When you put on an outfit, you are making a statement to the world. Maybe it’s about your most recent marathon, your current mood, or just that you look really good in red.
When we go shopping, we usually ask ourselves a few questions. What size is this? How much is this? Which brand is this? But, have you ever stopped and wondered who made your clothing? Where was it produced? Where did the material come from? What story do your clothes tell?
Unfortunately, we are living in a world where your favorite t-shirt is likely telling the story of underpaid workers, long distance travel dependent on fossil fuels, and materials that require extraordinary amounts of water and pesticides.
How could this be? The answer is fast fashion. Companies churn out high volumes of low-priced clothing at the devastating expense of workers and our planet. In the world’s least developed countries, an estimated 40 million people sew more than 1.5 billion garments in 250,000 factories and sweatshops each year. In many cases, these workers are not provided with fair wages or ethical working conditions.
Cotton, one of the fashion industry’s commonly used textiles, is among the most pesticide-intensive crops. Conventional cotton uses approximately 16% of the world’s insecticides and 7% of its pesticides. To make matters worse, cotton requires more water than most other crops with every pair of jeans taking 1,800 gallons of water.
The output of the apparel and footwear industries is 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That accounts for more than international flights and shipping combined! Emissions stem from textile production, to international shipping, to disposal of garments in landfills or incinerators. At its rapidly expanding rate, the fashion industry may be responsible for a full quarter of global emissions by 2050.
The good news is that consumers (you!) can make informed decisions with our fashion choices. When considering getting a new clothing item, refer to the Buyerarchy of Needs: use what you have, borrow, swap, thrift, make, then buy – in that order. When you choose to use what you already have, borrow, swap, or thrift, you extend the life of clothing that already exists and don’t contribute to further negative impacts of the fast fashion industry.
If you’re looking to buy something new, you’re in the right place! There are great companies in the industry working toward positive outcomes through deep commitment for people and planet.
Turning Green is honored to partner with companies and designers who embody sustainable and ethical fashion. Check out our lookbook below, modeled by Project Green Challenge 2019 Finalists, to learn more about these awesome brands!
Turning Green’s Eco-Fashion Lookbook
Atelier Alienor is a French shoe company dedicated to preserving French culture and preserving the environment at the same time. Their shoes are made in small batches with recycled animal skins and have incredible attention to detail. Handcrafting shoes since 2017, Atelier Alienor seeks 100% authenticity in their process, from the materials used to the artisans who create the shoes. Through passion and tradition, their espadrilles are crafted to empower women and create an endless summer.
From the start, Earth has believed that one of their main responsibilities was preserving the planet for the people who depend on it. That is why, since 2015, they have planted over half a million trees in sub Saharan Africa to provide locals with materials and nutrients for crops. They have gone beyond the basic principles of comfort and style to create shoes that are simple and sustainable. Their shoe making methods include water based non toxic glues, vegan leather, and glue free shoeboxes to ensure they are doing their part for the planet. Earth also donated thousands of pairs of shoes in 2015 alone by working with Soles4Souls, a global enterprise dedicated to fighting poverty by donating shoes and clothing.
Industry of All Nations isn’t just a clothing brand, it’s a movement. They believe that no matter what product, whether it be shoes, sweaters, or pants, clothing creates life. That is why Industry of All Nations works with various communities around the world to foster sustainable practices and maintain the traditions of the people and places in which their clothes are made. They believe that we should live in a world where we shop for only what we need, where we buy consciously and less.
Jungmaven was born out of activism. As a college student, Rob Jungman learned that hemp could combat deforestation with its regenerative properties that clean the water, air, and soil. So, he created a hemp tee, and the simple yet sustainable brand was born. Jungmaven is produced in the USA and their clothing is made from natural materials like hemp and organic cotton. In 2010, Rob launched HEMP 2020, a campaign to raise awareness around the positive environmental impacts of hemp farming. He sees hemp’s potential to mitigate climate change as one of the greatest opportunities of our generation.
Mata Traders is a fair trade fashion brand that aims to reduce global poverty and provide stable incomes for impoverished families. With unique patterns and vibrant colors, Mata Traders makes clothing to empower women in their everyday lives. Mata means “mother” in Hindi, and is meant to tribute female creativity. When you make a purchase from Mata Traders, you are not only buying a piece of clothing or jewelry, but you are also empowering women, fighting child labor, and preserving traditions alive.
MATE The Label is dedicated to creating clothes at the highest standard, integrating organic cotton and natural dyes into their clothing. Sustainability for MATE The Label goes beyond making the clothes, as the packaging is made from recyclable materials and the clothing itself can be recycled back to their shop. Not to mention, they reduce their carbon footprint by using a local manufacturer just 10 miles away. MATE The Label is a brand for women by women, and they stand by their commitment to offer women the best product possible.
Nau is the first sustainable performance wear brand dedicated to creating long-lasting and comfortable clothing from the best sources possible. Their values include using sustainable textiles, creating hi-tech clothing, and giving back to environmentalist causes. 2% of every dollar spent by a customer goes directly to grassroots movements centered around the environment. Every piece of clothing bought from Nau supports sustainability efforts in every way possible.
Nudie Jeans’ environmental philosophy was present even before the first collection was designed. Providing jeans and clothing for everyone, Nudie Jeans products are made to last, with free repairs for life. Knowing the impacts of conventional cotton, their jeans have been made from 100% organic cotton since 2012. And, as of 2018, they’re also 100% vegan!
Outerknown makes clothing for both the people and the planet. Their commitment to sustainability starts with the makers, who share the same environmental values. Outerknown also carefully selects raw materials and partners that create the lowest ecological footprint. Their values also align with the other half of sustainability: the people. Outerknown seeks to build better and more responsible clothing by engaging partners and empowering the communities that create the clothes.
Prairie underground is a clothing manufacturer that seeks to combine self-expression, durability, and sustainability. Their commitment to local manufacturers ensures higher wages and better working conditions, while upkeeping American tradition. Every piece of clothing is guaranteed to be free of synthetics, as they blend organic cotton, along with other plant and recycled fibers, for a soft and luxurious texture. They strive to achieve and maintain high ethical and sustainable standards without sacrificing price and design. At Prairie Underground, inspiration is found in each person in order to change the world.
About the Authors:
Sophie is a senior at TC Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Through her experience as a Project Green Challenge finalist in 2018 she explored new aspects of environmentalism and sustainability and continues her efforts for environmental justice in her community. Sophie plans to major in Biology or Marine Sciences in college and work with marine conservation or environmental activism organizations in the future. Sophie also plays field hockey in her spare time and loves bake and spend time with family and friends.
Ilana is a masters student at SUNY ESF, studying ecology. She was the second place winner for the Project Green Challenge in 2017. Her passion for sustainability and conservation is taking her to a future in ecology conservation research with specific interests in plants, fungi and soils. She graduated from Dickinson College in 2019 with honors in Biology and a minor in art.