Sustainable fashion is eco friendly, but eco friendly fashion is not always sustainable. Yet, a lot of people seem to keep using the two interchangeably.
1. Eco Friendly Fashion is a sub-category of Sustainability
Many times I see the words eco friendly and sustainable in the same advertisement. Let’s set the record straight, if a product is truly sustainable, it is by default, eco friendly. The same is not true, the other way around.
Sustainability is the balancing combination between the environment, ethics, and the economy.
Eco friendly fashion may be better for the planet than planet than typical fast fashion, but it does not make it sustainable. If a child slave made a garment with 100% organic cotton in a carbon-neutral factory, it is still unsustainable. Truly sustainable fashion is able to balance worker’s rights with affordability in order to make eco friendly fashion. Therefore, eco friendly can be a sub category of sustainability, but not the other way around. The two are NOT equal terms.
2. Green is not always Ethical
There has been a huge push for greener products in the last decade. The demand for eco friendly fashion has increased just the same. However, green in fashion is not always ethical. Therefore green is not always sustainable. Truly sustainable fashion will happen when we can incorporate the environment, ethics, and affordability into the same products. I’m putting together an ultimate list of sustainable fashion brands with a three-factor metric to figure out what ones are better at some things than others.
Given our way of life at the moment, it is very difficult to create truly sustainable fashion. The world is so entrenched in itself that it is difficult and practically impossible to separate products based on how sustainable they are. However, it is a good thing to get into the habit, as a conscious consumer, to look into the kinds of things you’re buying. Green is not always Ethical, therefore not always sustainable
3. Environmentally friendly is not always Affordable
The relatively good thing about fast fashion is how affordable it is to consumers. There is also relative ease in getting your hands on a cheap item of clothing. Going out of your way to buy something more sustainable is usually a lot more difficult and usually, costs more.
Just because a product is labeled as environmentally friendly, or made from an eco friendly source, does not make it affordable and therefore does not make it sustainable. Ethical and Eco Friendly Products are not always affordable, but truly sustainable fashion ethical, eco friendly, and affordable.
Affordability is by far the most difficult part of sustainable fashion. However, it is because of something called path dependency. A rabbit trail turns into a foot path which turns into a road which turns into a highway. When you do something so often and without regard to the natural world or the hidden ethical problems, you create a path. It might not be the right path, but it still exists and is difficult to deviate from it. Sustainable fashion will become more affordable with time, thereby being more sustainable. It just takes a little inertia, dedication, and time.
4. Sometimes Eco Friendly is Interchanged with Organic
This is another common misconception when words are used so often that they lose their meaning. Organic means that the clothing produced without the use of pesticides. A pair of polyester yoga pants is technically organic, even though it’s not Eco Friendly.
Therefore, organic is not always sustainable. There needs to be a balance between how it was made, what it was made with, who it was made by, and who can afford it.
Sometimes people also just use the words Organic and Gluten Free when it comes to clothing. Sometimes Organic cotton is better for you than conventional materials. However, sometimes the cost is too great that it’s not affordable for the everyday person. If you have chemical sensitivity, organic cotton is a godsend, but it is not necessary for everyone.
5. There are no standards or ratings on How Eco Friendly Fashion can be
Finally, there are really no official standards regulating any of this. I know that there are differences between eco fashion, ethical fashion, and sustainable fashion because I have a degree in Sustainability. Not a lot of people in the sustainability field spend their time looking at the fashion industry. Thus, marketers can simply get away with using any kind of green buzzword without it having any value.
To fix this, we need to be more diligent consumers. However, I know that fashion, and consumerism alone will not let us solve the world’s biggest problems. We choose sustainable fashion because it improves our everyday lives and makes us feel better. Starting sustainable fashion businesses can also be a big help for shifting the market. The future of fashion will be full of medium-sized businesses producing amazing sustainable products. Whether or not you want to be a part of that future is up to you.
I’m putting together an e-learning course for aspiring sustainable business owners. If you’re into this kind of thing, check out the form below to get a copy of the FREE sustainable business resource guide. My goal is to change the industry and how we consume fashion. I can’t do it all myself. This is why I want to give out as much valuable information for free as possible.