With the clothes we wear, we want to show who we are. But if you don’t pay attention, you can quickly become entangled in destructive trends that nobody wants to deal with. Here we show you which six eco-sins you should avoid in your wardrobe – and name good alternatives.
Fast fashion is like fast food to wear – cheap, mostly of low quality, short-lived, unhealthy and above all: produced at the expense of others. Cheap fashion chains that throw new collections on the market every few weeks tempt you to constantly stock up on new items. It is somehow logical that the rapidly changing trends, cheap clothing and the production processes required for them cannot really be environmentally and socially acceptable. In the meantime, many fast fashion chains are also trying to get their supply chains clean. But seamstresses and workers in the producing countries still often suffer from exploitative and insecure working conditions. Even if the commitment of the fashion chains should be appreciated – the business model of fast fashion can never be sustainable.
And do we really want to be part of the trend-driven crowd and wear the same t-shirts, jeans or dresses as everyone else?
Alternative 1: It’s better if we spend our money on high-quality, socially and environmentally friendly fashion that survives more than one season. There are now so many fair fashion labels that everyone is guaranteed to find something suitable. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on site, you’ll find hundreds of sustainable fashion shops on the Internet. And if fair fashion is too expensive for you, you should take a look at the offers in the sale for green and fair fashion .
Alternative 2: Buy used fashion. That saves resources, money and you can sometimes afford parts that you wouldn’t buy new.
As casual as jeans with a used look (“ destroyed jeans ”) look: their production is usually anything but presentable. The bleaching of jeans is a health risk for the workers: inside, because the majority of jeans are still processed in low-wage countries – often without significant protective measures. Either the jeans are sandblasted; if workers inhale the resulting sand dust, it can be dangerous for them. The dust damages your lungs and can lead to shortness of breath, coughing and vomiting up to the incurable “dust lung”. Or the jeans are bleached using chemicals – which can be dangerous for both workers and the environment if there are inadequate or missing protective measures. It is not uncommon for toxic wastewater to be released into the environment from jeans production.
Alternative 1: As a rule, unbleached jeans are better – these are available from fair fashion labels in many different styles. Most eco-fashion labels also offer used-look jeans; this is gently created by washing with stones (“stonewash”), laser or mechanical processes. Alternative 2: Buy used jeans. Or wear new jeans until the used look emerges all by itself.
Clothing made of synthetic fibers
What many people know: Sports and outdoor clothing, fleece sweaters and leggings, but also everyday clothes are often (partially) made of synthetic fibers. The label then says, for example, polyester , elastane , nylon or acrylic. What many do not realize: In principle, it is nothing more than plastic, mostly made from petroleum , not biodegradable and possibly even unhealthy. The biggest problem: Tiny fibers come off synthetic clothing when it is washed . The washing machines and sewage treatment plants cannot filter out these microscopic fibers; they end up in water bodies as microplastics and endanger entire ecosystems there. Synthetic clothing is one of the most important sources of microplastics in the environment.
Alternative: It is more ecological but also healthier to wear predominantly natural fibers – for example (organic) cotton , linen, hemp , wool, silk or wood-based fibers such as Tencel or Lyocell. It’s not that easy with sports and outdoor clothing – but there are now some manufacturers who value natural materials and good production conditions. In addition to cotton, wood fibers and (merino) wool are particularly suitable for sportswear .
In principle, leather is a robust, long-lasting material, but caution should be exercised with cheap leather shoes, jackets, belts and bags: The production conditions are often extremely problematic – not only for the animals. Cheap leather is often treated with chemicals and heavy metals. This poisons workers and the environment in the production countries and, under certain circumstances, also the buyers: harmful substances can remain in the finished product and cause allergies or even cancer.
Alternative 1: Anyone who wears clothing, shoes and accessories made of leather should make sure that they are vegetable-tanned leather or organic leather. Read more : Genuine leather, vegetable-tanned leather, organic leather – that’s behind it
Alternative 2: Buying used leather products can be particularly worthwhile: Since leather is very robust, you can often get it second-hand in perfect condition – and much cheaper than new goods.
Alternative 3: do without leather entirely. However, one should also be very careful with artificial leather: it is often petroleum-based, non-biodegradable and in some cases even unhealthy. Natural fibers are better.
Some of the typical washing mistakes are harmful to the environment, others also harm our clothes. If you turn on the washing machine half full, you waste a lot of energy. Better to wait until a full load comes together. Washing in excessively hot temperatures wastes electricity – and there is a risk that your favorite items will perish. With normal everyday clothing (pants, shirts, sweaters, etc.) 30 or 40 degrees are completely sufficient. Too much detergent is harmful to the environment through chemicals in the wastewater and the higher energy consumption when washing – it is better to use sparingly! Incidentally, not everything has to be put in the washing machine after it has been worn once: it is often enough – and is gentle on clothing – to ventilate things well.
Too much of everything
A whole closet full of nothing to wear? If you constantly cram your wardrobe with new items, you have two effects: Every new item of clothing uses valuable resources in production, ie the more we buy, the larger our ecological footprint .
And: In a crammed cupboard it becomes difficult to find what you are looking for – and to remember what you actually have. The search for “something to wear” in the morning takes a lot of time in the worst case. If you are unlucky and particularly chaotic, you may even be wasting money: On the third white T-shirt, when the others have disappeared somewhere in the depths of the closet ..