How Sustainable are Brands? Learn How To Tell

January 2021

What do the experts think...

Five steps to ensure you are purchasing from a sustainable brand.

We all know that shopping less is one of the most sustainable things you can do for the environment.  However, if you really do need an item, you don't need to compromise on your commitment to the environment in order to purchase it! That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you make climate-conscious purchasing decisions by buying clothing that doesn’t 'cost the earth'.


Check labels for the materials used

When it comes to materials used in your clothing, some materials are more eco-friendly than others.  That’s why it’s so important to look at the labels of the clothes you purchase. When looking for fabrics, you want to pick those made from sources that are sustainable and require low-impact processes. These materials don’t require significant amounts of fertiliser and pesticides, which are often highly toxic. Materials like organic linen, organic hemp and recycled cotton are great because they require limited amounts of water and energy to produce and are recyclable.

Another thing to look out for is the use of dyes in your clothing. In order to turn raw materials into the pieces of clothing we buy, around 8,000 synthetic chemicals such as dyes are used in fashion. Unfortunately dyes are used to colour a lot of the clothes you see in the shops today. These contain harmful chemicals but also require large amounts of water to produce. In order to avoid the water pollution that occurs as a result of these dyes, consider purchasing items of clothing that use natural dyes. Natural dyes such as indigo and turmeric offer naturally dyed garments in rich hues which not only look great but are eco-friendly!

Be mindful of where your clothes come from

When we’re purchasing clothes – you’re paying for the manufacturing process too. Whether it's manufactured at home or overseas- brands need to be using processes and labour that is ethical. Whilst it might seem tempting to buy cheaper items, if it is too cheap it can often be too good to be true. Make sure you know if the brand treats their manufacturing workers fairly, wherever they are.

It is not always possible, but by purchasing clothing that has been locally manufactured you’re supporting your local economy and reducing the carbon footprint of your clothing.

If you can see that your clothing is being manufactured overseas take a look at the brand's website to see if they’re being transparent about their supply chain and working conditions.

Check their website for a commitment to sustainability

A lot of companies say that they operate with people and the planet in mind, however this can just be a marketing tactic so you need to do a bit more digging. This is why it is so important to know which brands are ethical, and also what makes them ethical in the first place.

When looking to see if a brand is committed to sustainable fashion check to see if they detail their approach to manufacturing and keep your eyes peeled for external certifications to support their claims such as Fairtrade or B Corp.

Many ethical fashion brands focus on giving back to people, by supporting charities and organisations that are doing positive work for the environment (like trace!). Whilst some brands have committed to ethical values from the get-go others are evolving and at the beginning of their journey. You might choose to buy from brands that have always been ethical or support those which are evolving to be more environmentally friendly, just make sure you are purchasing from companies that align with your values.

Check out other sources

Websites like Good on You are a great resource to help you work out which brands are ethical without having to do lots of research. The site's rating system makes it easy for you to see where brands stand on the issues you care about. Another great example is Well Made Clothes which lets you buy directly from a range of sustainable clothing brands, each of which are transparent about what makes them a more sustainable or ethical option.

At trace we want you to remember that as a consumer you have the power to make conscious and compassionate choices. This allows you to reduce your impact on the environment, reduce your carbon footprint and invest in a more sustainable future.

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