Photo by Becca McHaffie on Unsplash
MYTH: Brands that promote sustainability are sustainable
TRUTH: "Sustainability" and other greenwashing buzzwords can be misused to attract consumers eager to reduce their environmental impact on the planet. Fashion search engine Lyst reported in 2019 that it saw a 75% increase in sustainable-related search terms compared with the previous year. "Objective criteria for rating sustainable fashion are missing," McKinsey's Saskia Hedrich told CNN.
MYTH: Most clothes can be recycled
TRUTH: Clothing can be difficult to recycle, in part because of how it's made. For one, many fabrics are made from blends (of cotton and polyester, for instance), which must be separated if the material is to be turned into a new garment. In the US, less than 14% of clothing and shoes thrown away end up being recycled. But "recycling" is also a broad term that can be broken down into "downcycling" and "upcycling," and the difference matters. Downcycled garments often wind up as fibers used for home insulation or carpets. In Europe, less than 1% of collected clothing is actually recycled into new garments, according to Circle Economy.
MYTH: It's not worth it to repair cheap clothes.
TRUTH: Mending a fast fashion item may mean spending what you paid for it, but keeping the same clothes in rotation is the best thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. You can also learn how to carry out small repairs at home to keep costs down, including replacing buttons, fixing broken zippers, resewing loose seams and hemming pants.
MYTH: Your online returns are resold to other customers
TRUTH: Your returns may end up incinerated or in landfills. It's often cheaper for companies to dispose of returns than to inspect and repackage them, and labels may be unwilling to donate the items for fear of cheapening their brand or damaging their exclusivity. A CBC report in 2019 highlighted this practice, pointing out that the volume of online returns has also increased by 95% over the past five years.
MYTH: Your clothes are from the country listed on the tag
TRUTH: Your clothes may be assembled in that country, but the tag can't reveal the complex chain of labor that went into making them. "Your label won't tell you where in the world the cotton was farmed, where the fiber was spun into a yarn, where the yarn was woven into a fabric (or) where it was dyed and printed," states Fashion Revolution's report, "How to Be a Fashion Revolutionary." "It won't tell you where the thread, dyes, zips, buttons, beading or other features came from." To encourage labels to be transparent about their supply chains, Fashion Revolution has been promoting the hashtag #whomademyclothes?, asking users to tag brands in selfies with clothing tags visible.