Sustainable clothing

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Sustainable Clothing and sustainable fashion supports and nourishes the earth and the lives of all people involved in the processes of growing, manufacturing and distributing the clothing. It is governed by principles such as reuse and recycling, organic fibers, free trade worker conditions, and animal welfare -- practices that are ethical and reduce the carbon footprint of the consumer and the adverse impact on the environment.


Why should I be aware of this?

Are we aware that the cost of the dress we are wearing is much, much more than what we have paid for it. It might have been produced in a manner that pollutes air, soil, and water; releases toxic chemicals in our waterways and ground water -- harming the marine life and our health as it enters the food chain; and depletes precious non renewable resources. It might have been produced in sweatshops by workers who are poorly paid and work long hours in cramped, unhygienic working conditions without any medical and other basic benefits. Child labour might have been used in the manufacturing process based in a third world country. From there it is transported wasting precious fuel and adding to global warming. Is it worth the cost?

All about sustainable clothing

Criteria for manufacturing sustainable clothing

  • All the materials and process inputs and outputs are safe for human and ecological health in all phases of the product life cycle.
  • The energy, material, and process inputs come from renewable or recycled sources.
  • The materials that have been used are capable of returning safely to either natural (biological nutrient) or industrial (technical nutrient) systems.
  • All stages in the product lifecycle actively support the reuse or recycling of these materials at the highest possible level of quality.
  • Every stage in the product's lifecycle enhances social well being and supports the principals of Free Trade.

To measure the degree of sustainability at each manufacturing step within the garment and textile industry, five metrics can be used.

  1. Safety of chemical and material inputs;
  2. Energy efficiency and mix;
  3. Water efficiency and effluent quality;
  4. Recycling and actual reclamation;
  5. Social equity for workers.

Some measures for sustainability are:

  • Product and material transparency – The company should maintain a precise inventory of all chemicals used in the manufacturing process and in the product;
  • Material and chemical input safety – all chemical inputs are evaluated according to criteria established by MBDC for human health and ecological toxicity;
  • Recyclable and recycled content – by using recycled fiber content in their manufacturing processes and also by developing new markets for recycled materials;
  1. Renewable energy and resource efficiency – by using renewable energy from their own hydroelectric facilities and by using it efficiently.

Sustainable clothing is governed by the three principles of

  1. Recycle,
  2. Reuse
  3. Reduce.

What is the difference between ethical clothing, organic clothing and sustainable clothing?

While different in their focus, ethical clothing, organic clothing and sustainable clothing are united in their fundamental respect for the earth and all creatures. The ethical shopper will seek out natural, organic clothing that was grown or raised lightly and sustainably upon the earth without poisonous and toxic pesticides or herbicides, by farm and garment workers who received a fair and livable wage under safe and healthy working conditions, using ecologically-friendly manufacturing processes. And the easiest way to shop ethically is at the locally-owned shop. Organic clothing includes clothing which has been grown in a chemical and pesticide free manner.

Sustainable clothing and health

Sustainable clothing like organic clothing is supposed to be safe and comfortable. Pesticides used in traditionally grown fibres are generally petroleum-based and have many serious side effects.

  • The chemicals left in fabrics such as cotton can cause everything from allergic reactions to asthma to even cancer.
  • Often manufacturers add dyes to the fabric which can also lead to reactions.
  • In order to give some items of clothing a "finish" it is often treated with flame and stain retardants, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals. These chemicals can not only irritate the children's eyes, nose and throat, but they have been linked to depression, leukemia and cancer.
  • The nitrates found in these fertilizers are linked to "blue baby syndrome" in infants, a birth defect resulting in poor oxygen blood flow to body tissues.

Sustainable clothing and environment

Pesticide sprayed on the crops and fertilizers used find its way into ground water and contaminates it. This can have a drastic impact on our health and the health of our children. Organic cotton is also beneficial to the environment because the methods used replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers and build biologically diverse agriculture. Organic fabrics protect our environment. It also protects water quality and the health of people who work growing it and manufacturing it.

What can I do?

As you shop for sustainable clothing, keep these things in mind:

  • Go for garments made from eco fibers such as bamboo, jute, hemp and cotton.
  • Look for garments made with recycled material. It may seem odd, but some of the man-made materials are actually more commonly recycled because they are incredibly sturdy.
  • Avoid cotton material that is not either recycled or organic. Cotton is not a very green crop if it is not grown organically because of issues surrounding extensive pesticide use and fair trade labor practices.
  • Consider shopping for used clothing in high-end thrift shops — clothing that is already made does not waste resources.


Soybean fiber is an eco-friendly and advanced textile fiber using renewable natural resources as raw material. It is being touted as the “vegetable cashmere”. It has an incredibly soft to the hand feel, luster, loft and drape, combined with durability.

See also


  • Sustainable Clothing - Emerging Standards
  • Sustainable Clothing