Until some years back, the concept of eco-clothing was fairly new, restricted to rough, boring-looking Birkenstocks, plain shirts, and yawn-inducing skirts. It left the environmentally-conscious consumer in a bit of a bind, as they had little choice but to go for fabric made of environmentally detrimental materials like cotton, polyester, rayon, and nylon—the four no-no’s of eco-fashion.
However, we are now in 2017 and our choice in clothes, as with everything else, far surpasses anything the previous generations had available. We now have celebrities on the red carpet wearing dresses made of recycled plastic; long lists of clothing lines that focus solely on sustainability; the green hijab coming from Malaysia, made entirely out of plastic bottles. Today’s eco-friendly fashionista has not only lots to choose from, but more ways to take a stand on protecting the planet.
Of course, it is still difficult to get hold of these eco-friendly products depending on where you are living. It can be tempting, for example, to go the easier route and get whatever is there in the nearest commercial outlet, but the few extra steps make for a well-worth investment.
Reasons to go for a sustainable wardrobe
For one, polyester, nylon, and rayon are terrible for the environment. These petrochemicals are non-bio-degradable and responsible for pollution. They cause drastically increased emissions of a greenhouse gas (nitrous oxide, produced from nylon), deforestation (yes—did you know rayon is made of wood pulp?), energy consumption (polyester and nylon use huge amounts in their production) and water waste (eucalyptus, where rayon commonly comes from, is phenomenally thirsty tree, and polyester uses massive amounts of water as part of its cooling process).
#1 The fabric of your clothes makes a difference
Cotton, a common material for many everyday items of both inner and outerwear, has its own set of problems: it’s a pesticide-intensive crop responsible for farmers’ ill-health and sometimes death, and often uses man-made fertiliser, adding a whole other layer of implications for the environment. Also, it may pose a serious hazard for agriculture as growing cotton takes up much land which otherwise could be used by locals to produce their own food. However, it all concerns conventionally grown crops, so basically, the thing is to choose organic! Organic cotton is a different matter altogether.
#2 You can support good practices
Second, most major retailers go for the lowest production costs available, which typically mean sweatshops. Some of the high-end luxury brands that have embraced Muslim fashion are guilty of this. The remedy here is to buy fair trade: doing so means you’ve promoted companies that provide safe working conditions. It means the company has not used child labour, has set regulated working hours, and uses environmental best practises. It also means that when you buy their clothing, a larger proportion of your money is going to the person who produced your clothing, instead of to the company. It’s a healthier, happier work environment that anyone with even the slightest environmentally-friendly leanings can’t help but support. More about its benefits here.
#3 Green means healthy
Third, eco-friendly clothing is better for your health! Most clothing has had harsh dyes and bleaches used on it, and sometimes even synthetic pesticides leftover from its production stage. Prolonged exposure to these can cause allergies and rashes, and in some extreme cases, can enter our body through our pores, causing long-term harm. Not to mention, companies dump these dyes into rivers, thus polluting rivers and killing aquatic life. Go for the gorgeous fashionable hijabs and pieces that use natural and plant-based dyes; you need one in every colour to match all your outfits, after all!
This is Just the First Step
Buying sustainable is the first step: maintaining sustainability is the second. Choose environmentally-friendly detergent when washing your clothes, use cold water in your washing machine, and pick line-drying over a tumble dryer when you can.
The clothing industry is the “second largest polluter in the world…second only to oil.” That’s an alarming statement. This new year, lets add eco-friendliness to our list of resolutions, and make a pact to follow it. The movement has come a long, long way, but there is always room for more—and we can all contribute to a better, greener world.