Why Ethically Made Fashion Should Be the ‘New Normal’
By Melanie Montaño
The coronavirus pandemic has made us realize what scientists and experts have been saying all along. The way we live and consume resources is harming not just the planet but is also risking the survival of humanity. Now that we understand why it is important to take care of the people and the environment, we need to make changes. And we can start by choosing ethically made products.
What Is Ethically Made?
Ethically made products are linked to sustainability where the environment usually takes centerstage. However, we should remember that sustainability has three equally important pillars -- environment, economic, and social. An ethically made product should consider all three.
How Ethically Made Market Grew in Fashion
The call for ethically made fashion grew stronger because of a tragedy and a growing awareness on fashion’s role in the environmental crisis. On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which housed five garment factories, collapsed and killed at least 1,132 factory workers and injured 2,500 more (1). The incident raised questions on the labor practices and working conditions in the fast fashion industry.
Meanwhile, the fashion industry is also said to be among the largest polluters in the world. About 150 million trees in ancient and endangered forests are felled each year for the sake of fashion (2). These lands are made into farms for the textile industry, which displaces native vegetation and wildlife. Pesticides and chemicals used to maintain the crops kill the pollinators and damage the microbial soil community.
Farming and textile production also uses large quantities of water to grow the crops. Some of the dyeing methods used in the industry pollute the waters. And yet, 85% of the textiles made are dumped in landfills (3). This makes every resource used on them go to waste.
All these have led consumers to call for ethically and sustainably made fashion.
Why We Need to Support Ethically Made Fashion
Through the years, we have made progress in putting the welfare of garment workers and the environment first while maintaining quality and aesthetics. However, we’re still far from restoring habitats and biodiversity and eliminating unjust wages and unethical practices in the fashion industry.
Still, the strides we have made are still worth celebrating. Here are some of the reasons ethically made fashion is making the world a better place.
1. Protects ecosystems and biodiversity
Ethical brands support the restoration and conservation of forests. Some incorporate other types of plants and crop species into their textile farm. This strategy improves soil health and gives food and habitat to wildlife.
2. Uses less water
Conscious brands advocate for the use of natural and organic fabric like cotton, bamboo, and hemp, which use less water. The development of organic colored cotton also helps brands avoid dyeing cotton fabric which is a water-intensive process.
3. Creates less waste
Ethically made brands maximize every bit of fabric to reduce the scraps that end up in landfills. They also use natural fibers like organic cotton, which do not shed microfibers that end up polluting the ocean. Some brands also use fabric that is made from ocean plastics, discarded nylon, and fishing nets. They also ship their items in recycled, recyclable, and compostable packaging. All these measures decrease waste in the fashion industry.
4. Emits less greenhouse gases
Ethical fashion brands are moving towards less intensive production and manufacturing processes. This reduces the production of greenhouse gases.
5. Causes no harm to animals
Some fashion brands use Peace Silk (4), an alternative to conventional silk which is considered one of the most violently harvested fabrics. Peace Silk is harvested only after the silkworms have completed its metamorphosis into a moth.
6. Pays fair wages
Ethical brands pay textile farmers and garment workers with fair wages, which in turn, improves their economic condition.
7. Supports the local economy
A good number of ethically made brands are small and local businesses. Buying from them not only means helping the people in the community earn but also supporting their dreams.
8. Upholds safe and standard working conditions
Workers are provided with fair wages, safe conditions, and standard working hours. This means no forced labor and child labor. Labels like Fair Trade, B Corporation, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) are certifications that ensure that the brand upholds good working conditions and protects the environment.
9. Empowers women
Companies provide equal opportunities for women and pay them fairly. This allows them to improve their lives.
10. Honors and preserves the culture of indigenous peoples
Conscious brands also employ indigenous people who incorporate traditional artistry in the production and design of products. This keeps ancient skills alive through generations.
Support Ethically Made Fashion Brands
The benefits of ethically made fashion for the people and the environment are amazing. Plus, most ethically made fashion items are thoughtfully designed and excellently made. So, you are sure that your purchases will last. You only need to look at the Little Dot to Dot pieces to know this to be true.
These are why we need to support them. Shopping from small ethical businesses not only allows them to thrive but also pushes fast fashion companies to change their ways.
So, make your purchase count. Buy ethically made brands.
(1) The Rana Plaza Incident and Its Aftermath
(3) Fashion and the SDGs: What Role for the UN?
Melanie is a sustainability + eco-friendly living freelance writer for hire. Helping green businesses grow and save the planet through her writing is her dream job and her life mission. She’s a hands-on mom to a toddler, so ensuring that the next generations get to enjoy the planet is personal to her.