AS big-name brands are probed over ‘misleading’ eco-friendly policies, we introduce you to the essential things to watch for when shopping for sustainable fashion.
Two-thirds of shoppers consider whether clothing is sustainably made when making a purchase.
ShutterstockA report last year claimed that 42 per cent of companies greenwash by marketing their products as environmentally friendly with little or no evidence to back up such claims[/caption]
AlamyLabels aren’t just for looking up washing instructions or the size of a garment and contain clues to how ‘green’ the product is[/caption]
ShutterstockSearch for terms such as “recycled cotton”, ‘Cradle To Cradle Gold’ certification[/caption]
So it’s little wonder that brands are upping their “green” efforts in a bid to boost their profits.
But last week it was revealed that retailers Asos, Boohoo and Asda are under investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority over claims of “green-washing” — misleading customers by exaggerating their sustainability credentials.
A report last year claimed that 42 per cent of companies greenwash by marketing their products as environmentally friendly with little or no evidence to back up such claims.
So can you tell if a product was genuinely sustainably made? Abby McHale reveals what to look for.
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LABELS aren’t just for looking up washing instructions or the size of a garment.
Search for terms such as “recycled cotton”, “Cradle To Cradle Gold” certification, “GOTS certified organic cotton” in reference to the Global Organic Textile Standard and “BCI stand-ard”, which is the Better Cotton Initiative.
These mean the item has been approved to high industry standards, so have genuine sustainable credentials. It’s also worth checking on the label what percentage of the item is sustainable.
It could be as low as 20 per cent despite the brand claiming the item is “eco-friendly” on the tag.
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A STUDY by the Changing Markets Foundation, which looked at 12 of the most popular British and European fashion brands, reported that 60 per cent of environmental claims could be “unsubstantiated” and “misleading”.
A great place to check is Fashion Revolution’s transparency index, which breaks down 250 of the world’s largest brands, ranked according to the information they disclose on their environmental policies, operations and supply chain.
AVOID non-biodegradable materials such as nylon and polyester.
And remember that if an item is billed as “natural”, this does not necessarily mean it is eco-friendly.
For example, 150million trees are cut down each year to produce viscose, a synthetic silk substitute, which is a “natural mineral”. Bamboo is often grown with pesticides, and chemicals can be used when turning it into a fabric. Finding out how a material is sourced is key.
The Higg Products tool, available at apparelcoalition.org, compares the environmental impacts of different fabrics.
THE location of where your garments have come from is vital when working out if it was sustainably made.
A dress might be dubbed sustainable, but if it has been made in Asia it has had to travel all the way to the UK, creating a huge carbon footprint.
In fact, the fashion industry is responsible for ten per cent of annual global carbon emissions.
Look out for items produced in the UK, particularly those made from British sustainable wool and cotton.
Some retailers are more transparent than others, with Marks and Spencer having an interactive map on its website that shows exactly where its factories are located around the world.
THINK about how often brands bring in new products.
If every time you go into your favourite clothes shop it has a new range of items on display, then the store is probably providing fast fashion — no matter how sustainable the label claims to be.
Brands that have only one or two drops a season are less likely to create unnecessary wastage.
According to magazine Vice, Boohoo uploads 100 new items to sell on its website each day on average, suggesting a very high turnover of stock.
The best way to know for sure on a website? Check how often each brand has a new tab of clothes to look at.
FEEL FOR PLASTIC
UNFORTUNATELY, plastic is everywhere, even in most of our clothes.
Every time we wash our clothes, millions of plastic microfibres pass through our washing machine and into our water, eventually ending up in the ocean.
Studies have then found these bits of plastic in some seafood — so we’re essentially eating our own clothes. On products that claim to be sustainable look for zips or embellishments, as they will most likely contain plastic.
While the industry is becoming more aware of plastic, it is still hard to avoid, with 63 per cent of clothes made of synthetic fibres.
Guppy Friend is a mesh laundry bag that goes into the washing machine with your clothes in. It captures the microfibres, stopping them going into the water system.
You can remove the fibres from the bag at the end of each wash.
MOST cotton is made using pesticides that then hang around in the product after.
These have been linked to health problems such as respiratory issues and even cancer.
So look for organic cotton, hemp or linen which don’t use pesticides.
A lot of dyes can be harmful to your skin as well as the environment.
Clothes that are stain or crease-resistant often have chemicals in them so they are best avoided.
Look for organic cotton, hemp or linen which don’t use pesticidesShutterstock
Guppy Friend is a mesh laundry bag that goes into the washing machine with your clothes in. It captures the microfibres, stopping them going into the water system
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Look for clothing that isn’t dyed (the label should say “natural”, “unbleached” or “undyed”).
A GOTS or Oeko-Tex certification on the label means no toxic chemicals are used.
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