Is Sustainable Fashion Really Sustainable?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: October 23, 2021
  • Time to read: 5 min.

I’ve been obsessed with buying clothes for many years now. 

I’d buy at least 7 pairs of fashionable jeans at lower prices to have diversity in my wardrobe, despite the fact that I end up wearing only at most 3 of them. 

But with the fashion industry irrefutably becoming one of the major contributors to our environmental problem, I thought of this question, “is sustainable fashion really sustainable”? The answer is no.

I did extensive research and put together the facts about sustainable fashion in a well-detailed manner.

What Does “Sustainable Fashion” Mean?

The word ‘sustainable’ is frankly overused and confusing. Even in the world of fashion, this term isn’t an exception. 

Simply put, sustainable fashion refers to accessories and garments produced and accessed in a socially responsible and ecological manner. 

It combines both ethical and eco-conscious fashion. 

Many cloth online retailers keep on reproducing new fashion. 

This keeps us consuming for sure, especially on holidays. But we don’t think about how these habits will harm our planet. 

Although these big retailers like The Iconic or Zara claim to have sustainable and ethical credentials, it’s not that easy to attain 100% sustainability. 

We must come to our senses. 

You can choose to buy in shops that believe in sustainability. 

Again, you can practice this more sustainably. However, sustainable fashion doesn’t require you to purchase new things to stay on-trend. Instead;

  • Shop second-hand things
  • Wear what you have first
  • Borrow or swap with your friends

Those are just some of the ways you can engage in a sustainable fashion. So, you don’t need to burn your wallet and purchase anything new to look fashionable. 

Is Sustainable Fashion Really Sustainable

The simple answer to this question is no. Sustainable fashion is so important but not 100 percent sustainable. 

It’s, however, a viable eco-alternative to fast fashion. 

The fashion industry is so rapidly growing, hence the impact on the environment is worsening. 

The industries need a huge volume of apparel and footwear, fortunately, most of them don’t meet certain environmental certifications.  

This is forecasted to increase by 70 percent by 2030.

With the brands growing so quickly, it’s become a struggle to reduce carbon footprint

Most of us want to go green with our consumption, but telling which brands are kind to the planet falls into that category of bad news.

Ethical fashion will presumably never exist because not all fashion companies agree on what qualifies as ‘ethical.’ 

As well, not every eco-conscious fan wants clothes made from recycled synthetic or organic materials all the time.

Even persuading suppliers to become greener is another real challenge that derails sustainable fashion. 

They’re supposed to power their machine with renewable energy to reduce carbon footprint.

Also, third-party suppliers should source and work with low-impact materials. 

However, making fashionable clothes requires new things. 

Why Is The Fashion Industry Not Sustainable?

While fast fashion makes production and shopping for clothes affordable, the habits come at a cost – that’s an environmental cost. 

As we may be knowing, the fashion industry contributes to 10 percent of the world’s carbon emissions

The CO2 has serious impacts on human beings and the planet, including;

  • Pollutes rivers, streams, and oceans
  • Dries up water sources
  • Poor disposal results in an untidy environment

Consumers are not relenting on buying more clothes – new styles and cheap items. 

Cloth waste ends up in landfills each year. Also, washing some clothes sends tons of microbes into the ocean. 

Two years ago, H&M reported that it stocks around $4.3 billion of unsold clothes

If not sold, most of them will go to waste. Some brands burn this waste as well. 

  • Many companies believe that shredding and burning apparel is the cheapest way to get rid of merchandise. This sounds ridiculous. 
  • Fashion sacks up a lot of energy and water than both shipping and aviation combined. The complex supply chain makes it tricky to account for carbon emitted when producing a new coat or a pair of trousers.
  • The transportation and disposal of new clothes when the customers don’t want them anymore is another area of consideration. The trucks used for transportation accounts for global carbon emissions.
  • Poor disposal, on the other hand, leads to wastewaters. 
  • Growing cotton requires gallons of water as it does well in dry environments. The UN estimates that one pair of jeans will require a kilogram of cotton. Producing this kilo needs nearly 10,000 liters. 
Is Sustainable Fashion Really Sustainable?

What Percentage of Fashion is Sustainable?

Many consumers want to buy sustainable fashion, but what percentage of fashion is ethically made? The survey done in the United Kingdom shows most men prefer shopping from sustainable fashion brands compared to the women with 53% and 47% respectively.

Going with the consumer behavior, 50% of fashion is sustainable as most of them are willing to pay even more for it. 

Ways To Make Fashion More Sustainable

Although consumers won’t be changing their fashion habits any time soon, we can at least make the fashion industry more sustainable by;

  • Second-hand shopping. Brands and retailers are now chasing second-hand clothing than before. It’s because second-hand clothing has vintage and unique styles to standout styles. 
  • Custom clothing. Custom clothing is the new fashion trend. Consumers are going for on-demand clothing because it’s customized and fashionable. So designers are dedicated to improving the customer’s experience.
  • Fair and ethical fashion. Today, consumers are choosing ethical fashion. Most of them already understand how the industry is hurtful for laborers, animals, and the planet.
  • Repair, redesign, and upcycle fashion. Beyond repair, the industry should redesign as it’s the trendiest fashion. Some brands are following 5 R’s fashion – reduce, repair, recycle, repurpose and reinvent.  

Sustainable fashion requires you to produce more eco-friendly goods. 

Retailers and consumers and advocating for low fashion rather than fast fashion. 

Slow fashion involves an ethical cloth manufacturing process that cares for people, animals, and the environment.  


Although sustainable fashion isn’t 100 percent sustainable, we can improve on this. Being a genuinely sustainable fashion brand should be a priority. 

We should consider all aspects of the value chain that respects environmental conservation and restoration. Let’s limit waste and its emissions.  

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