Show how you care with what you wear

Hannah Holliday | Cartoonist

While people often think of food and plastic waste, clothing is another item overflowing in our world’s landfills. Unlike fast fashion brands that follow ever-changing trends and are made of materials that wear out easily, sustainable brands create classic pieces that will last years. Sustainable fashion is another facet to the movement toward being more environmentally conscious.

Companies like Everlane, Outdoor Voices, Reformation and Patagonia are a few examples of how sustainability is gaining momentum in the fashion industry. Brands are beginning to focus more on the environmental impact their clothing has, and in response, consumers are beginning to be more ethically conscious as well.

Blogs such as The Good Trade offer advice on how being ethically aware can be possible for people of different needs and budgets. While the environment is a growing global concern, it is not just another trend. The pieces being produced by these companies are of better quality than cheaper fast fashions, allowing them to become staples in your closet for years.

Actor Joaquin Phoenix exemplifies sustainable fashion by vowing to wear the same Stella McCarthy suit throughout awards season this year instead of purchasing new suits for each event he is scheduled to attend. Phoenix has already worn his suit to the Golden Globes this year and will continue to re-wear it to the upcoming Academy Awards where he is nominated for best actor.

As college students, new outfits are often chosen for each event. Clothing is worn once and then is never worn again. Like Phoenix’s suit, students should find reusable pieces that can be worn to multiple events at a time, or sell their past pieces to others.

Thrifting is a cost effective and ethically friendly way to buy clothes, and is a fun outlet for those who enjoy shopping. Reusing clothes rather than throwing them away reduces waste; it is a form of recycling. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American currently throws away about 80 pounds of clothing per person each year, while nearing 100% of those garments are recyclable.

Many people enjoy shopping, and should be able to continue to do so without being wasteful. Thrifting does not just mean going to thrift shops or your local Goodwill; thrifting can be done online too. ThredUp is an online consignment store that offers the chance to buy clothes at resale price in multiple conditions and sizes, many items still having their original tags.

On the other side of sustainability is the idea of fair trade in fashion brands. Fair trade is when companies produce their product in developed countries and pay fair prices to the makers before upselling the product to the public. Companies that are fair trade certified include J.Crew, Madewell, Athelta, PACT and many others. Sustainability is often interchanged with the word ethical, but they carry different meanings. While it is good to have clothes that are good for the environment, clothes that give producers fair compensation is equally important.

The need to be environmentally conscious while shopping is not just the latest trend, but the next step toward reducing waste in America. Ways to be fashionably ethical are abundant and widespread across different budgets and fashion tastes. From thrifting to spending more money on pieces that will last longer than fast fashion, the options offered by ethical vendors are leading to a growing market that can help reduce the amount of waste left behind.