Sustainable and ethical fashion: What does it really mean?

Sustainable. Something that can continue over a period of time.

Ethical. Something that is morally right.

These two concepts are distinctly different and yet go hand-in-hand.

These two words carry meaning and yet the weight of that meaning can be subjective from person to person.

Let’s consider the two – sustainable and ethical – in the context of manufacturing. Specifically, the production of fashion. Though there isn’t a set definition for sustainable and ethical fashion production, we can start by looking at what they seek to achieve.

The goal of sustainable production is to produce goods using processes and systems that conserve energy and natural resources, are non-polluting and are safe for workers, communities and consumers[i]. Ethical production focuses more on the people working to produce the goods. The goal is to set conditions that are good for the health and safety of the workers and ensure they’re fairly compensated for their work.

That’s the 101 version and quite frankly, it’s the least we should know about sustainability. The responsibility for sustainable and ethical fashion doesn’t just fall on manufacturers, it also falls on us as consumers. Tough pill to swallow, right? It’s okay, I feel the guilt too. But that guilt is quickly replaced by conviction after exploring the “why”.

 

Folded clothing labelled 'sustainable'

Image source: Jess Harper via Unsplash 

We’re all responsible

Why should we care about sustainable and ethical fashion? Because “ethical” and “sustainable” are more than just words thrown into marketing material. They impact lives. They impact our earth.

Sure, fast fashion is convenient. But it comes at the cost of people. It’s fashion that costs the earth.

“The truth of the matter is that we’ve become so used to fast fashion pricing, that we have lost a real understanding of what clothes should cost. Someone somewhere suffers in order to provide you with your fast fashion item.” – Jennifer Darmo

Shopping sustainably isn’t just for the 1% who can “afford it”. It’s for all of us. Contrary to some misconceptions that sustainable living found its roots in a select demographic, evidence of this lifestyle can be seen as far back in history as we can go.

Back in the day, the use of natural and renewable resources was prevalent among indigenous people across the nations of the world. As the nations began to advance, our overuse of resources and reliance on non-renewables increased. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the term “sustainability” was properly recognised and used to refer to how we live on the planet[ii].

Today, sustainability – doing our part to preserve our earth – is seen as a responsibility for each of us. We're all in this together, the world has been entrusted in the hands of one race - the human race.

So, what are we doing about it?

Nude underwear without the guilt

It’s estimated that as a human population, we produce about 300 million tonnes of plastic every year, about half of which are single-use plastics[iii]. At SHADIE BY EA, we’re determined to do our part in eliminating plastic from all our packaging. That’s why all our products will be sent in 100% home compostable postage satchels. Unlike common plastic satchels, even if you throw our satchels in the trash, they will break down in landfill.

That’s not all. Our pieces also come with seeded paper tags. This eliminates the amount of waste in each of our parcels and allows you to grow an amazing plant. Our items don’t destroy life, they give life.

We’re also intentional about how we use our scrap material. It’s part of the many steps we’re taking to ensure that we don’t take our resources for granted; an effort towards increased sustainability. Instead of throwing these scraps away, we’re creating complementary products that are useful and reusable – like scrunchies.

The goal should be good quality, ethically made clothes that make you look and feel good and that can be worn repeatedly. To know more about our ethically made skin-toned intimates and for access to exclusive content, sign up to our email list at the bottom of this page.  

 

Clothing displayed on shop racks

Image source: Artem Beliaikin via Unsplash 

The shift from fast to slow fashion

At some point, the onus rests on you as a consumer to do the work in figuring out whether the brands you’re buying from are doing their bit to operate and produce in a sustainable and ethical manner. So, do the work.” – Esther Adeyinka

Making the choice to be more conscious in your clothing purchases is an amazing step and one you don’t have to have a lot of money for. So let’s make the shift from fast fashion to slow fashion. One garment at a time.

Some resources to help get you find slow fashion and shop more sustainably:

  1. Good on You – a world-leading source for rating clothing brands. The Good on You app rates over 2,000 brands based on their impact on people, animals and the planet.
  2. The Good Trade – a leading resource for sustainability, slow living and self-love. The Good Trade is one of the number one resources for information on sustainable brands and updates on the industry.
  3. Ethical Shopping Guide – an ethical comparison site that compiles research conducted into the world’s largest brands and provides information on the practices of those brands. Their rating system helps consumers make more eco-friendly choices.

Still not convinced you can make the shift? Start thinking of every piece of clothing you buy as an investment and as your mindset changes, your actions will follow.

 

References

[i] https://www.uml.edu/research/lowell-center/about/sustainable-production-defined.aspx#:~:text=Sustainable%20Production%20is%20the%20creation,for%20workers%2C%20communities%2C%20and%20consumers

[ii] https://theworldenergyfoundation.org/a-brief-history-of-sustainability/

[iii] https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/marine-plastics

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