What Is Sustainable Fashion and Why Does It Matter?

What is Sustainable Fashion and Why does it matter image of closet of clothes

In college, I would go out every Friday afternoon to purchase a new outfit for whatever party was happening that weekend. It was my therapeutic weekly routine. I’d take a 20-minute walk down to Newbury Street and hit up Forever 21 or H&M for the latest find that fit the party’s theme. Week after week, my closet grew. By the time I moved out of my sophomore year apartment, I had two large suitcases of clothes more than I started out with (100-150 new articles of clothing)!

That experience of sorting, moving, and packing all those articles of clothing woke me up to exactly how much I was consuming. The hassle of packing scared me into inadvertently buying less and unknowingly, my journey to conscious consumption and sustainable-ish fashion began.

At that time, sustainable fashion wasn’t a conversation that people were having and I never thought of it as a way of living. It wasn’t until just last year that I decided to cut out fast fashion entirely and only buy sustainable fashion.

So what is sustainable fashion?

“Sustainable fashion is a movement and process of fostering change into fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. Sustainable fashion concerns more than addressing fashion textiles or products. It comprises addressing the whole system of fashion.” (Wikipedia)

Why does it matter?

Sustainable fashion (ethical fashion, conscious fashion, or eco fashion), is crucial because provides some balance to the negative effects of the fashion industry as a whole and challenges businesses to reevaluate their sustainability and ethical practices.


  • The global apparel and footwear industry accounts for 8% of the world’s greenhouse emissions. (Quantis, 2018)

  • The fashion industry’s CO2 emissions are projected to increase to nearly 2.8 billion tons per year by 2030--equivalent to the emissions of 230 million passenger vehicles driven for a year! Global Fashion Agenda 2017)

  • If the fashion industry doesn’t change, the apparel industry’s impact is expected to increase 48% by 2030. (Global Fashion Agenda 2017)

Mainstream fashion (fast fashion) is a huge contributor to climate change, which indisputably will increasingly affect our food sources, habitats, and general way of life. Now more than ever, there is a need to reduce carbon emissions and halt, or even reverse the impact that we’ve had on the globe.

Now what? How do I make my wardrobe sustainable?

I know, I know, the world of sustainable fashion is overwhelming. Where do you even start?

Begin with mindfulness and curiosity. As with any lifestyle habit, start small. Be more mindful of how much and what you’re buying. With each article of clothing, ask yourself (and answer truthfully), whether or not you’re going to wear that piece again and again or if it’s just going to sit in your closet.

Be curious! The conversation around sustainable fashion is constantly changing and honestly, the best part about this journey is that there’s no clear right and wrong. We’re all just trying to make a positive impact on the world so open this conversation up to your friends or online community, and get to connecting!

Remember that the sustainable fashion journey is one that you’re committed to for the long haul. We’re all human and mistakes (as well as temptations) will happen so remember that it’s progress over perfection. Remember, “we don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste sustainable fashion perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” (quote adapted from the zero waste community)

If you’re ready for a breakdown on how to get started, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Sustainable Fashion!

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