What is the difference between Ethical and Sustainable Fashion?
Lots of people are confused by the many terms associated with the new movement in fashion. Consumers are looking for an alternative to cheap, throw-away fashion. This need for better quality, classic fashion that is made in a better way has lead to the sustainable, ethical, and fair trade movement. But what do all these things mean? Are all brands that claim to be sustainable ethical as well? Are all fair trade brands sustainable? Well, let's look at the definitions here and use a bamboo t-shirt as an example
What is Ethical Fashion?
Ethical fashion is a kind of catch-all for sustainable, eco-friendly, organic, recycled, custom/made to order, and fair trade practices. It holds all of these ethical practices under it's umbrella. Most brands are not 100% ethical, but many of them, especially small brands, try their best to be. Let's use a bamboo t-shirt as an example.
What is Sustainable Fashion?
In general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes. In fashion terms this means that the process of creating the end product can endure indefinitely. Sometimes, eco-friendly practices are part and parcel of sustainability. For example, a t-shirt that is created from bamboo is sustainable and eco-friendly because
- Sustainable: the bamboo can be harvested and renewed in a relatively short amount of time.
- Sustainable: "sustainability is built into all processes associated with the production of the bamboo. For example, after it is harvested, it is mechanically pulped... and 70 percent of the water is reclaimed and used in the process (the other 30 percent is lost to vaporization)."
- Eco Friendly: bamboo can be grown without using pesticides which can be harmful to humans and animals.
- Eco Friendly: bamboo reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
From the definition above we can see that the bamboo t-shirt is sustainable, eco-friendly and organic.
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade: The way the workers are treated during the manufacturing process is what makes the garment fair trade. All these questions factor into whether of not a product is fair trade.
- Are the people producing and harvesting the bamboo given a fair price?
- Are the workers given good condition to preform their jobs?
- Do the workers get a fair wage?
- Are the workers given reasonable working hours?
If a retailer or manufacturer is to claim that their products are fair trade and ethical in that way they should know the people who are creating the products. This is the question consumers should ask "who made this?" Asking this question keeps companies accountable for their manufacturing process.
Why is a "Made to Order" Product Sustainable?
Let's say that the bamboo shirt you order online is custom or made to order. This means that the company isn't creating more than it needs to. This cuts down on waste and general mass production which is evident in fast fashion.
Why is a Recycled Product Sustainable?
Recycled: The bamboo t-shirt may be made from new materials, but perhaps it came in recycled packaging that was created from preexisting materials or fibers. This helps to reduce the impact on the environment.
Conclusion: Can a Brand be 100% Ethical?
Many brands are doing a great job of attempting to be 100% ethical. The only way brands will be able to be 100% ethical is if consumers continue to demand ethical practices like sustainability, and fair trade. The future is 100% ethical practices!
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