18/11/2016 06:48 GMT | Updated 17/11/2017 05:12 GMT

What Is Sustainable Fashion And How To Get Started?

You've likely read about the tragedies including 13 garment workers who died from a fire or the waste and pollution fast fashion is causing. And you've probably noticed that after purchasing clothes from fast-fashion brands, you wear the item maybe a few times before it starts falling apart. These days, fashion is causing more harm than good, so it is important to do our part and make better choices for the well being of our planet.

I made the switch almost 2 years ago, and as I've explained before my trigger was the True Cost Movie. Upon making my decision to start being more sustainable, I began reading and learning everything I could do to make a positive impact.

What I learned is that there is no set definition; no wonder so many of us get confused. But sustainability includes how we make and intake fashion. The one definition I did find from Green Strategy is:

More sustainable fashion can be defined as clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product's life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components. From an environmental perspective, the aim should be to minimise any undesirable environmental effect of the product's life cycle by: (a) ensuring efficient and careful use of natural resources (water, energy, land, soil, animals, plants, biodiversity, ecosystems, etc); (b) selecting renewable energy sources (wind, solar, etc) at every stage, and (c) maximising repair, remake, reuse, and recycling of the product and its components. From a socio-economic perspective, all stakeholders should work to improve present working conditions for workers on the field, in the factories, transportation chain, and stores, by aligning with good ethics, best practice and international codes of conduct. In addition, fashion companies should contribute to encourage more sustainable consumption patterns, caring and washing practices, and overall attitudes to fashion. (Green Strategy, June 2014)

To make it easier I've taken Green Strategy's list of 7 forms of sustainable fashion and simplified it.

Made Locally

Plain and simple, items made in your country. Every fashion piece has a "made in" tag, pay attention to those. If you don't see it, don't be afraid to ask if it is made locally.

Green & Clean

This impacts all major processes. From how the garment is made to what materials are used to make the garment. A company has full control on the materials they use and they have the decision to use recycled, organic or to change the dying processes of a garment to have less of an impact. Have a look at the materials used on the tag, read the descriptions when buying online.

High Quality

These are garments that are hand crafted and can include items that are customised. The reason high quality is sustainable is that it extends the life of a garment since its made to last.

Fair & Ethical

Being people friendly ensures the workers have fair compensation and are treated ethically.

Remake, Reuse & Upcycle

Reusing what's already made. For a company, it is using recycled textiles. For an individual, it is giving new life to an old garment; a simple example is turning jeans into shorts.

Rent, Loan, Swap

Why buy items if you are only going to wear them once? The rental, loan, swap movement has pushed people to buy long lasting essentials and rent the trends.

Second Hand

Buying at your local thrift shop or the tons of second hand marketplaces online. Remember that you are able to buy trends & essentials; they are not only for vintage finds or super high-end brands.

Now, to get started, pick one or two of these you know you can do and remember that there aren't many companies that do ALL. Over time, you can start to add others and begin to see a change in your buying behavior. By doing at least one of these and not shopping the fast fashion brands, you are one step closer to helping our planet.