Ten Reasons To Go Green
We love this "Top Ten" list of ethical fashion buzzwords. As thought provoking as it is reflective of how far the sustainable movement has come – and how far it has to go – we thought we would share some much needed 'green' food for thought.
1. Sustainable: In the wider sense, sustainability relates to a method of harvesting or using a resource so that it isn't depleted or permanently damaged, i.e. sustainability promotes the capacity to endure. In the fashion sense, it comes down to the process of what goes into making the garment, and what the garment is actually made of. Sustainable fashion is all about creating products that support the designers, the local economy and the planet beyond just the immediate future. The new movement in design sustainability has extended from independent designers to top name brands, thanks to an increasing consumer awareness and demand to move to toward a greener world.
2. Recycled: Thrift shop goods may have been upgraded from the aisles of Goodwill to the Barneys CO-OP sales floors, but they're still mostly made from the same golden oldies. Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. The new green heroes of design are going one step farther than simply recycling thrift store items. They're actually making garments out of recycled bottles, cans, milk, paper and a host of other inventive materials that deliver financial, environmental, and social benefits while affecting the local as well as the global marketplace.
3. Upcycling: Upcycling is the opposite of downcycling, which is the other half of the recycling process. Downcycling involves converting materials and products into new materials of lesser quality whereas upcycling improves the quality. The concept of upcycling is the main meat of Johannes F. Hartkemeyer's 1999 book "UpCycling." In "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things," authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart propose that the goal of upcycling is to prevent wasting potentially useful materials by making use of existing ones. Although the concept is just now making its way into the fashion sphere, there is an enormous potential to turn upcycled goods into unique and luxurious garments.
4. Eco-Fashion: Eco-fashion is no longer just a cool idea, it's a thriving and growing industry. And in retrospect, the early days of wearing earth-friendly fabrics and organic T-shirts has grown from a niche practice into a global awakening. Consider the fact that top-tier designers such as Eileen Fisher, Issey Miyake and Stella McCartney are now introducing green-minded lines, and the larger picture begins to emerge. Bamboo, organic silk, hand-loomed yarns and pesticide-free cotton are just a sampling of the many materials designers are now calling the new gold standard.
5. Organic: Designers and consumers around the globe are starting to realize that eco means a lot more than a fabric made from a pesticide-free plant. It has to be certified organic, which is no light task. But in the interest of ethically sustainable practices and simply feeling better about what consumers are wearing, designers are gradually crossing over to the green side of the tracks. Call it a conscious evolution if you will, and a very necessary one at that.
6. Transparency: This is one of the more important developments in the world of fashion and one of the most obvious. Transparency is just that, a clear understanding of what has gone into making the garments. That includes labeling that gives the consumer a detailed breakdown of material used, the origin of the raw material, who spun it, who wove it, whether it is organic, and if so, what certificate it has earned. There is no guarantee that transparent labeling will translate to better purchasing decisions. But much as nutrition labels have helped consumers make better purchasing decisions, we'd like to think better labels on clothing would do the same.
7. Fair Trade: A growing circle of fashion consumers is asking where their clothes are coming from and who is making them. In a nutshell, Fair Trade is an approach that aims to help producers in developing countries promote better trading conditions and sustainability. Thanks to Fair Trade certifications, as well as more companies investing in making sure people are paid a fair wage and not being exploited, Fair Trade is just as worthy as sustainably designed clothing.
8. Socially Responsible: A close cousin of Fair Trade, socially responsible fashion includes clothing made using environmentally protective practices that leave low carbon and water footprints, and use certified-organic materials. This term also extends to the assembly line behind the products, including closed loop manufacturing, and fair wages and working conditions.
9. Conscious: This is one of the latest terms being worked into the ethically-minded and sustainable fashion lexicon. And it's derived from the fact that consumers can purchase and wear new clothing, as long as they have a consciousness and understanding about where it came from, how it was produced or what materials it is made from. Consuming consciously also means making more selective purchases and not overburdening your wardrobe or the environment.
10. Made in the U.S.A.: It's less about patriotism than it is about an ongoing movement toward environmental protection. A growing trend for Made in the USA clothing supports the American economy and job growth while leaving a lighter carbon footprint (commercial shipping uses the lowest-grade, most polluting fuel). Garment districts from New York City to Los Angeles are experiencing a new renaissance with designers who manufacture smaller runs of clothing on home ground rather than outsourcing beyond the U.S. borders.