Watch What You Wear: the Importance of Sustainable Fashion

Ana Moller ‘23

When hanging out with friends these days, it is hard to find things to do together due to the pandemic. Maybe you are lucky enough to find a restaurant where you can sit outside on a nice day, or maybe you check out a few stores on Michigan Avenue. Shopping can be a great pastime, but with the climate crisis growing worse and worse each day, it is very important to be conscious consumers and pay attention to our shopping habits. When thinking about helping the environment, the fashion industry may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it has a huge impact. For example, making a pair of jeans creates 70 pounds of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to driving 100 miles. Furthermore, it takes 2,720 litres of water to make one cotton t-shirt: the same amount of water the average person drinks in 3 years. It is vital that consumers start paying attention to how much their clothes are impacting the environment. 

Here are a few things that you can do to decrease your impact on the environment through your clothing choices:

  1. The best thing to do is simply buy less clothing. Research shows that wearing clothes 50 times instead of 5 times (which is the average amount of times clothing items are worn) reduces carbon emissions by 400% per item, per year.
  2. You can also make a conscious effort to take good care of your clothing and repair items instead of throwing them away, because 95% of clothing that is thrown out can either be recycled or reused. 
  3. When shopping, look for high quality clothing that will not be easily damaged. Although this clothing may be more expensive, it will last longer and save you money in the long run. Buying higher quality items means you will not need to replace or throw out items as often. 
  4. If you find it hard to buy less clothing, try thrift shopping to find new clothes or buying from vintage stores. It is always fun to explore thrift stores with your friends, and there are several great ones in Chicago. If you’re looking for a thrift store, try The Buffalo Exchange or Ragstock in Wicker Park. 
  5. Lastly, if none of those options are appealing to you, try to buy from ethical and sustainable brands. Look for brands that use recycled materials and treat their workers ethically. Avoid fast fashion brands such as Forever 21, Shien, and Zara. Some great ethical brands include Patagonia, CHNGE, and Everlane. 

If you want to learn more, a good read is “Fashionopolis” by Dana Thomas, In addition, be sure to check out the website Good On You for recommendations on where to buy sustainable clothes, as well as Fashion Revolution for more statistics on the impact of the fashion industry.