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Sustainable Apparel 101: Looking Beyond the Label

POSTED UNDER Beauty & Fashion

By now, many of us have some understanding about sustainably sourced food. We read articles that help us understand signs and labels that we see in grocery stores every day that identify products as organic, locally sourced and non-GMO.

But what is sustainable apparel exactly? Sustainable apparel often refers to fabrics made from eco-friendly resources, such as sustainably grown fiber crops or recycled materials. These sources are rapidly renewable, and include:

  • Cotton
  • Soy
  • Hemp
  • Bamboo
  • PET Plastic – Yes, even plastic bottles can be recycled into clothing.

Identifying sustainable apparel also goes beyond just the label and considers how the apparel is made. It means you know where the clothing comes from, who makes it and what it’s processed with to ensure the item is worthy of the eco-friendly message it’s promoting.

There are some questions to ask when looking at eco-friendly labels. What’s the supply chain like? Is it Fair Trade certified? Fair trade certified refers to garments that have been made in a factory (usually overseas and imported to the states) that is inspected by Fair Trade International and meets certain standards for production methods, labor conditions, environmental considerations and business practices. The Fair Trade International seal on apparel tags ensures workers are treated well and get paid a fair wage.

While mainstream sustainable design in the apparel industry is only in its infancy, Macy’s and several other brands have been working with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to increase environmental awareness and transparency of our supply chains.

Thinking sustainably about apparel doesn’t end at the purchase. What happens when your favorite pair of jeans has a broken zipper, a hole that just won’t patch or has otherwise reached the end of its useful life? Don’t throw it in the landfill; it’s time to donate!

National and local charities are always looking for textiles that can be reused or recycled. And what better way to give back than to give your clothing a new life? If your old pair of jeans is in good condition, it will simply find a new owner to enjoy them for years to come. If your jeans are irreparable, then they might be upcycled into a new fashionable handbag or recycled into cleaning cloths or insulation for housing. The possibilities are endless.

Our clothes keep us warm, comfortable and can even change our attitude and outlook. We should return the favor and keep their entire lifecycle in mind, from where they’re sourced to where they end up.


You also might like:

What You Didn’t Know about Textile Recycling
Exploring Recycling in Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s Stores
A Vision for Sustainability – Real World Results
Earth Week 2017 Recap

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