Your New Year’s Resolution – Invest In Eco Fashion

Every year billions of tons of harmful chemicals are pumped into the atmosphere during the harvesting and manufacture of consumer goods. Western cultures are the biggest polluters because we have created a culture of immediacy and every industry from technology to fashion is constantly reinventing itself. You can take a huge bite out of that by buying eco fashion items.

Eco fashion is, just what it sounds like, fashion items that are eco friendly. Eco fashion items tend to use more natural raw materials and are often manufactured either by hand or on basic machinery in small batches.

In fact, many such producers of eco friendly fashion outsource to or source products from small artisan communities. These artisans take materials that are readily available and using time honored traditions and basic machines such as personal sewing machines turn them into beautiful eco friendly fashion pieces that can’t be distinguished from factory made.

Eco friendly fashion of this sort is not only great for the environment (and your closet) but for the artisans as well. They receive compensation for their time and skills and which provides for their families. In the West, that not may sound exciting to us but many of these artisans are living in what are somewhat unfairly referred to as third world countries where even pennies a day can make a life or death difference.
Take that sentiment to the extreme and you’ve got Fair Trade fashion. Fair Trade fashion defined is fashion accessories and clothing that have earned Fair Trade certification. These products are guaranteed by international organizations to be produced in a humane manner.

That means that the producers of these Fair Trade fashion items get paid more than producers in the same region who sell their finished goods to other buyers. Fair Trade fashion wholesalers and retailers alike agree to abide by a set of strict regulations designed to protect the human rights of the people producing these finished products.

So instead of simply buying a sweater or handbag, you’re actually investing in the very lives and livelihoods of people half a world away. You can (and should) choose where your money goes and doesn’t it make more sense to buy from somebody you know is giving their producers a fair share of the profits? Remember, even pennies a day can be a life or death situation for these folks and if they’re getting paid 30% more to sell to one buyer than another that’s a huge difference.

Fair Trade Fashion: How You Can Affect Global Change With the Clothes on Your Back

In 2005, cotton was first added to the list of certifiable fair trade products, making way for huge strides in ethical fashion. In the six years that has passed since then, a significant impact has been made on the cotton industry, not only for the workers overseas, but also in consumer demand for fair trade, eco-fashion garments.

Fair trade fashion means being conscientious of workers conditions, wages, child labor as well as the environment in the production process. Before the founding of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) in the 1980’s, slave labor, harsh discrimination, and lower-than-low working conditions, as well as many other similar issues ruled the world of not only cotton, but other commonly imported products such as bananas, chocolate and coffee. This came from many corporations going overseas to find cheap labor and the lowest environmental standards they could find. This left many scars on the workers that slaved away for 14+ hour days in unhealthy sweatshops and on the ecosystems surrounding these small communities.

Around the world, there are 5 million farmers, workers and community members that benefit from fair trade. The fair trade model means empowering communities to take care of themselves and their ecosystems. When farmers are able to produce crops under healthy conditions, the quality of the product is much higher, also meaning they get a better price for it. They are able to support their families, send their children to school and live healthier, more self-sustaining lives away from the fierce grip of unfair labor practices. Even through the purchase of one simple cup of coffee, you are supporting a farmer and his family, as well as his community and the ecosystem surrounding it overseas.

Although the demand for fair trade fashion has grown, many people still assume that concept means paying an outrageous amount for not-so-stylish clothing. Many large retail stores lack transparency, meaning we don’t always know where our clothes come from.

How do you know if your clothes are fair trade? One way is to simply look at the label. Many fair trade certified clothing will have some sort of logo, for instance, UNITE is an international program that makes sweatshop free clothing.

Social Accountability International’s Social Fingerprint (®) program is a program for companies that looks at nine different key categories to determine that company’s level of social responsibility, as well as offering tips, guidelines and resources to help those companies continually improve. Companies such as Gap, Patagonia and Timberland have used the Social Fingerprint program to ensure social responsibility throughout the garment production process.

Why Is Eco Fashion, Fashion With a Conscience?

Eco fashion is often believed to be plain, earthy and unattractive. Nothing could be further from the truth as very talented designers are working with innovative materials to create some great and trendy clothes.

What makes eco fashion different from conventional clothes is not their style but the fabrics it uses and the way it is manufactured. In a world of fast, cheap and disposable clothes, eco fashion brings us clothing made from eco textiles under fair trading practices.

Eco Textiles

Eco fashion uses eco textiles such as organic cotton or bamboo. Those fibres are kinder to the environment as they are grown without pesticides and insecticides.

Organic Cotton – Often known as the natural fibre, conventional cotton uses around 9% of the world’s agrochemical pesticides, about 20% of the world’s insecticides and 8% of the world’s chemical fertilizers.

This is because cotton flowers are very prone to attacks from insects which has led conventional cotton growers to using those very high levels of chemicals as well as using GM cotton seeds.

A typical conventional cotton t-shirt uses about 150 grams of acutely toxic pesticides and insecticides.

The high levels of chemicals have disastrous effects on farmers health (such as cancer) and pollute the environment while affecting biodiversity. Chemicals can also enter the food chain as cotton bi-products such as cotton seed oil are used in many processed food.

Organic Cotton is grown without the use of pesticides and insecticides that plagued conventional cotton production.

While yields of organic cotton are generally lower than conventional cotton, organic cotton farmers do not have to buy expensive chemicals or GM crops.

Organic farming helps preserve biodiversity while sustaining a healthy environment for humans.

Bamboo – Bamboo fabric has become increasingly popular over the past decade.

Sustainable and versatile, bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth and requires no pesticides or fertilizers. It requires little water and can grow in many different climates and terrains.

Bamboo fabric is incredibly soft and has a natural breathability keeps you comfortable and dry for longer. It is also highly absorbent (making it the perfect fabric for bath products such as towel and bathmats). Highly breathable with great thermo control properties it is ideal for sportswear.

Eco fashion is a great choice for people with sensitive skins as eco textiles tend to benefit people with sensitive skins such as babies, children, people prone to allergies, eczema and psoriasis.

Upcycled Fabrics -Eco fashion also uses upcycled materials such as wood, plastics or leftover fabrics to transform waste into clothes. By minimising waste, upycled fabrics have a lesser impact on the environment.

Tencel and Lenpur fabrics are made from wood. The wood pulp is turn into cellulose and then onto a soft and silky fibre. Tencel and Lenpur can be used on their on or blended with other fabrics.

Plastic Bottles can be recycled into fleece material which tends to be soft, lightweight, warm and comfortable.

Fabrics leftovers are also used to create new clothes and minimize waste

Fairer Manufacturing

But eco fashion does not only benefit the environment and our health. With fair trading practices it enables disadvantaged communities to earn a decent living far away from sweatshops that plagues conventional fashion. Different schemes/certifications exist around the world to ensure a fairer deal and that no child labour is used.

Two-thirds of this cotton is produced in the developing world where it is often subsidised creating unfair trading conditions. World prices on cotton are unstable and falling prices affect poorer farmers who strive to survive.

The Fairtrade Foundation provides a certification for cotton which support the world’s poorest cotton farmers ensuring they have been paid a fair price for their crop. It is not the finished fabric or item of clothing but cotton itself which is Fairtrade certified. Others such as Transfair certify both ends of the supply chain: farms and factories.

Eco fashion is fashion with a conscience. So if you care about the environment, fair trade and animal rights, then it is time to become an eco fashion victim.