Sustainability in Fashion…It’s in Fashion!

In the earlier days, sustainable fashion probably brought to mind images of hippies, rough home-spun fabrics, and out-of-style closet rejects from your older sibling.

Well, it’s come a long distance from that! Nowadays, sustainable fashion has become a bona fide movement, with some serious traction. And, it’s producing items that are not only better for us and the planet, but also beautiful, modern, and resilient.

There are loads of options for making the tenets of sustainability in fashion an everyday, mainstream reality. Keep reading to learn all about sustainability in home and personal fashions — it’s interesting stuff!
Lawrence Serbin, President and Owner of Hemp Traders explains the evolution of hemp fabric and its environmental benefits.

What Does Sustainability in Fashion Mean, Exactly?

This is quite the question to unpack! Sustainability and sustainable fashion can mean different things to different people….

But, as you’ll see — there are lots of ways sustainability in fashion can manifest itself!

Sustainable Fashion, Defined

According to one fashion periodical, some popular and generally-accepted “definitions” of this concept include:(1)

Sustainable fashion is…

…an all-inclusive term describing products, processes, activities, and actors (policymakers, brands, consumers) aiming to achieve a carbon-neutral fashion industry, built on equality, social justice, animal welfare, and ecological integrity.

…local sourcing and production, transparency across the supply chain, traceability of work processes and raw materials, environmentally friendly raw materials, safe working conditions, and fair wages.

…a movement and process fostering changes to products and the fashion system, pushing towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. Sustainable fashion concerns more than just addressing fashion textiles or products.

We think these encapsulate the idea of sustainability in fashion rather well (and comprehensively!) — so we’ll go with them.

This Is Sustainability in Fashion, Too

But, we do feel it’s important to recognize another dimension of fashion sustainability not quite addressed or explicitly articulated in the above explanations. The definitions seem to speak mostly of the original procurement, distribution, and use of fashion.

But what about secondary or tertiary use? Like cats, jackets, and throw pillows can have nine lives!

So, in honor of all the hand-me-downs and re-gifts circulating, let’s also lump the following kinds of fashion that deserve to be in the category of sustainable fashion:(1)

  • Upcycled. Ex. Adding rhinestones and appliqués to old jeans to make them “new” again — and fancy
  • Repurposed. Ex. Turning your dad’s old button-down work shirt into a painting smock
  • Recycled. Ex. Making an afghan from the yarn of an old, holey sweater
  • Reclamated. Ex. Using byproducts of winemaking to make vegan leather
  • Reused. Ex. Wearing your friend’s no-longer-needed jacket instead of buying a new one
  • Renewed, repaired, or refurbished. Ex. Fixing or updating an aging rug to extend its useful life
  • Thrifted or re-sale. Ex. Buying items from second-hand stores, garage and estate sales, and online classified listings
  • Traded or swapped. Ex. Bartered or exchanged goods that negate the need for getting new versions
  • Rented or loaned. Ex. Temporarily borrowing for, free or a fee, someone else’s tux or gown

How To Create a More Sustainable Fashionverse

The fashion ecosystem is both broad and deep. This means there are countless opportunities to be more environmentally conscientious.

Frame of Mind

Sustainability starts with mindset and attitude. These lead to thoughts and feelings, which spur behaviors and actions. (And mission, values, and commitment statements from companies.) Where there’s a will, there’s a way — right?

If a business or individual values sustainability in fashion and is motivated to prioritize it, they will do their best to align their activities with their beliefs. Having the mind and heart engaged can really mobilize producers and consumers to do their part!

Base Materials

Once the decision to angle towards sustainability is made, material selection may be the first point to implement greener choices and practices.

After all, the textiles and other supplies used to create the fashions is a huge piece of the puzzle and a sensible jumping-off point. For example, eco-friendly garments and home goods might incorporate sustainability:

  • Fabrics
  • Zippers, buttons, and other closures
  • Thread
  • Embellishments (e.g., beading, lace, etc.)
  • Dyes

Sustainable fabrics and materials feature characteristics like:

  • Being biodegradable
  • Being recyclable
  • Originating from recycled inputs
  • Being organic
  • Being renewable
  • Close to point of manufacture/sale/use
  • Having a small/gentle impact on the environment
  • Not being resource intensive
  • Being non-toxic
  • Being natural

Sustainable Textiles & More

There’s been an explosion of materials with enviable sustainability profiles. And it’s not just scratchy potato sacks! These materials — fabrics and more — are perfectly suited to all kinds of fashions.

Hallmark attributes of these materials? They lean towards being carbon-neutral or -negative, cruelty-free, vegan or plant-based, and/or recycled. Here are some of the heavy hitters of sustainable materials:(2)

  • Bamboo
  • Bioplastics
  • Clay or adobe
  • Cork
  • Fabric made from soy, banana, pineapple, coconut, or other fruit/veg fiber
  • Felt
  • Hemp — Yes, it's back and thanks to the Farm Bill we can now grow it again in the USA.
  • Jute
  • Mycelial (mushroom-based) leather and foam
  • Organic cotton
  • Organic linen
  • Reclaimed wood
  • Reclaimed wool
  • Sisal
  • Stainless steel
  • Straw
  • Recycled — glass, rubber, plastic, nylon, etc.

Manufacturing & Merchandising Methods

Next up — how the products are made, marketed, and moved. This involves everything from the facilities and production resources used to the processes employed to the people doing the work.

Sustainability in manufacturing, promotion, and distribution can take the form of:

  • Fabricating the fashions in a LEED-certified plant
  • Adhering to fair labor practices
  • Participating in carbon-offset programs
  • Making deliveries in biofuel-powered vehicles
  • Using minimal and recyclable packaging

Basically, sustainable businesses are ones that use fewer resources (e.g., water, energy, time), generate less waste and ecological harm, and create goods with enduring service lives. Even better if their practices remediate damage that’s been done (like cleaning up pollution) and/or helps prevent future harm (like planting a tree for every shirt sold).

With intention and creativity — there are infinite ways fashion producers can adopt at least some principles of sustainability.

The Afterlife

You’ve brought home a sustainable fashion item. Now what?

At this stage of your garment’s or décor’s lifecycle — you’re in charge of its degree of sustainability. It’s up to you to enjoy, care for, and dispose of your belongings in a sustainable manner.

While you own the item, consider washing it with all-natural bio-cleansers and storing it away from light/heat/moisture/etc. so it’s usable for longer. When it’s time to let go of that item, maybe donate it to someone who could use it or find a local fabric recycling collection bin.

It’s really all about making the most of the items already in existence. This might mean wearing your clothing more times or passing unneeded linens on to their next loving home.(3)

Sustainable Doesn’t Mean “Low Quality”

In fact, many sustainable products are better or more durable than less-sustainable alternatives. While “quality” is a continuum and a bit subjective, sustainable products often come out on top.

To assess a quality rating or score, it can be helpful to consider different options relative to one another. Take hemp versus cotton — a common match-up — as an example. Compared to cotton, hemp:(4,5)

  • Has much stronger fibers
  • Yields at least twice as much fiber per area of land
  • Fabric is shrink resistant and keeps its shape better
  • Grows way faster
  • Uses half as much water to grow
  • Regenerates the soil
  • Requires no pesticides
  • Produces lower greenhouse gas emissions

Not shabby at all! You’ll find that many sustainable fashions stand up and stand out, in a good sense.

Sustainable Also Doesn’t Mean “Ugly” or “Boring”

Sustainable fashions can be every bit as chic or upscale as their non-sustainable counterparts. Plenty of stylish design houses are making themselves known as sustainable fashion brands. Even some well-established household names are in on the sustainable fashion game.

And, it doesn’t stop with your wardrobe. A broader view of sustainable fashion might also include things like ethically-sourced precious metals or lab-grown gems.(6) For instance, synthetic diamonds are considered sustainable because they don’t require mining, which can be terrible for the surrounding land and exploit labor. (7)

Support Sustainable Fashion

You can show that sustainable clothing, accessories, and home goods are important to your worldview spending accordingly. “Vote with your dollars.” as they say.

Thankfully, shopping for sustainable products is getting easier (more sustainable!) every day as others jump on this eco-loving bandwagon. You have loads of options when it comes to finding items you’ll love and cherish.

There are sustainable sellers in every sector and marketplace. Online stores are an obvious choice. But many brick-and-mortar shops specialize in sustainable fashions. And don’t forget to check out your local farmers’ or artisanal markets — they’re always a trove of treasures!

With a little intentional scouting around, you shouldn’t have much trouble sourcing a wide range of sustainable personal and home fashions like:

  • Clothing. Ex. Garments made from organic hemp or upcycled hand-me-downs
  • Eyeglasses. Ex. Wooden, composite, or recycled frames
  • Jewelry. Ex. Earrings made from natural fibers or with cruelty-free/manufactured diamonds
  • Handbags. Ex. Vegan leather purses and wallets
  • Shoes. Ex. Sneakers made from mushrooms (mycelium)
  • Bedding. Ex. Bamboo-fiber sheets and pillows
  • Table linens. Ex. Organic linen napkins and tablecloths
  • Upholstery. Ex. Cushion covers, throw pillows, or drapery made from sustainable materials
  • Floor coverings. Ex. Patchwork vintage area rugs, sisal mats, “green” carpeting, or carbon-capture tiles

And remember, when hunting around for sustainable home and personal fashions — you don’t need to always buy something brand sparkling new. This is why many savvy sustainability enthusiasts favor buying fewer but higher-quality items, ones that will last longer that the average piece of fast fashion.

Minimize the Footprint of Fashion

Sustainability in fashion aims to reduce the negative human and environmental impact of creating and consuming clothing and home goods. The choices made throughout a fashion item’s supply chain and lifecycle can all influence how sustainable that piece is.

Sustainable fashions are made from materials that tend to be renewable, biodegradable, and gentler on the planet — like organic hemp. They often use fewer resources and less harmful production and distribution methods as well.

You can support sustainable fashion by making the most of the clothing that’s already been made and making eco-friendlier purchases.

FAQs Buzzin’ Through the Hive

What is sustainable fashion and why is it important?

Sustainable fashions are ones that make minimal to no negative impact on people or the planet. They do this through environmentally-friendly use and processing of eco-friendly materials. Smart conscientious manufacturing and consumption practices will help us heal/preserve the health of humanity and the Earth.

What are examples of sustainable fashion?

Clothing and home décor made from sustainable fabrics (e.g., organic hemp or bamboo) that are sustainably produced (e.g., manufactured using green technologies and energy sources) could be deemed sustainable fashion. Thrifted, upcycled, repurposed, shared, rented, and traded items may also earn this laudable distinction.

Is sustainable fashion really sustainable?

Not entirely. No matter how hard we try, fashion will never be 100% sustainable. However, it’s leaps and bounds better than perpetuating fast fashion.


  1. Alves, A. (2022). What EXACTLY Is Sustainable Fashion & Why Is SO Important (2022). The VOU.
  2. Rigby, J. (2020). 15 Sustainable Materials to Look Out for in 2022. MindsetEco.
  3. Nizzoli, G. (2022). How Many Times Do We Wear Our Clothes? (Not Enough!) Sustainable Fashion Blog. Project Cece.
  4. Martiniuc, R. (2021). Hemp Fabrics: We Offer Them! But What Are They? Fabric Sight.
  5. Manuele, J. (2018). Hemp Vs Cotton Clothing: We Have A Clear Winner! Medium.
  6. Stringer, L. (2014). Are lab-grown gems the key to a sustainable diamond trade? The Guardian.
  7. Booth, J. (2021). Sustainable Diamonds: Everything You Need to Know. Brides.
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Green Bee Life is your resource for accurate, transparent, and up-to-date content and products related to cannabis.

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