GARMENTS GOING GREEN
BY HANNAH OSTFIELD
With sustainability on the rise, you’re definitely aware of society’s best efforts to become more environmentally friendly, but especially within the realm of fashion. When you read this, you probably think of companies like Shein and Zaful which are major contributors to global fast fashion consumption unlike companies such as Reformation and Eillen Fisher who are taking steps towards a more sustainable and still stylish wardrobe. The dilemma here is the evident price gap as fast fashion companies produce and sell cheap clothes while buying pieces from Reformation and Eillen Fisher might just break your bank. A closer look at these clothes’ actual materials and production processes serves to illuminate this extremely prevalent conversation.
It’s an undeniable fact that companies like Shein, Zaful, and others are detrimental to the environment and its consumers alike, but what actually makes their clothing so harmful? Simply put, Shein produces an astounding number of clothing items on a daily basis as their designs quickly gain popularity and then become mass produced. Shein manufacturers’ rapid use of virgin polyester and large consumption of oil churns out the same amount of CO2 as approximately 180 coal-fired power plants. As a result, Shein produces about 6.3 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, an amount that falls well below the 45% target to reduce global carbon emissions by 2030, which the U.N. has said is necessary for fashion companies to implement to help prevent global warming. In addition to copious amounts of virgin polyester, consumers report that Shein clothing contains high levels of phthalates and formaldehyde, both chemicals that are extremely hazardous to human beings. This serves as a wake-up call for consumers to not let convenience and affordability distract them from the scary truth that is fast fashion production.
As society continues to learn more about the harmful effects of unsustainable fashion, more space has been allotted for companies like Reformation, Eileen Fisher, and others like it to produce sustainable, yet fashionable clothing for environmentally conscious consumers. Given that some fashion companies can so easily produce and sell unsustainable clothing, it’s understandable to be suspicious of companies that market themselves as sustainable. Aside from Reformation’s slogan ensuring their sustainable practices, what actually makes them so sustainable? For starters, Reformation has been entirely transparent with their consumers by publishing their quarterly sustainability reports, highlighting all of their practices. These practices include RefScale which tracks their products’ carbon and water footprint as well as calculates how their products help reduce these impacts compared with most clothes bought in the US. Since 2015, Reformation has been 100% carbon-neutral which means they have net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. But it’s not enough just to manufacture sustainably, so Reformation has also invested in projects that help to replace some of their most utilized resources like water and energy. What makes Reformation so sustainable is not only how they produce their products, but how they remain conscious of their energy usage as this affects their consumers and the planet.
By now, you’re probably wondering what you want your future wardrobe to look like, where best to invest your money, and what’s best for the environment. While fast fashion may be cheap and convenient, it’s best to invest your money in sustainable fashion companies as these purchases will pay off in the long run. Although these companies are more expensive, their cost per wear is exponentially less because their clothing is made to be much more durable and timeless. These are pieces that will remain in your wardrobe for years to come and never go out of style. For those who still want to dress sustainably, but can’t justify the high price, it’s okay because they are still better alternatives to fast fashion. Thrifting and buying second hand clothing are great ways to save money on shopping while still being environmentally conscious. Websites like Depop and ThredUp allow users to shop for second hand clothing without actually having to go to a thrift store. Thrifting, whether it be in person or online is an affordable, sustainable, and more uniquely stylish way to shop. Fast fashion, on the other hand, only follows ephemeral trends and is quite literally designed to fall apart after one wear. Next time you’re clothing shopping, remind yourself what you want out of your clothes and how clothing companies will provide you with that.