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5 Ways to Implement Sustainable Practices in the Apparel Industry

Fashion businesses can reduce their environmental impact by using sustainable materials, minimizing waste, and avoiding harmful chemicals. They can also reduce shipping emissions and encourage recycling, e.g., by reusing garment offcuts and end-of-roll fabric. Brands must prioritize sustainability and engage consumers on qualities they care about, such as durability and quality, to shrink the attitude-behavior gap. They should also work with manufacturers that make sustainability a core business practice.

Reduce Waste

Toxic wastewater from textile factories, dumped into rivers, pollutes the water and kills wildlife. These toxins then make their way into the ocean and spread worldwide. Using chemicals to produce cotton and synthetic fabrics like polyester also causes harmful toxins to leach into the soil, reducing fertility and causing disease in people and animals. To facilitate this waste, clothing brands should invest in more sustainable materials that require fewer resources. They can also use systems in production that reduce waste at sample-making, fabric-cutting, and manufacturing levels. Using a system that allows garments to be cut only when the order is placed eliminates excess overstock and saves time and money. Lastly, brands should focus on environmentally friendly manufacturing, for example, removing waste throughout the entire life cycle of a garment. This includes avoiding unnecessary transportation and packaging and ensuring that the garments they use are made to last. Purchasing second-hand clothes, for example, can significantly reduce the amount of waste produced by the fashion industry. The good news is that the fashion industry is increasingly recognizing its role in environmental sustainability and has begun to take action.

Invest in R&D

Consumers increasingly demand greater brand transparency, so the fashion industry aims to reduce its environmental impact. Using new technologies to improve sustainability throughout the entire process, from design through sales, is one of the best ways to make a real difference. By reducing emissions, companies can create a more sustainable supply chain, positively impacting both environment and business. Investing in R&D is another way to make garments more sustainable. Using 3D body scanning technology during the product design stage can reduce waste by designing garments around digital bodies based on accurate customer data. This will allow fewer samples to be produced, lowering the need for transport and storage. Moreover, it will help reduce returns and unsold stock, minimizing waste from perfect clothing.

Use Recycled Materials

With most textiles taking hundreds of years to decompose, brands must find ways to keep fabrics in use. This can be done by recycling or simply designing garments not made with new materials. Brands can also invest in developing new sustainable materials by partnering with manufacturers that use these technologies. Additionally, they can ensure their sustainable supply chain by using green transportation options like trains and ships instead of trucks. This helps reduce carbon emissions contributing to climate change while allowing for quick and efficient transport of oversized garments. Lastly, they can encourage employees to wear the company’s clothes and promote this as part of the brand’s culture.

Reuse Garments

In a world where finite resources are running out, there is growing concern over the strain fashion puts on natural resources and climate change. The production of fabrics and garments uses energy, water, and chemical products that contribute to air pollution and contaminate the environment. Using dyes is also problematic as many are synthetic and based on petroleum, leaving toxic heavy metals in the background, including cadmium, beryllium, and toxins. As a result, the fashion industry has many environmental concerns, and consumers are looking for brands to address these issues. Some 83% of 18-34 year-olds say purchasing from socially responsible brands is essential. However, most consumers don’t know what sustainable practices a brand has in place and struggle to make informed purchasing decisions. To close the attitude-behavior gap, brands must make sustainable shopping more straightforward, convenient, and appealing. This includes making information on sustainability accessible, improving the quality of their product (i.e., longer-lasting, more durable clothing), and introducing rental or reuse programs.

Encourage Recycling

The fashion industry must learn to repurpose clothes instead of continually churning out new items. This requires a significant shift in business models and the development of innovative ways to recycle fabrics, fibers, and other materials from end-of-life products back into the production cycle. Sustainable fashion brands should focus on designing garments that can be easily recycled, sourcing and using eco-friendly fabrics (e.g., organic or recycled), and reducing their impact on the environment through various initiatives such as implementing reuse programs, creating chemical management systems, and investing in R&D to identify more sustainable materials. Consumers can also support sustainable practices in the fashion industry by supporting brands that adhere to specific standards, such as Fair Trade or using organic fabrics. They can also take part in upcycling or recycling their clothes by donating or selling them at second-hand stores. They can also buy sustainable clothing from brands that invest in workers’ welfare and follow brands on social media or subscribe to their newsletters to stay up-to-date on their latest sustainability efforts.

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