Cheap, fast, disposable clothing - it’s easy to buy, everywhere and, well, it’s cheap! But in a world where everything we want is at our fingertips, just because something may seem “affordable”, doesn’t mean it is good for you, your family, or your wallet.
The real price of fast fashion
The price tags on clothes often don't reflect the long-term cost of clothing. And that scenario works both ways. Just as a low cost item does not reflect what the actual long term cost is, just because something is more expensive does not make it a better quality, good-for-you-and-your-family clothing investment.
Whether you are buying clothing, food, or any product, it is important to read the labels and between the lines. Often what is NOT said is just as important as what IS said. We will address both of those important things, but let’s first address the REAL price of fast fashion.
- In the US alone, 21 billion pounds of clothing waste ends up in the landfills every year.
- The fashion industry emits 10% of global greenhouse gases.
- Pesticides and chemicals used in the production of conventional clothing make up 20 percent of global insecticide emissions.
- Every time you do a load of laundry that contains synthetic fiber clothing, up to 750,000 microplastics are shed into the oceans - polluting the ocean, killing sea life, and ending up in our food system.
- Fast fashion/synthetic fiber clothing takes up to 1000 years to biodegrade.
- 2700 liters of water is needed to produce ONE non-organic cotton t-shirt - enough water for one person to drink for 3 years.
And those are just the facts from a meta level. On a personal level, the impact of fast fashion on your family includes:
- Lower quality clothing that easily falls apart with wash and wear, resulting in spending more time and more money on replacements.
- Creating a habit of shopping - shopping can be addictive - and there is no shame in it but rather an unawareness to the loss of time that could be spent with family or in nature.
- An altered sense of values - while you may value a slow and sustainable lifestyle, many get caught in societal messages that support “spend less, have more” and your once strong values become lost.
- Actually spending more - when you constantly have to buy replacements of fast and cheap clothing, you buy more
Is sustainable clothing more expensive than conventional clothing?
One of the reasons conventional clothing is less expensive is that chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers actually help to keep the cost down for farmers of conventionally produced fabrics. The production of organic clothing is under strict federal guidelines for pesticide use to labor rights. This results in additional time and effort that goes into the planting, growing, harvesting, spinning, dyeing, and cutting of sustainable materials.
So while the price tag of an organic, natural fiber piece of clothing may be higher, when you look at cost per wear, the difference in value is jaw dropping. For example if a fast fashion top is 5x cheaper than its sustainable and natural counterpart, but actually falls about after 6 months of wash and wear as opposed to the sustainable piece lasting 2-3 years, you’re better off buying the more expensive top and taking care of it as you will have it for years.
High-quality, long-lasting natural fiber basics last a long time, never go out of style, and FEEL better. And since it doesn’t impact the environment during any of the process, YOU actually feel better too.
So what is a person who cares about the cost of clothing and their footprint on the planet - but doesn’t want to spend a fortune to do?
How to make your family's wardrobe more sustainable
Sustainable fashion is not only higher quality, it’s made of natural fibers that last longer, are good for you and your family, timeless, timely, and do not impact the environment. But not all sustainable brands are created equal, and as mentioned before, what is said is often not as important as what is not said on the labels.
What is usually stated by sustainable brands:
- Garment Composition - Look for organic and natural fiber clothing
- Laundry Care - Be sure to follow the instructions as any wool and other natural fibers may shrink with heat, and not all washer cold settings are created equal. At Nui, we recommend to hand wash our Merino knitwear with cool water and dry flat. Our Merino thermals and body can go in the washing machine. One of the many benefits of wool is that it dries fast!
- Product sourcing - most quality sustainable brands are transparent about where they source their fibers and textiles. Ensuring the brand uses ethical sourcing options is just as important as the types of fiber used. For example, at Nui, we stand by a “no harm caused by the production of our clothes" - that means everyone from the growers, the farmers, the animals and everyone in between and including the final user - we ensure the making of the product causes the least impact and greatest safety and wellness for each segment of the production process.
- Closed Loop/Rewear Program - A good sustainable fashion brand will have a buy-back/resell program customers can use, to ensure that outgrown clothing can be passed forward to another family. This enables customers to sell their clothing at a higher value (because it’s a higher quality garment to start), make money on it, and ensure it does not end up in the landfills as pollution. At Nui, with the Rewear program, customers can close the loop on their family’s clothing.
What is NOT stated by many sustainable brands:
Transparency - While a sustainable fashion brand may talk all day about natural fibers, how they don’t cause waste with their clothing, many overproduce and focus on trends just as their fast fashion counterparts. “Trendy” clothing is not reserved for fast fashion brands, and many supposedly sustainable brands still overproduce, don’t teach their customers about recycling and still contribute to a fast fashion mentality for financial reasons.
Authentic sustainable brands like Nui, produce for growth not profit, feature timeless collections, and educate their audience with ways to be more sustainable and conscious with their clothing.
- Packaging - If your garment is made of natural fibers but comes in a bigger box than necessary that isn’t recycled (less expensive for the manufacturer), is it really practicing what it preaches? Compostable bags for clothing are used by many sustainable brands and should be something to expect or at least ask the brand to offer.
- Education - Knowledge is empowering for customers and brands that actually want to make the world a better place know this and consistently educate their customers about how to use, care for, and live more sustainable lifestyles, as well as WHY.
Sustainability is a choice
In today’s world - with climate change, deforestation, pollution and microplastics in the ocean are realities - every decision and act by you really does make a difference.
It’s a choice - a choice to pay attention to what matters to you, align your actions to your values, and winning overall by doing what FEELS right to you. Slowing down to take into account lifetime value, the impact of your choices, and seeking a community that supports your high values - are all ways we can make sustainable and conscious living part of our everyday lives.
It’s our planet and we care.