Top 10 tips on how to consume ethically in the fashion industry

It’s no secret that the fashion industry is a threat to not only the environment, but

also to humans, such as the poor conditions of factory workers in third world countries and their unliveable wages.

Shockingly, the fashion industry produces 10 percent of all of humanity's carbon emissions, is the second largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and 85 percent of textiles go straight to landfills. According to a recent study done by the sustainable fashion label Labfresh, the UK was named the fourth largest textile waste producer in Europe, producing 206 tonnes of textile waste each year.

As consumers, to help offset these statistics we can put our money where our mouth is and exercise power and accountability over our own clothing. Here are some tips to shop ethically and live sustainably when it comes to clothing/fashion:

Sell your clothes - avoid throwing away

No longer want your clothes? That old skirt and shirt from three years back hasn’t been worn in almost a year? No matter the condition of the items, you can sell them for cash. Try to avoid throwing away clothes as much as possible as it will only end up in a landfill; make some fast cash by selling them instead. The best applications to use for this are Depop and Vinted—both are easy to use apps for selling your clothes both locally and nationwide, not to mention its free to use.

Buy second hand/thrift

This one is a no-brainer. Instead of spending money on new clothes, designer brands, and so forth, you can save the planet and your wallet just by buying used/second-hand clothing. Thrift stores are an amazing resource as they’re usually local, so you’re supporting a local business and preventing clothes from being thrown into landfills. The price tag is also less than half of most well-known named brands. Thrift stores have a variety of clothing, the quality is not bad, and sometimes you can even find gems!

Donate your clothes to charity

Let’s say you have a pile of clothes you haven’t worn in a while and if they’re not selling, you can always donate to charities or non-profit organisations that support people and the planet. Some organisations that you can donate to directly are: The Salvation Army, St. Mungo’s, and Cornwater Evergreens. These organisations help the homeless and in-need by providing clothing to the most vulnerable.

Reduce excessive shopping at fast fashion chains such as H&M, Primark, Zara

When the Raza Plaza factory disaster happened in 2013, killing 1,134 factory workers, who were actually forced to go to work that day despite building safety hazards, a new law called the Bangladesh accord was brought into the picture. Under this accord brands are held accountable for their suppliers; suppliers must provide fair and safe working conditions or become ineligible. Unfortunately, these fast fashion chains such as H&M and Zara refused to sign this new accord. Clothing production has doubled since the year 2000; the cheaper the clothes the more of a negative impact it will have on both the earth and humans. Workers are still being exploited since these brands refuse to provide adequate protection, therefore brands need to be held accountable.

Buy clothes from ethical and sustainable companies and research. Fund these companies

Consider buying locally from companies with an ethical footprint that doesn't outsource labour from abroad. People buy around 60 percent more clothing in recent years than they did 20 years ago, yet they keep these items for half as long. Buying quality clothing from ethical companies is not only sustainable and good for the planet, but your clothes will last longer. A helpful tool and website to use to check if a clothing store is ethical and sustainable is They rate the clothing brands based on their impact on people, the planet, and animals. They even suggest their top pick of sustainable brands.

Instead of throwing away, reuse your clothes

In an effort to reduce waste from clothing production, you can reuse your clothing by turning them into new pieces. Get creative. For example, re-working a leather jacket into a cool bag instead. For the non-creatives, there are plenty of DIY workshops online and in person.

Limit buying polyester as it does not break down in the ocean

Producing polyester releases two to three times more carbon emissions than cotton and it does not break down in the ocean. According to the International Union for Conservation of nature (ICUN), it’s estimated that 35% of all microplastics in the ocean come from the laundering of synthetic textiles such as polyester. An alternative for this is cotton or organic cotton as it is also better for your skin overall. Try to limit purchasing clothes that are predominantly polyester on the tag and aim for cotton instead. Cotton is the lesser of the two evils, elastane is also a safer alternative to use as well.

Take a sewing class, create your own clothes

Create your own clothes using locally sourced materials or from old dresses, scarves, and so forth. Creating your own unique clothing is incredibly rewarding and also means you don’t have to worry about someone wearing the same thing as you. Sewing is also a useful skill and makes a fun hobby.

Give unused clothing away to friends/family/co-workers -don’t throw away if it’s still good

When all of your options for donating and selling clothes become exhausted (some charities and organisations will only accept a certain amount or type of clothing), try your family and friends. Ask them if they would like any of your clothing that you never wear or perhaps, they know someone who might need it—a cousin, a niece, a mother-in-law, friend of a friend, and so forth. It’s a great way to bond and also know that you’re helping someone out.

Repair your clothes, don’t throw away.

If there are some particular clothing pieces you own that is starting to show some tear, holes, or rips there is no need to throw away as repairs can always be made. A couple of stitches here and there or sewing a patch over a rip, means you no longer have to worry about saying goodbye to a pair of beloved jeans or your favourite blouse. Often in many cases, items with patches sewn in look even more interesting and unique than before. Don’t throw away your gems when you can make diamonds.