Fashion’s impact on the environment is undeniable, it’s the second biggest polluter. So, in honour of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference starting this Sunday the 31st of October, we thought we’d share 26 quick(ish) tips on how you can be more conscious when it comes to your garms.
If it’s not organic, it’s s***.
Organic cotton uses 91% less water than traditional cotton, there’s less chemical run off and fairer practices are used to farm it. Traditional cotton farming dried an entire sea of its water, organic cotton is just better, look out for organic cotton.
If it’s begins with P, avoid it (mostly, don’t avoid us).
PET, PVC, PU, PFC are all pretty bad. Synthetic, virgin fibres such as these are usually produced from crude oil, aren’t biodegradable and shed nasty microplastics. Even worse, PFC (perfluorooctanoic acid) or PFOA, used as a water repellent coat for jackets, is a suspected human carcinogen linked to cancer, kidney damage, and reproductive problems in animals.
Recycled materials are (mostly) good
Nope, not all acronyms are bad. rPET or Recycled Polyster is an increasingly popular material that can be used to make your clothes. A recycled version of virgin PET, rPET takes 59% less energy to produce then PET. You may have also heard of ECONYL® (popularly marketed as made from recycled fishing nets) another synthetic, made from recycled nylon. It’s a branded material that is ever increasingly used in fashion (Prada used it in their RE:NYLON collection). For the reasons above it’s mostly good, look out for it. rPet & ECONYL are still no angels, they do shed microplastic and don’t biodegrade, but are better alternative to look out for.
MAIUM Coats are PFC free and made from recycled PET.
Leather isn’t always bad (sorry vegans)
For now, whilst we have a rampant meat industry, leather can be good. Leather is typically a by-product of the meat industry, so rather than wasting the by-product of animal skin, it’s put to use to make leather for your clothes and shoes. How the leather is tanned and dyed is important though, chrome tanned leather has nasty chemical run-off that can damage the environment (and harm workers tanning the material). Look out for vegetable tanned leather, that’s typically a better material.
And vegan leather isn’t always good
Someone’s got to say it. Vegan leather, despite its shiny name, isn’t always good. Slapping vegan on front doesn’t immediately make it a greener option. Vegan leather is typically made from polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), virgin synthetic fabric made from oil that isn’t too good (see number 2 in this piece for why or read our post about leather).
But some vegan leather is great
There are some incredible innovations in leather at the moment. From Pinatex’s pineapple leather (yes, this is made from pineapples), apple leather made from discarded apple, to lab grown leather. Your clothes & sneakers can be made from anything. Typically, bio-based alternatives are better, look out for this stuff as a more conscious stamp of approval.
Seek the stamp of approval
Like Fairtrade chocolate, bananas, and coffee, there are clothing standards to look out for. Many international standards reflect positive practice for materials and farming. Look out for these (we’ve listed some below).
- Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare - ensure animals have appropriate freedoms for comfortable living
- The Leather Working Group – certify high standards for leather development
- RWS-certified (Responsible Wool Standard) non-mulesed wool – certify that the sheep have not been mulesed,
- The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification - those with the certification have limited the use of toxic bleaches, dyes and other chemicals during the production
- FAIRTRADE Certified Cotton Mark and Cotton Programme – cotton is produced without using the most harmful pesticides, child labour or forced labour, with fairer wages.
Don’t wash your jeans
Your favourite pair of baby blues are seldom meant to be washed. You earn the look, fit, colour and smell they gather over time. Levi’s CEO said it, so it’s on fairly decent authority. If you must, give them a spray with something like this.
Your wool cleans itself
Eh? Picturing tiny little lambs flocking around your turtle neck with sponges for feet? No, us neither… but yes, you don’t really need to clean wool. Wool has natural self-cleaning properties, wool expels odours, dirt and dust through its own moisture controlling properties, and it’s naturally stain and wrinkle resistant too. So, reduce the energy use and don’t wash your wool.
Cold water is better (when washing) (whenever possible)
We don’t need to give much detail here. Heating water takes energy, energy comes mostly from burning fossil fuels – bad. Wash cold = better for the planet.
Let the sun do its job
Again, not too much of a revelation. Dryers are one of the most energy intensive appliances in your home (spinning and heating uses a lot of energy). The Sun’s power also has cleaning properties itself, the UV rays can kill pathogens on your garms. So save money & energy (& the planet) by using the sun to dry your clothes. If you’re bummed about the creasing, buy an anti-crease spray too, we’ve got a good one.
Microplastics are bad
We did a whole post on this here. But yeah, when you wash your clothes, if they’re part synthetic (even if that’s a recycled synthetic ) they’ll shed microplastics. This is bad. Buy a guppyfriend to wash your clothes in to reduce this shed.
Make your stuff last longer
“The most sustainable piece of clothing is the one you already own” – Yawn, but it’s pretty fair. Reducing your consumption is a fairly good way to act more consciously. We love fashion so we get you, we like new stuff too. When you want to extend the life of the stuff you love, check out this line of garment, footwear & home care products.
Vintage or upcycled is good (we know you know this one but 26 tips are a lot of tips)
Much like the above, the “making” part of garment is pretty energy intensive, so you can feel extra good about your vintage threads.
Don’t bin it, bro
Don’t throw away your unwanted clothes. Resell or donate them. Resell platforms, vintage shops and donation bins are everywhere. Don’t be lazy, landfill is bad.
Swap your garms?
Rather than reselling, or donating, why don’t you swap your stuff. Your sister, brother or mates may be interested if you’re not keen on what you have anymore. A simple solution that doesn’t generate waste (and you don’t need to ship it either).
Get those factories on speed dial
Traceability is one important truth when it comes to production. The further away and more anonymous the manufacturing process is, the higher risk there is of malpractice (extending, frighteningly, to slave labour). However, “Made in China” isn’t necessarily bad, as long as your brand can trace each of the components. See if your fav brand knows where there factories are, where they get all their materials, where their pieces are assembled, packaged, delivered etc. If your brand can name them all, have close relationships with them, or regularly meet, that’s good.
All of Hæckels' products are either made in house or in the U.K, where the brand have personal relationships with all of the suppliers. The closer the supply chain and more transparent a brand can be, the better.
If your brand is being shady, they’re probably shady
Transparency can offer lots of positives, it allows you to see behind the scenes and discover what information your favourite brands disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts, across their operations and supply chain. If there’s something to hide, there’s probably a reason it’d being hidden. Fashion Revolution publish a yearly transparency index, sharing their ratings for transparency in the fashion industry, have a look at the marks your fav brands get. N.B Transparency isn’t a sole indicator of responsibility however, you can disclose all of your practices and be fully transparent, even if those practices are pretty dodgy, so be careful of that.
Fair wages, fair enough
Let’s pay the people who make our clothes fairly yeah? Look out for brands who pay their workers the living wage and make a point of saying they do.
If your T-shirt cost 5p, someone else is taking on that cost
Bargains can be dazzling, and with Black Friday coming up you’re bound to see some mega deals. But, if your T-shirt, the piece that’s made from cotton, harvested by farmers, spun, woven and dyed to make a fabric, then cut, stitched and shaped to make a t-shirt, then packaged, delivered and sold by a brand (who have their own overhead costs) costs 5 bloody pence, then somewhere, someone has taken that cost themselves.
More good stamps & certifications
Luckily, there’s some more international standards and certificates to look out for in production to gauge the responsibility of manufacturing facilities. Here are some:
ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) – it judges and regulates the discharge of hazardous waste in the process
OEKO-TEX® – these standards evaluate harmful substances in textiles and leathers, an agreement to implement environmentally friendly production processes in the long term, improving health and safety and to promote socially responsible working conditions at production sites.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification –a rating system reviewing energy efficiency at every level.
Good brands work with good people
If your brands work with charities, NGOs & organisations to help ensure positive environmental and social responsibility, it’s a good sign. A stamp from NGOs such as “1% for the planet” typically indicates a conscious approach.
1% For The Planet
B Corp Certification for the A team
Now, a really great certification to look out for that validates your brand is The B Corp Certification. Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. Labelled as “a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good” the certification comes after rigorous assessment of a brand from top to bottom. You need to be a decent size to gain this certification, so don’t disregard your mainstay if they don’t have it, they may be too small (us).
Don’t be a snob
Yes, we all need to try be more conscious in our approach to fashion (the fashion industry is the 2nd largest polluter in the world) but for now, there aren’t any super cheap sustainable clothing brands (not that we know of anything). Although higher costs come with the territory, less intensive farming, fairer wages etc, some people can’t afford the luxury of higher priced conscious fashion, so, be aware of that, don’t look down on those who can’t afford it yet. let’s each do what we can.
Don’t be hard on yourself
Honestly, we’re all learning. The fact you even got this far into this article shows you’re interested and that’s already great. Don’t be hard on yourself, everything you own won’t be “sustainable” overnight (and even the term sustainability is a challenge to understand, as it’s used with so much variety). It’s another widely used sentiment, but little changes make a big difference. Think about your clothes and their impact and purchase items a little more consciously. Nice one.
Find a place that shares a fresh perspective on sustainability & provides information on how to be more conscious, all while housing some of the freshest sustainable men’s fashion brands
Who, us?? Wow, so kind! LOL. Of course we’re going to plug ourselves, we’ve given you 25.5 tips on being more conscious so you can show us some love. Shop on Public Fibre and follow @publicfibre (wheyyy). We’ll share more enlightening information like this, whilst helping you discover some of the best sustainable men’s fashion brands. What’s not to love.
And finally, keep an eye on COP26 from Sunday October 31st – Friday 12th November, let’s see what the big boys come up with this time.