What is sustainability?
By definition, sustainability is the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources to maintain an ecological balance. Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without having to compromise the ability for future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability has three main pillars, which are economic, environmental and social; these pillars are also called profit, planet and people.
The Economic Pillar
To be sustainable, a business must be profitable. Activities that fit under the economic pillar include compliance, proper governance and risk management. The economic pillar and profit make it possible for companies to come on board with sustainability measures.
The Environmental Pillar
This pillar is arguably the most important and the section that gets the most attention. Companies are constantly trying to reduce their carbon footprint, cut down on packaging, watch their water usage and overall keep track of the effects they have on the environment. Many companies have found that by having a beneficial impact on the environment, they can have a positive financial impact.
All-in-all, the costs of wastewater, CO2 emissions, and waste in general are hard to calculate because oftentimes the companies are not the ones being held accountable for the waste that they produce.
The Social Pillar
A sustainable business should have the support and approval of everyone involved, including employees, stakeholders and consumers. Treating employees fairly, giving back to the community and being aware of how the supply chain is being met are all important aspects of the social pillar.
Many companies and retailers over the years have received public outrage because of issues like unfair pay, unfair working conditions, harmful impacts on the environment, child labor issues and many others. These are examples of things that companies need to pay attention to in order to make sure that they are being as sustainable as possible.
Where does fashion come into it?
“Fast fashion” is one of the leading issues in the fashion industry. This refers to cheaply-made clothing distributed to meet the demands of current trends and styles.
Materials that are the most sustainable include cotton, hemp and linen, whereas synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and spandex are cheap and come from chemicals and polymers.
Synthetic materials are not biodegradable meaning that they will not decompose for 20 years at best and 200 years at worst. On the other hand, cotton generally takes five to six months to break down.
What can you do?
You can commit to buying less and investing in clothing pieces that are going to last longer! Here is a list of other ways you can help:
- Clothing swap: get your friends/family together and swap pieces from your closet with pieces from their closets. Not only will you get some new clothes to wear but you won’t be wasting resources or contributing to landfills.
- Shop second-hand: THRIFT! These clothes already exist so by purchasing them you are cutting down on the impact of producing new products.
- Invest in slow fashion: By purchasing pieces that are higher in quality you will be able to wear them longer and the demand for newer pieces decreases. Take the time to think about pieces you really need that you can use often. Start with the basics.
- Shop local: This helps to minimize your carbon footprint and helps small/local businesses provide for themselves. Garment transportation puts out huge amounts of CO2, but by shopping locally you can help cut down on CO2 emissions!
- Buy vegan: Shopping vegan is environmentally-friendly and helps to reduce the environmental impacts caused by animals. In addition, you can help prevent animals from suffering and dying in order to make clothing.
- DO IT YOURSELF: Pick up a needle and thread and get to work! Creating your own clothing allows you to personalize the clothing you want in addition to eliminating the cost of labor and creation and CO2 emissions from transportation.