Think you know a lot about sustainable fashion? Test your wits with our fun sustainable fashion questionnaire. It's only 10 questions long so takes less than 5 minutes! Are you ready?
1. What percentage of microplastic pollution comes from washing synthetic clothes?
A staggering 35% of microplastic pollution found in our oceans comes from washing our synthetic clothes. Synthetic fibres include those that make up fabrics like polyester, nylon, rayon (or viscose), PVC and Spandex (or lycra).
Although the textile industry is in love with these plastic based fibres, we can all make sustainable clothing choices and either avoid these fabrics altogether or wash them sensibly so that they shed less.
For more information and ideas, see our article How to avoid microplastics in clothing: 8 things you can do now.
2. What’s the most eco-friendly fabric of those listed here?
Linen is the most sustainable of these four fabrics. The main points in its favour are:
- Very low water use, especially in comparison to cotton (rain fall is often enough)- Low/no need for pesticides or fertilisers- Carbon positive as the plant retains carbon- Little to no waste as all of the flax plant can be used- Locally grown in Europe and the fabric is recyclable
Polyester is a synthetic fibre, made from fossil fuels. As well as using up natural resources, it sheds microfibres meaning it is not at all environmentally friendly.
Silk, while being natural and biodegradable, uses a huge amount of energy to boil the silk worm cocoons. The high energy use, not to mention animal cruelty goes against its sustainable credentials.
To learn more about this super fabric, have a look at: Is linen more eco-friendly than cotton? Why we love linen.For more on sustainable fabrics, see: What is the most sustainable fabric? Your ultimate guide.And to find out more about silk: Is mulberry silk ethical and are there kinder alternatives?
3. What’s the best way to have a sustainable wardrobe?
The most sustainable clothes are those you already own. Throwing away clothes adds to the mountains of clothing waste in the world and causes yet more pollution. Clothes from cheap fast fashion brands are often made from environmentally unfriendly fabrics in unethical conditions. Sadly, many luxury brands don’t fare much better.
Slow fashion involves getting creative with what you have and reusing your clothing in as many ways as you can. Learning to mend and alter your clothes, or getting friendly with a tailor also helps you get the most use out of what you already own. Where you do need to buy new, look for natural fibres like organic cotton, linen and hemp. Buying less means that you can invest in good quality clothing from sustainable fashion brands that will stand the test of time.
For more ideas see our article How to build an ethical and sustainable wardrobe
4. What is viscose?
Viscose is a fabric made from tree pulp. Although this would seem to be a natural material, the tree pulp is processed using toxic chemicals. These are often released untreated, polluting local rivers and communities.
What’s more, vast areas of endangered and ancient forests have been cleared to provide the tree pulp, not only ruining peatland but causing climate change in the process.For all of these reasons, fabric made from viscose, a darling of the fast fashion industry, is very unsustainable. Look for alternatives such as LENZING Lyocell, Ecovero, Tencel and Modal.
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5. How many litres of water does it take to make one t shirt and a pair of jeans?
To make one t shirt and a pair of jeans uses a staggering 22,730 litres of water (about 5,000 gallons).
Growing the cotton to make them uses the most water, cotton is one of the most water intensive crops there is. Further down the manufacturing chain, washing, rinsing, dyeing and finishing the jeans and t shirt is also very water intensive.
Meanwhile, a single pair of jeans uses around 10,850 litres of water in its lifecycle from its processing to consumer washing.
You can help reduce this intense water use through your fashion choices: buying less or second hand in the first place helps. When you do buy, look for recycled cotton or organic cotton which often uses less water than its conventional counterpart. Other natural fabrics such as linen and hemp are much less water intensive than cotton and are therefore great sustainable choices.
Cotton’s second life: the importance of recycled cotton fabricAn eco-option? Advantages and disadvantages of organic cottonIs linen more eco friendly than cotton? Why we love linen101 ethical and sustainable fashion statistics and trends 2022
6. How many years does it take for polyester to biodegrade?
It takes up to 200 years for polyester to biodegrade. Worth a thought when you see that bargain polyester dress that would look great on your social media and that you might wear once or twice.
These clothes often end up cluttering landfills around the world causing a massive pollution problem.
Take a few hints from the circular economy and:- Reuse or upcycle clothes you already have (but maybe have forgotten about)- Buy secondhand from somebody else (that only wore it once)- Rent a dress for a special occasion and save the environment (plus space in your wardrobe!)
Stats on a crisis: UK clothing waste facts and 7 ways to reduce itFive questions with Danny Calero clothes upcycling supremo!Styles that don’t last forever: which fabrics are biodegradable?Secondhand treasures: the best-preloved clothes online11 of the best clothing subscription boxes in the UK (2022)101 ethical and sustainable fashion statistics and trends 2022
7. Is a minimum wage enough to live on?
Minimum wages in many countries are not enough to live on. In countries that rely on garment manufacturing, such as Bangladesh, Madagascar and Ethiopia, the government deliberately sets the minimum wage low to attract companies, such as fast fashion brands, to manufacture there.
In Bangladesh, the minimum wage is 8,000 taka per month, around £71. However, to live comfortably and afford life’s basics such as decent housing, food, clothes, medical provisions and savings for a rainy day, around £334 per month is needed. The minimum wage in Ethiopia is even lower at around $26 per month.
Look out for brands that pay a living wage to make sure that the clothes on your back aren’t stealing the food on the table from somebody else.
50 Bangladesh textile industry statistics fashionistas should knowMaking fashion fair: 22 brands that pay a living wage
8. According to a report about animal welfare in fashion, how many brands check their animal-derived products for animal welfare?
According to the 2021 report, ‘Animal Welfare In Fashion: Towards a truly ethical and transparent fashion industry’ only around a fifth (21%) of brands check their animal-derived products for animal welfare.
As well as the obvious products such as animal skins and coats, animal derived products can be hidden in everything from clothing dyes to glues and wax coatings. Buying from vegan brands is a sure fire way to avoid this. However you can also check a brand’s animal welfare policy online or only buy from brands with certifications such as the Responsible Wool Standard or the Responsible Down Standard.
If your favourite fashion brand doesn’t check out, think about writing them to tell them that animal welfare is important to you. The most important thing to them is you!
How to stop animal cruelty in the fashion industry: 10 things you can do starting nowFive questions with Charlie McEvoy of Plant Faced Clothing101 statistics
9. How many children are estimated to work in child labour worldwide?
Sadly 160 million children are estimated to work in child labour. This is about one in ten children worldwide, but in poorer countries where child labour is more prevalent, it works out to about one in five.
Children are more likely to end up in child labour where families are trying to survive on very low wages, making the payment of a living wage even more important. Their small fingers make them particularly suitable for things such as cotton picking. For those fashion brands with obscure supply chains, it’s more likely that there will be children working at some point in the production of their clothes.
Look for brands that are open about where their products are made, and that trace their supply chains as far back as possible (e.g. to the cotton growing stage). The Fashion Transparency Index identifies transparent brands, who are more likely to know who made their clothes. For more information, have a look in the further reading section.
Why is sustainable and ethical fashion important? What everyone should knowHelp end child labour: 22 brands committed to child labour-free clothingThe who made my clothes movement: is it changing fashion?Making fashion fair: 22 brands that pay a living wage
10. Does sustainable fashion cost more?
It is definitely true that, on average, sustainable fashion brands cost more than their fast fashion counterparts. And nobody is suggesting that you can never buy from fast fashion brands again. Sometimes they are the only available option. That said, we are seeing more and more sustainable and ethical brands producing ethical clothing at lower and accessible prices.
However, the true way to be sustainable is to buy less and wear well what you already have. If you buy second hand and only buy new what you really need, where possible from sustainable brands, you will notice that the cost per wear of your clothes comes down. Higher quality items last longer too.
Engaging in the slow fashion movement and buying less, from sustainable and ethical fashion brands, will cost you less in the long run.
A costly impact: 8 reasons why sustainable clothes are so expensive8 cool ideas for how to make sustainable fashion affordableHow you’ll save money with a cost-per-wear calculator
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