seem so esoteric, far away and impossible.

I think about this A LOT. Here are some ways to save the – fill in the blank – and you can do it starting with your closet!

So on Earth Day each year and beyond, here’s how to save the planet with your clothes:

Save the rainforest – None of us wants the tree from a rainforest on our backs. Avoid buying new clothes made from cellulose – rayon (aka viscose), lycocell, and/or modal. Avoid fast fashion brands as those clothes are typically made from rayon blends. These fabrics come from trees that are probably old growth rainforests. Another problem is the process is inefficient and more than 50% of the tree is lost in the process.

“More than 70 million trees from Indonesia, Canada, and Brazil are logged every year and turned into cellulosic fabric.” 

Read your labels and avoid these fabrics. Look for Tencel a trademarked fabric that uses less toxic processing and sources the cellulose from eucalyptus which is more sustainable. Support organizations like Canopy who works with the forest industry’s customers and their suppliers to develop business solutions that protect these forests.

Save the oceans (and the sea turtles!) – Avoid polyester (it’s plastic!). Stop using plastic bags, straws and bottles. Change how you clean and care for your clothes. Invest in a Guppy Friend to stop microfibers (released during clothes washing) from entering the water. Consider buying your clothing from companies like United By Blue that clean up waterways with every purchase.

Save the elephants or any other mammals – avoid clothes made from non-renewable petrochemicals – ie polyesters, acrylic, nylon. Petroleum extraction has a tremendous impact from exploration to extraction and then the manufacturing to spin it into fiber. Fifty million tons of polyester — a petroleum product — were produced in 2015. That was just for clothing (not plastics, not oil, not all the other petroleum products we consume).

Reduce pollution – avoid any new clothes unless they are certified by GOTS, OEKO-TEX or purchased secondhand. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is “the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibers. It defines high-level environmental criteria along the entire organic textiles supply chain and requires compliance with social criteria as well.” Only textile products that contain a minimum of 70% organic fibers can become GOTS certified. OEKO-TEXÒ 100 standard:  “…is an independent product label for all types of textiles tested for harmful substances – from yarns and fabrics to the ready-to-use items that you can buy in the shops. Product certification is only possible if all components of an end product comply with the required criteria.”

Support human rights and women’s rights –Fashion is a women’s rights issue. In some countries up to 90% of the people who make our cheap clothes are women. Shop Fair Trade. Look for the labels and logo. According to the Fair Trade Federation, “Fair trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity. Fair trade supports farmers and craftspeople in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized. These producers often face steep hurdles in finding markets and customers for their goods.”

What can you do to change your clothing shopping, clothing care or style habits to reduce the impact on the planet?

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