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In pursuing a more environmentally conscious fashion sense, there are many small efforts you can take to improve your wardrobe. Having a look at the garments that make up your physical identity, and taking the time to think about what choices you have made, is something that we should all consider. Being aware that the decisions we make have an impact on entire systems and processes is a very important first-step in understanding the social responsibility we have as consumers, to implement sustainability in to our personal fashion judgements.
Here are six steps for the environmentally conscious to achieve some degree of sustainability:
1. Lowering consumption
Feeding in to the effects of fast fashion has lead us to believe we must constantly be spending money on new items of clothing, only to refill our wardrobes with a new batch of mundane, unoriginal garments that hold no value other than being ‘on-trend’ at that current time. The excessive consumerism in today’s fashion spheres are a root cause for this industry being one of the world’s most detrimental. Reminding ourselves why we are making a purchase, before we do so, will help to change the mindset of linking consumptions to temporary happiness. It is better to purchase a small number of durable, high quality items, which you will get good wear out of, instead of multiple items made using cheap and harmful fabrics, likely to fall apart quite easily.
Garments that are no longer of use take up room in our homes. We hold onto them because they can hold sentimental value, which makes it difficult to part ways with them. However, having an emotional attachment to our clothing is something that can drive us to increase the longevity and wear of these pieces. Upcycling, finding more uses or repairing older clothes to make them into an item that is modern, and refreshing, not only creates more meaning to your garments, but helps to lower your impact on an economic, environmental and social level. If you are transitioning away from polyesters and synthetics, especially being worn on your skin, try upcycling your old hijabs into gift wrap, donating them at local arts and craft workshops, or creating soft furnishings.
Understanding the process and story behind what made that item of clothing will increase its value and will make you think twice before simply throwing away unwanted luxury items. Knowing that your unworn clothing is being made good use of by your friends, family or neighbours is always a warm feeling. One step better, donate your clothing to charity. Our mother Aisha (May God be pleased with her) used to perfume her donations; a beautiful deed with a beautiful physical presence to match. Fold the items you are donating, package them neatly, and extend your new mindful approach to every element of what you are doing. It is also possible to donate clothing to textile recycling bins where the material will then go on to make new fabric, instead of utilising new raw materials, gallons of water and non-renewable energy.
4. Buying Quality
Although this can perhaps be more expensive initially; focused buying based upon the quality of an item, reduces your carbon footprint in consciously avoiding meaningless purchases. One reason for high consumption is that clothing has simply become a cheap, low value item. We buy to replace clothing that has lost its appeal and shape, after only a few months or wash cycles. Regardless of high or low price points, we all face the disappointment of an outfit not having the same fresh properties that existed when we first made our purchase. What is of extreme importance, is to reflect on the quality and durability of a particular fabric, and if it is justified in its pricing.
5. Brand research
Buy from brands that acknowledge environmental and social issues, and where possible, avoid brands that are known to exploit their workers or do not offer any level of transparency, particularly where materials are concerned. Looking into the history, ethics and morals of companies you perhaps subconsciously support, can open your eyes to what journey your belongings have taken before you make that transaction. Seeking out businesses that practice the principles of fair trade, will assure you that every design and work process; from manufacturing to marketing; has been produced and delivered ethically and sustainably. Supporting small artisanal brands or brands that collaborate with rural artisans, helps to support hard working individuals and their families, who would normally find it really difficult to make ends meet. It also preserves decades of rich heritage and skill, which many of the younger generation are reluctant to learn, due to the lack of profitability in such creative fields.
6. Take care of your clothes
The cycle of buying can be significantly reduced by simply reading care instructions on the labels of our clothing. It seems simple enough, but before purchasing, ensure to check if the items must be dry cleaned or hand-washed, to avoid the regret of ruining the integrity of fabrics in the washing machine. On the other hand, washing clothes also has a significant environmental impact. From the 60,000 litres of water used in a household through washing machines alone, to the energy used to heat the water; try to use small, lower temperature cycles wherever possible.
It is difficult to be a perfectly sustainable consumer in today’s world of fashion, but, understanding the repercussions of our choices is what makes us both environmentally and socially conscious. Looking at the bigger picture; we can all serve to do our part in attempting to lessen the negative impact on this planet we call home. Making small changes and developing healthier habits, one step at a time, is highly effective. This alone initiates conversations about the importance of our roles in changing the way this industry functions and the systems supporting it.
Think globally; act locally. Care for others; start with yourself.