Sustainability- But Make it Fashion

It’s no surprise to see a slow fashion movement growing in popularity to tackle the dynamic environmental issues associated with fast fashion. Local thrift & consignment stores are not only treasure troves to find one-of-a-kind, vintage, fashion finds but also a great way to add an eco-step into your wardrobe!

YYC ReLove Market

YYC Relove Market is a “premier consignment and vintage market, offering the finest pre-loved pieces and working to further sustainability through a cyclic fashion scene”. Their next Market event will be on Friday, October 16th, 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM and Saturday, October 17th, 12:00 PM - 4:00 PM.

Learn more on their website here, and their Instagram @therelovemarket

Why Slow Fashion?

Key Social Issues

Pervasive cases of slavery and forced labor still exist, such as the annual Uzbek cotton harvest (Sullivan, 2015) and Sumangali Schemes in India (SOMO & ICN, 2014). The right to earn a living wage, form and join unions, child labor, work that is safe and not detrimental to health, and many more labor and human rights standards are often overlooked in developing countries which have relaxed or nonexistent labor regulations (SOMO & ICN, 2014; Common Objective, 2018). There is a vicious cycle of workers taking these precarious jobs because these working conditions are better than unemployment or rural countryside jobs (Krugman, 1997). Measures to take action include: producers and suppliers engage with contractors to ensure proper employment contracts, discussion with unions, and government to regularize pay and benefits (Common Objective, 2018).

One major social barrier is consumer attitudes toward sustainability and fashion. According to McNeill and Moore (2015), “better awareness of sustainable products in relation to their quality and fashion would reduce some barriers”. McNeill & Moore (2015) also noted that consumers also perceived that making sustainable consumer choices correlates to higher financial cost and that efforts by organizations to prove otherwise will help overcome this challenge. There needs to be a selfish motivation for consumers who use fashion as a form of identity expression to want to make sustainable choices and be more informed on the issue (McNeill & Moore, 2015).

Key Environmental Issues


The fashion industry uses intense volumes of water throughout its production and manufacturing stages. Extreme water usage endangers water supply especially in water-stressed areas such as China and India (Global Fashion Agenda, 2017). In fact, 79 billion cubic meters of water were consumed by the fashion industry in 2015 (Global Fashion Agenda, 2017). Contaminated water from harmful chemicals and substances pose another serious issue, as it is often improperly treated before its release into the environment (Common Objective, 2018, Global Fashion Agenda, 2018). 2700 liters of water are needed just to produce one cotton t-shirt, and one load of washing uses 40 gallons of water (World Wildlife Fund [WWF], 2013). Cotton is also known for its heavy water, pesticide, and fertilizer usage (Greenpeace, 2017). However, cotton has the potential to become a sustainable crop as it is renewable, recyclable, drought and saline tolerated (Common Objective, 2018; Greenpeace, 2017). Organic natural cotton and classic natural fibers such as hemp and linen have lower water demands (Greenpeace, 2017).


Did you know that one load of drying uses 5 times more energy than washing clothes (World Wildlife Fund, 2013)? Fibers such as polyester rely heavily on fossil fuels and contribute to adding microplastic fibers into the aquatic and land environment (Greenpeace, 2017). Design for longer life and promoting extended use of clothing are essential interventions to slow down the material flow and increasing the physical and emotional durability of clothes (Greenpeace, 2017).

Chemicals, Waste & Pollution

Chemicals such as trichloroethane (TCE) and nonythenol ethoxylates (NPEs) are used form the production stages (nitrogen and phosphorus-based fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides) to the manufacturing stages (dyeing, processing, finishing, and chlorinating) (Common Objective, 2018). These chemicals are released into the environment due to improper treatment/management processes (Greenpeace, 2017; Global Fashion Agenda, 2017). Such examples are environmental degradation effects (runoffs, water contamination, and erosion), potential health hazards for employees, and decreased safe water supply for surrounding communities (Common Objective, 2018). According to the Pulse of the Fashion Industry’s 2017 report, the industry was responsible for 1,715 million tons of carbon dioxide, and the second-largest polluter of water in China.

Fast fashion has contributed to the annual number of textiles wasted (Perry, 2018; Greenpeace, 2017) and propagated consumer “buy-and-throw” attitudes (Greenpeace, 2017). The responsibility to reduce waste in fashion falls upon both producers and consumers. A number of fast fashion companies have begun to implement sustainable initiatives that reconsider the supply chain in developing eco-materials, safety training, monitoring of sustainable manufacturing, reducing carbon emissions, and promoting eco-fashion. (Shen, 2014; Greenpeace, 2017). Smaller fashion brands such as People Tree (People Tree, n.d.) and Reformation (Reformation, n.d.) have propelled creative and diverse sustainable practices in the industry. The majority of the current recycling of polyester by the textile industry does not deal with textiles waste (Greenpeace, 2017; Global Fashion Agenda, 2017).

Sustainable Efforts

Global Fashion Agenda (GFA)

GFA is a non-profit leadership forum on fashion sustainability founded in 2016 and based in Denmark. The GFA works to set a common agenda, facilitate solution-sharing, develop insights, and inspire action. Copenhagen Fashion Summit is one of the world’s leading business event on sustainability in fashion. Their launch of the Pulse of the Fashion Industry 2017 report found a lack of guidance on how to transition towards sustainable fashion industry practices (Global Fashion Agenda, 2018). Their publication of the CEO Agenda 2018 guides to work towards greater sustainability. The Agenda’s 7 priorities are:

  1. Supply chain traceability

  2. Efficient use of water, energy, and chemicals

  3. Respectful and secure work environments

  4. Sustainable material mix

  5. Closed-loop fashion system

  6. Promotion of better wage systems

  7. Fourth industrial revolution

Fashion Takes Action

Fashion Takes Action is Canada’s only non-profit fashion industry organization focused on sustainability. Their goal is to shift behavior toward more positive social and environmental impacts through education, awareness, and collaboration. Some of their efforts include World Ethical Apparel Roundtable (WEAR), My Clothes My World, and Design Forward.

Green Peace: Detox Campaign

Launched in 2011 to call upon major fashion brands to stop poisoning the water with hazardous, persistent, and hormone-disrupting chemicals (Greenpeace, n.d.). Some initiatives include the Detox Fashion Manifesto pledged by consumers, and Detox Commitments signed by brands like Nike, Adidas, Puma, H&M, and Zara (Greenpeace, n.d.).

World Wildlife Fund: Better Cotton Initiative

BCI is the largest cotton sustainability program in the world, providing training on environmental, social, and economic sustainable cotton production practices to 1.6 million farmers in 21 countries (Better Cotton Initiative, n.d.)., In the 2016-17 season, 1.3 million BCI farmers across 21 countries produced 3.3 million metric tons of Better Cotton lint, accounting for 14% of the global cotton production (Better Cotton Initiative, n.d.). Learn more here.

What Can We Do?

As consumers, we have a lot of impact on the way the market behaves and therefore how many products are produced and transported. By supporting local and changing not just how we spend but where we spend, perhaps the global trend of mass production will become more manageable and we can give future generations a better chance at a sustainable life.

What does being a responsible consumer mean? Consumer behavior can make an impact by supporting local businesses, thrifting for clothing and other goods, and making sure you do your research on where the products you are buying are coming from. Large brands have obvious labeling while more local products are clearly handmade and individually packaged. Despite the convenience of it, continuously buying from large industries only increases their economic motive and allows them to produce more pollution and goods that will just end up in a landfill. An example of supporting local can be buying from mom and pop convenience stores instead of from large supermarkets for groceries. Not only is your money going directly towards the income of a family who is entirely dependent on their small business, but it is also going towards reducing your ecological footprint. Other ways we can reduce our ecological footprint are by discontinuing the use of disposable plastics, eating less meat, recycling, and reducing water use.


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Shen, B. (2014). Sustainable fashion supply chain: Lessons from H&M. Sustainability, 6(9). 6236-4249.

McNeill, L., & Moore, R. (2015). Sustainable fashion consumption and the fast fashion conundrum: fashionable consumers and attitudes to sustainability in clothing choice. International Journal of Consumer Studies39(3), 212-222.

Sullivan, L. (2015, November 20). Summary of Uzbek cotton harvest 2015. Anti-Slavery International. Retrieved from

World Wildlife Fund [WWF]. (2013, January 16). The impact of a cotton t-shirt. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved from

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