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It seems that sustainability and fashion have long been at odds with each other, facing off from the opposing corners of "responsible" and "indulgent." While traditional fashion offers endless inspiration and opportunity for self expression, sustainable fashion typically appears frumpy, monotonously beige, and unstylish — not to mention is expensive. Sure, it'd be nice if we could all wear vegan-friendly Stella McCartney 24/7, but the eco-fashion world oftentimes relies on a blah diet of hemp T-shirts and TOMS slip-ons.
Still, there's no comparing the ethos behind sustainable fashion and that of the mainstream industry. After oil, fashion is the second most polluting industry worldwide. Despite the dwindling resources of our lovely planet, the industry continues to produce the next must-have item at a hazardous pace – using pesticides and fertilizers to grow fibers in a process that emits greenhouse gases, dumps toxic dyes into our water, and turns out chemical cocktails in the form of synthetic fabrics that will never biodegrade. Then there are the frightening facts. Did you know it takes 1,800 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans, but there are 800 million people on the planet who don't have access to clean drinking water?
This Thursday, April 24, marks the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, where thousands of workers were injured and killed due to inhumane working conditions. Check out FashionRevolution.org to join their #insideout campaign and help raise awareness about who made your clothes.
So, as eco-aware global citizens who buy organic goods at Whole Foods and ride bikes instead of drive, why haven’t we kept the same standards when it comes to our wardrobes? The truth is that a lot of us struggle to understand what eco-fashion really is and how we can support it without sacrificing our own sense of style. It's a personal dilemma I grappled with for years as a stylist and a grad student who studied sustainability. After years of trial and error, I'm able to put together an outfit that not only reflects my sense of style, but also seamlessly aligns with the ethos of the brands I support. I've come up with my own system to accurately differentiate between the good and the bad. And, in celebration of Earth Day, I’m sharing my number-one trick: how to check for eco creds.
I outline 16 in my book Wear No Evil: How to Change the World with Your Wardrobe, but here are the four most important (and easiest creds to fulfill). And remember, every time you make a purchase, you vote with your dollars for the products and practices you support. Now let's get started.