On the back of the nation's largest climate strike, never before have consumers been more aware about the impacts of their purchases.
In this eco age there has been an emergence in sustainably conscious shoppers, who encourage slow fashion.
Did you know 73 million tonnes of clothing, footwear and accessories are sent to landfill every year, often having barely been worn!
Sustainable fashion considers the environmental, social and health impact of the design, manufacture, and disposal of clothing, with the aim to minimise any adverse effects of the industry. This approach encourages individual influence to create change by implementing sustainable practices like up-cycling and recycling your old clothes in order to minimise waste.
We speak to eco-savvy shoppers Jane Milburn, Hannah Klose, Brittanie Dreghorn & Kim Bailey who share their tips and knowledge about implementing sustainable shopping choices into everyday life.
First up, Jane Milburn from textilebeat.com
When did you first become interested in sustainability?
I grew up on a sheep farm where careful use of resources was second nature and then went on to do an agricultural science degree at The University of Queensland. This was when I learned about climate change, and it is also where my love of natural fibres comes from. I feel I’ve been a slow living practitioner forever. My career in rural communications always kept me aware that there are finite resources in the world and we have to look after them.
We live in an old Queenslander, with upcycled furniture and found natural objects as ornaments, and I’ve always made, upcycled and mended my own clothes.
After I observed fashion waste in 2011 and learned how synthetic (plastic) fibres derived from petroleum were increasingly being used in fast fashion, I felt compelled to step up. I set up Textile Beat in 2013 to speak out about slow clothing, natural fibres and upcycling as a way to reduce our material footprint.
Slow clothing choices and actions are: think, choose natural, quality, local and few, care for what we have, make our own, revive, adapt and salvage.
What is one thing you do on a daily basis to help make the world more sustainable?
My strategy is to minimise waste of all kinds – food, clothing, paper, travel etc. I’m always thinking about how I can reuse what I already have around me, before I buy new.
There is pressure to acquire and own lots of stuff as a measure of success, but really we’ve moved past that now the climate emergency is upon us. We need to think more before we buy anything, particularly anything new.
Ask ourselves do we really need it, how often will we use/wear it, can we borrow or swap something similar? I know this makes it hard for people making a living by selling things, but they can focus on products of high quality that will last well and are essential for regenerative living in a climate-changing world.
Next, Hannah Klose from nevereverpayretail.com.au
What is the most positive impact from implementing sustainable practices into our lives?
Obviously one of the major positives from implementing sustainable practices like second hand shopping is that it’s kind on the planet. And when you think that 6000kg of textiles goes to landfill every 10 minutes here in Australia, It’s imperative that something has to change!
But thrifting is also kind on your wallet, it helps to drive down demand for clothing made by modern day slaves, and your retail therapy actually provides charities with one of their main sources of income, so buying nothing new just makes so much ‘cents’!
What sustainability challenges do you think shoppers face?
Sometimes it’s hard to know how sustainable fashion labels are, there’s a lot of ‘green washing’ going on, so you really need to do your research!
The Good On You app or the Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion guide are both good places to start, but I think sometimes the easiest and safest way to shop is to just buy second hand!
Brittanie Dreghorn from thecontentdivision.com.au
What do you perceive as the biggest barrier for shoppers to adopting more sustainable behaviors?
While it’s great that more and more people are considering the origins of their clothing and how they impact the planet, I think a big barrier for shoppers is understanding what makes a garment “sustainable”.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of big and small companies claiming to be ethical and sustainable without actually explaining how and why and it makes customers confused and disengaged.
I also think people assume all ethically made fashion is out of their price range, and so dismiss the idea all together. This definitely isn’t true and there’s lots of ways of shopping sustainably on a budget.
What would you recommend to someone who interested in sustainability but doesn’t know how to get their ideas off the ground?
I think everyone should start with their own wardrobe. Go through it and see what they wear most, what their clothes are made of, where they’re made etc.
An easy way to reduce your impact is to buy less or buy second hand when you can. When buying new you want to buy ethically made, quality clothing that you absolutely love and will wear for years to come.
Kim Bailey from eastofgrey.com.au
How have you seen the sustainable fashion industry change in recent years?
The industry has changed dramatically I believe since the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh a few years ago. Consumers are increasingly interested in ethical and sustainable products and processes so the sustainable fashion industry has really gained momentum.
They are asking more questions of fashion companies, encouraging transparency within the supply chain to ensure purchases fit within their values. It’s exciting to see the industry change and consumers support the changes.
Can you describe what sustainable fashion is?
Sustainable fashion can be interpreted in so many ways. It can be ethical processes, fair trade, slow clothing, organic fabrics, handmade, locally made, vintage clothing, secondhand, swapped or rented.
Thanks so much for sharing ladies and helping us change the way we shop one step at a time!