Statement Sustained: A guide to sustainability

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Myla Garlitz and Ashton Bisner

So, you’re following that link from the clothing haul Tik Tok and it brought you to the fast fashion sites. You might think it’s more affordable and that sometimes it’s overwhelming to actually try and find brands that are truly as eco-friendly as they claim to be. However, sustainability doesn’t have to be intimidating or even costly, so exit that tab and let us show you how. The best way to learn more is by breaking down the terminology used, what do brands really mean when they say that they’re “sustainable” and how do we identify truly ethically sourced brands to shop from. 

Sustainable

The effect that the manufacturing and production of a product has on the environment. Look at the big picture and how a company will put forth efforts to create something with the least amount of damage to the world around us. Think about how it’s taken from the planet and how it will return. 

Greenwashing

When a company/brand releases false or misleading information about how ethical or sustainable something is. This includes exaggerating on statistics, or not providing all of the facts on something. Large companies are oftentimes guilty of this because they mass or overproduce. For example, exaggerating advertisements that state a brand has an upcoming “sustainable” fashion line; meanwhile having tons of garments and products that aren’t ethically sourced in their inventory. Aja Barber, a sustainability writer, in a discussion with Asad Rehman on the Al Jazeera YouTube channel that “A corporation can only work in its own best interest which means that if destroying the planet stands in the way of a profit margin then let’s massage the truth about what we’re doing but that doesn’t mean we stop destroying the planet.” 

Things to look out for: fluffy language or jargon, green products from dirty companies (make ethical products while their factory causes pollution), claims that they are “greener” than the rest, fake endorsements and irrelevant claims. 

Ethical

This term often refers to how people are being treated. A great way to know if a brand is ethical is by researching to see how much information about the work environment and treatment of employees is available.

Fast Fashion

Fast fashion consists of garments that have a short-lasting life cycle. These pieces of clothing are considered “fast” not only because of how quickly they are coming in and out of style, but also how quickly they are being produced. In an interview on the Creative Rebels podcast, Lauren Bravo, author of How to Break Up with Fast Fashion, defines fast fashion as, “The big industry retailers we’re all familiar with, they are churning things out on a weekly basis which means that clothes are not on the shop floor for very long, which means there’s a lot more waste because they’re basically producing more clothes than we could ever buy or wear.” Most companies in this “fast fashion” category can get a design from the drawing board to the shop floor in well under ten days, helping breed and instill microtrends. 

Model Sophia Cobb poses for photo, representing change and adopting sustainable behaviors. (Ashton Bisner)

Cruelty-free

Referring to the welfare of animals. Were any animals harmed during the manufacturing and production of the product? This can be anywhere from animal testing for makeup or animal byproduct within a fashion garment. A good indicator that a product is cruelty-free are labels that say “vegan.” A perfect example for something that is cruelty free is a material called Piñatex. This is an alternative to leather invented by Dr. Carmen Hijosa. In a YouTube video published by her brand Anaas Anam, Hijosa describes how her material has a low environmental impact, “[the new material] is derived from pineapple leaves. The leaves are a byproduct of the fruit harvest; they do not require additional land, water, fertilizer or fuel to grow.”

Organic

This term is in regard to the materials of a product and means that the fibers are naturally grown and manufactured/produced absent of toxic materials, chemicals and byproducts. Cotton and silk for example, often use very little chemical processing and are biodegradable. 

Conscious

This term is usually paired up in conscious fashion or conscious consumerism or conscious clothing. When you see this term, it’s essentially a synonym for sustainable or eco-friendly. A brand called Conscious Clothing is yet another great example of an accountable and trustworthy company. They have a sustainability section on their website that lays out what products, practices and fabrics that they use. Remember, that companies that are proud of their ethical efforts, will display them when they have nothing to hide. 

Conscious consumerism 

Something that everyone can take part in. This is when you are mindful of what you’re investing in and what those investments support. Things to help you practice this:

Ask yourself: 

Is this piece timeless? Is it something that’s trending now? Will you wear it in one  Instagram photo and then never again? What are pieces you already own that go with it?

  1. Buy less, the biggest issue right now is overconsumption and the easiest way to fix it is to buy less.
  2. Buy from brands that make an effort using identifiers mentioned above 
  3. Buy used, go thrifting, buy garments and give them new life
  4. Buy quality over quantity
  5. Buy materials like cotton over polyester
  6. Try repairing, altering, or donating old clothes
  7. Buy from countries with stricter environmental regulations for factories (EU, Canada, US, etc…)