We all wear clothes, which means, to varying degrees, we all follow fashion. These days, as consumers, it’s hard to turn a blind eye to the waste produced by the fast fashion industry.
The environmental toll is high: Fast fashion produces 10 percent of all carbon emissions, and is responsible for 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, more than maritime shipping and all international flights combined! (If that’s not enough, the impact on the global carbon budget could increase to 26 percent by 2050.) It is the second-largest consumer of the global water supply. Dying textiles uses enough water to fill two million Olympic-sized swimming pools per year. Between 80 and 85 percent of all textiles end up in landfill. The fashion industry is responsible for 20 percent of all industrial water pollution worldwide and is one of the major contributors of plastic microfibers, releasing 500,000 tons into our oceans each year—the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
Every year, millions of tons of clothing is produced, worn and thrown away, and every second, the equivalent of a garbage truck full of clothes is burned or buried in landfill. To solve the problem, according to a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “We must reinvent fashion itself.”
It’s encouraging to see how many innovative brands are committed to disrupting the status quo with sustainable means of production and materials. Now, it’s entirely possible to pull together a stylish wardrobe made from soft, comfortable, deliciously tactile sustainable fabrics, and that doesn’t even factor in vintage or upcycled clothes.
Materials like organic and recycled cotton, recycled polyester, organic bamboo, cork, hemp, Lyocell (from the pulp of eucalyptus trees), apple leather (from apple juice waste), Pinatex (“leather” from pineapples), Woocoa (plant-based wool spun from coconut fibers, mushroom enzymes and hemp) and more are making it easy to dress well and feel good about treading lightly on the environment.
Bonus points go to brands that help offset their carbon footprint, and use sustainable packaging. Here are some great new pieces for summer.
HEMP +ORGANIC COTTON
Jungmaven (pictured above)
Jungmaven was one of the first brands to focus on hemp clothing. In the early ’90s, founder Robert Jungmann was concerned about production practices that negatively impact the planet, and developed a sustainable hemp T-shirt. Growing hemp is healthy for the soil, requires much less water than cotton and is considered a carbon negative raw material, meaning that it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere. The Coach Jacket, a blend of hemp and organic cotton, is a modern classic for men and women. With a soft, luxurious feel and a tailored cut, it is extremely durable and flattering, with pockets inside and out!
The Hass Modal Long Robe is a standout from the apparel collection launched by Avocado Green, renowned for its popular organic bedding and mattresses. Sewn in Los Angeles from sustainable Austrian Lenzing-certified modal, a naturally thermoregulating material made from the pulp of beech trees, Lenzing modal is carbon-neutral, the wood is harvested from Forest Stewardship Council-certified sources and up to 99 percent of the solvent is reused. It is produced in a similar way to viscose rayon, but with much less waste, recycled water and solvents. The Long Robe is slinky, wrinkle-resistant and feels like a second skin.
RECYCLED PLASTIC BOTTLES
The Cody Sun Dress is soft, slinky and light as a cloud—perfect for a day at the beach or running errands around town. It’s made with recycled polyester sourced from recycled plastic bottles and post-consumer waste, and features drawstrings on the sides to adjust the length, which create a lovely, flattering ruched effect. The Cody also provides UPF 50 + protection and dries quickly, so you can linger in the sunshine. Carve Designs’ swimsuits are made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles and its Balsa Boardshorts, from recycled polyester and coconut fiber waste, are colorful, comfortable, durable and fun.
MERINO WOOL + SEAWOOL
The Royal Robbins Westlands Cowl Neck Sweater is made from merino wool and seawool. Seawool is a blend of recycled polyester and pulverized oyster shells, with a very soft, almost velvety feel. The Cowl Neck—from the new Royal Robbins Sweater Collection—is cozy and warm, but not too warm. It’s breathable and odor-resistant, with rib-knit panels for an easy fit. A perfect piece for all seasons, and great for travel!
90 Degree by Reflex
Made of recycled materials, the Ecoflex Elastic Free High Waist Side Pocket Capri
by 90 Degree by Reflex is the pair of leggings you’ve designed in your head but didn’t know existed in the real world. With pockets for a wallet or cell phone, these slinky-soft capris come in many colors and transition beautifully from yoga to cycling to brunch. Easy on the eyes and the environment!
POST-CONSUMER COFFEE GROUNDS + RECYCLED POLYESTER
The Royal Robbins ReadyDry Essentials—a new underwear collection for men and women—is made from post-consumer coffee grounds (a process known as S.Café that turns ground coffee beans into yarn) and recycled polyester. Recycling materials is a way to close the loop and create a circular model, enabling companies to be profitable while decreasing or eliminating waste. The Royal Robbins women’s collection features comfortable bras, camisoles and bottoms, and the fabric is temperature-regulating, moisture-wicking, controls odors and dries three times faster than cotton.
Farming organic cotton uses 62 percent less energy and 88 percent less water than conventional cotton. It is grown without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. The All Ease Lounge Jumpsuit is made in a GOTS-certified, Fair Trade factory, and is super comfortable for lounging around indoors or out. Layer over a tee or under a jacket, the All Ease features patch pockets, wide legs and is one of those coveted pieces that look good on everyone. Though not all organic cotton is certified, these are certifications to look for: USDA-Certified Organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Better Cotton Standard, Fair Trade, Bluesign, Oeko-Tex 100.