More and more people are hearing about sustainable fashion, with the phrase seemingly becoming somewhat of a buzzword. It goes far beyond that, however, and is a lifestyle choice focused on protecting the environment. Fast fashion affects the planet more than the average consumer is aware.

From underpaid workers to polluting waterways, this is seen in countless ways. Choosing sustainable fashion is the most effective way of counteracting that. From figuring out how your style choices affect the environment to picking sustainable fashion brands, a lot could confuse you about the industry.

Don’t settle for that and stick to hurting the planet. Find out more about sustainable fashion, why you need to change the clothes you buy, and how you can do it. Let’s dive in.

Understanding Sustainable Fashion

So, what is sustainable fashion? It’s a choice by brands to focus on environmentally friendly production methods, down to the fabrics they use and source. Even how the products are shipped are as eco-friendly as possible. These brands minimize – or outright eradicate – the impact fashion usually has on the environment.

It doesn’t just focus on the environmental impact, however. Brands go out of their way to make sure the clothes they sell are made ethically. Workers are not only better paid, but they have healthier and more sustainable working conditions.

There are multiple examples of sustainable fashion in practice, with these not just being used by brands. Consumers also put effort into this as they become more eco-conscious. Some of the more notable examples of this include:

  1. Ethical Fashion – This focuses on making sure all articles of clothing meet Fair Trade requirements, focusing on ensuring no people or animals are affected by production. No harm comes to people or animals, making them a much more ethical choice, hence the name.
  2. Circular Fashion – Circular fashion focuses on ensuring any materials used in the manufacturing process are reused as much as possible. When recycled, they make their way back to the manufacturing facility to be used in the creation of new clothes.
  3. Slow Fashion – The opposite of fast fashion, slow fashion takes a long-term view and keeps a product’s long-term lifespan in mind. Brands and consumers make sure their clothes last as long as possible.
  4. Conscious Fashion – More about branding and marketing, conscious fashion focuses on educating consumers about the impact their fashion choices have. It encourages them to become greener with these choices and actually considers their environmental impact.

As different as each of these are, they all have a few common characteristics. Minimizing and avoiding the impact fashion has on the environment is the most notable of these, but there are a few others you might want to be aware of:

  • Low ecological impact associated with materials
  • Promoting the social development of the area the clothes are made in
  • Upcycling materials to make garments
  • Using fair and ethical production techniques

So, why is sustainable fashion actually important? The most obvious reason for this is it helps protect the environment. It avoids you doing any harm to the planet, as well as providing more ethical and healthier jobs to the people who make these clothes.

Between the chemicals and microplastics fast fashion uses, it has much more of an impact on the environment than many people think. It’s worth diving into exactly how some fashion choices compromise the environment and wreak havoc across natural habitats.

The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion has a significant impact on the environment and is actively harmful to it. There’s no overstating this, and the harm can be seen in more than a few areas. These include:

  • Water – Fast fashion uses an excessive amount of water, with 700 gallons of water being needed to make a simple cotton shirt. This gets worse with other types of clothing, with most of this water being wasted.
  • Microplastics – Microplastics are pieces of plastic measuring less than 5mm in size. These don’t degrade and continue to pollute the environment for centuries. The fast fashion industry is responsible for 35% of all microplastics that reach the environment, making it actively dangerous.
  • Energy – Making clothes is traditionally an energy intensive process, with petroleum often being used to power it, releasing carbon emissions into the environment. That fuels climate change, actively harming the planet.

That being said, the environment isn’t the only thing that fast fashion affects.

The Human Cost of Fast Fashion

The impact on the environment isn’t the only factor you’ll have to consider. You’ll also need to consider the human cost of the industry. As a 2013 factory collapse in Bangladesh proves, this is much larger than most people realize.

Many workers in the fast fashion industry – often employed in third-world countries – work in toxic and unhealthy working conditions. There aren’t any safety precautions, and they’re continually exposed to harmful chemicals.

Despite this risk to their safety, they’re almost always underpaid, with monthly paychecks being in the single figures.

The Principles of Sustainable Fashion

Image Credit: JillWellington from Pixabay.

Above, we mentioned that sustainable fashion has a few core characteristics, but there’s far more to this than meets the eye. It’s driven by six principles that dictate whether a fashion brand is sustainable or not. These all focus on helping make the world a better place. That’s not just seen in being eco-conscious, but also by making it a more ethical place.

If you’re looking for sustainable fashion brands, it’s worth making sure they embrace each of these principles:

  1. Transparent Supply Chains – Sustainable brands make it obvious where and how their clothes were made, down to the materials used during production. Everything is easily traceable, and you shouldn’t have a problem making sure it’s above board.
  2. Efficient Material Use – The more materials used in making clothes, the less sustainable it is. To counteract this, sustainable brands use materials efficiently. That extends to the water, energy, and chemicals they use during manufacturing.
  3. Sustainable Materials – Speaking of materials, environmentally friendly brands only use sustainable options. They use fabrics that don’t pollute the environment or harm people or animals.
  4. Safe & Fair Working Conditions – Sustainable fashion also focuses on safe and ethical production methods. It extends to making sure workers have fair, healthy, and safe working conditions, as well as being paid properly.
  5. Regulatory Compliance – It’s not uncommon for clothing to make its way through several countries between sourcing materials and when it gets in front of a consumer. Sustainable brands make sure they’re compliant with all local regulations throughout this process.
  6. Recycling – Sustainable brands recycle as much as they can, with no material going to waste. Anything that can be reused, is reused. It drastically cuts down on the impact making new clothes and products has.

While it might take a bit of time, and even a larger investment in your clothes, to switch to brands that follow these principles, it’s more than worth it. Sustainability not only helps the planet but also helps you in the long-term.

Making sustainable fashion choices often seems complicated, however. It’s worth taking a look at how you can make it easier for yourself.

How to Make Sustainable Fashion Choices

With the effects fast fashion has on the environment and human health, there’s no reason not to switch to sustainable fashion. There’s one obstacle to that, however: being able to make sustainable fashion choices. As complicated as this seems, it’s far easier than you might’ve imagined.

All you’ll need to do is focus on a few specific areas:

  • Look For Sustainable Logos – There are countless organizations around the world focusing on certifying brands for their sustainability, with Fair Trade being one of the more notable. All of these focus on sustainability best practices, so they’re worth looking out for. The more sustainable logos associated with a specific brand, the better.
  • Look At The Materials – Some materials are more environmentally friendly than others, making them worth focusing on. Choose options that are either organic or recycled to avoid any harmful impacts on the environment. As mentioned above, make sure these are certified as organic or sustainable.
  • Research The Brand – If you’re unsure about whether a specific brand is environmentally friendly, spend some time researching it. The more information you can find out about it, the better. If everything matches up, you shouldn’t have a problem buying from them.

Sticking to brands that show all of these signs makes sure you’re being as sustainable with your fashion choices as possible. There’s also the issue of greenwashing, however, which can be much more of an issue than most consumers know. It’s worth diving into what this is and how you can spot it.

Spotting Greenwashing in the Fashion Industry

Greenwashing is when brands use fake or misleading claims about how environmentally friendly they are. Companies realize consumers are paying more attention to sustainability and try to capitalize on this with marketing tactics rather than actually being sustainable. It’s easy to fall for these tactics, but how do you avoid it?

Thankfully, it’s much easier than you’d think, but it involves you putting in a little bit of effort. Checking for verifiable information is a great way of starting with this. If a brand makes a claim, go out of your way to see if they’re telling the truth. Looking for certification from reputable organizations is great for this.

If the brand also makes vague statements, it should be seen as a warning sign. Make sure they have specific and backed-up claims in all of their marketing.

Sustainable Fashion Brands to Support

Image Credit: Pexels from Pixabay.

As mentioned above, making sustainable fashion choices can be difficult, but there are more than a few ways to make it easier. All of the above tips can be highly effective with this, but what if there was a way to make it quick and easy?

By sticking to a few specific brands, you make it as simple as going to their website and buying. Thankfully, there are more than a few brands certified as sustainable. They’re more than worth your attention:

  1. Patagonia
  2. Pact
  3. Reformation
  4. Quince
  5. Sézane
  6. tentree
  7. Amour Vert
  8. Kotn
  9. Fair Indigo
  10. ADAY

Choosing these instead of other brands is a sure-fire way to make sustainable fashion choices.

The Future of Sustainable Fashion

Sustainable fashion has become increasingly popular, with brands putting more and more effort into it. That doesn’t mean the industry has been the same as it always has been. Instead, quite a few trends are causing a significant shift in the sustainable fashion industry.

Many of these have been positive, with some of the more notable being:

  • Using Biodegradable Materials – Recycling has long been commonplace in the fashion industry, but it’s no longer the most sustainable way to use materials. More and more brands are using biodegradable materials, which are much more environmentally friendly. They decompose faster and are better for the environment.
  • Being Climate Positive – More brands are minimizing the impact they have on the climate, primarily focusing on carbon emissions. These continue to get lower, and it’ll end up becoming climate-positive. They’ll end up being better for the environment.
  • Rental Clothes – Increasing the lifespan of clothes is a hot topic, with one of the more notable ways of doing so is renting out clothes rather than selling them. This prolongs their lifespan, minimizing the long-term impact they have on the environment.

All of these are having a positive impact on the fashion industry, which is becoming increasingly more sustainable and ethical. As it continues, making sustainable fashion choices becomes increasingly easier.


Sustainable fashion counteracts the harmful impact of fast fashion, as well as much of the clothing industry at large. It prevents the damage that producing clothes has on the environment, as well as making sure workers are paid fairly and are employed in safe and ethical conditions.

Eco-conscious consumers don’t have an excuse to make the switch, and it’s much easier to do than you could think. If you want to stop polluting the environment, encouraging slave labor, and look after natural habitats, you’ve no reason not to make the switch.


What is considered sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion, often referred to as eco-fashion, is a movement and approach that seeks to foster a fashion system that prioritizes ecological integrity and social justice. This includes the entire lifecycle of clothing, from design, raw material production, and manufacturing, to transportation, storage, marketing, and final sale. It also encompasses the use and eventual recycling or disposal of the fashion product.

Is Zara considered sustainable?

As of their last update in September 2021, Zara, owned by the fashion giant Inditex, has made efforts to improve its sustainability practices in response to increasing consumer demand for eco-friendly fashion and growing scrutiny of the fast fashion industry. However, whether Zara can be considered fully sustainable is a matter of debate.

How can fashion be more sustainable?

Making fashion more sustainable requires changes across the entire lifecycle of a garment, from the design phase to end-of-life considerations. Both consumers and industry players have roles to play in transforming the fashion sector.

What are the benefits of sustainable fashion?

Environmental benefits, social and ethical benefits, economic benefits, consumer benefits, brand and business benefits, and holistic well-being.