Are Consumers Willing To Pay More For Sustainable Fashion How Environmentally Friendly is Your Clothing?

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How Environmentally Friendly is Your Clothing?

In today’s current society there is growing emphasis stressed upon making the correct environmental and ethical decisions in all aspects of our life. The environmental question, unlike its cousin the ethical question is a new topic of conversation in relation to what we wear. However as it becomes increasingly more apparent that a link exists between our environmental short comings and the affect that global warming is having on our planet; will what we wear change so as to support progressive environmental practices in all aspects of the clothing and apparel industry?

The first question that you may ask yourself is, ‘can what I wear affect the environment?’ Now there is no right or wrong answer to this question because it all depends at how you perceive the statement, ‘what you wear.’ The issue of wearing different types of clothing on any given day is unlikely to have grave affects on the level of C02 emissions, unless we got into a long and arduous debate about the heavier clothing you wear the more energy it takes to go about your day, or if you wear too many garments in summer the more air conditioning you use, or if you don’t wear enough layers in winter the greater amount of fuel that is burnt to power heating. However if the question read, ‘can who and where we buy our clothes from affect the environment and emission levels?’ Then the debate is far more worth while.

Clothing brands across the UK and the world have begun to develop policies and practices that encourage responsibility in what people wear in relation to the environment. The indirect affects of what we wear, has in the past had a negative affect upon the environment. The negative affects can be traced through the whole production process from design to sale. How you might ask? This is how;

Does the designer use recycled paper for drawings?

Does the designer recycle the waste paper created in the design process?

Does the brand ship samples and drawings to their manufacturer or factory in recyclable packaging, and does the factory recycle the packaging upon arrival?

Does the manufacturer minimise material waste in production, so not to create waste for landfill?

Does the manufacturer ship the completed goods in recyclable packaging, and when received at the company warehouse, is it recycled?

Do the brand and manufacturer ship by air or sea?

Does the brand or manufacturer use fuel efficient vehicles for overland transit?

Does the brand limit its production run so as to reduce wastage and close out products?

How does the brand advertise, is there unnecessary paper usage?

How does the brand deliver its products to customers, how are the invoices produced, are the packaging and invoices recyclable?

How does the brand source its materials, do they use organic cotton?

Does the brand use polyester?

How are other materials like polyester produced? (Polyester is usually produced through the burning of fossil fuels like oil).

Does the brand employ energy saving measures in their offices?

Does the brand attempt to use renewable energy sources?

Does the brand offset its carbon footprint?

It is ultimately unavoidable in the design, production and sale of clothing garments that some element of a carbon footprint will exist. However brands can and should be reducing their carbon footprint through responsible policies and practices.

The well known high street brand Marks and Spencer in January 2007 made the honourable commitment to becoming carbon neutral. Marks and Spencer implemented a 100 point 5 year plan. The environmental aspect of the plan will if successful, make Marks and Spencer carbon neutral, contributing zero waste to landfill.

The very fact that Marks and Spencer claimed in 2006 that 97% of customers had asked them to be more responsible in relation to green issues is evidence alone that the environmental question is more than just a myth.

The second important question is, are consumers willing to pay more for environmentally friendly clothing and should they have to pay more? Firstly consumers are inherently non-emotional when it does not have benefit for them. If consumers don’t see that there is a benefit to purchasing environmentally friendly clothing at a higher price than the non-environmentally cheaper garment then they won’t. However it is strikingly apparent across the population, in schools, newspaper, television and internet that any and all efforts to reduce the affect of green house gases on our environment should be embraced. The reward for doing so is a sustainable planet for our generation and future generations. We as a population can make small differences across all aspects of our lives. These changes can in cumulative form have massive positive affects on the future.

The question remains however should people have to pay more for environmentally friendly garments? In answering this question two distinct categories must be discussed, value labels and fashion labels. Firstly value labels are without question already working on very small margins and their ethical and environmental credentials should be scrutinised carefully. If value labels were to introduce carbon reducing policies, it would be necessary for the consumer to pay more for an environmentally friendly value label. However fashion brands that already have huge margins on their products could with ease introduce environmentally friendly practices and absorb the cost. It must be said that some already have and this is to be commended. So, ‘what should the price be for an environmentally friendly garment?’ This is the unanswerable question, so many aspects play apart in the pricing of clothing garments; my advice would be to ask yourself, ‘for the quality, content and originality of the piece what is a fair and reasonable price?’

When we access the environmental credentials of all brands we must also look at their attempts to reduce the carbon footprint through offset schemes. Although the carbon footprint of all garments can be limited through careful and intelligent processes. All clothing brands can further reduce or become carbon neutral through offset schemes. There are numerous carbon offset schemes that brands could and should apply to be part of. This small investment by a brand to reduce the affects of the carbon produced by them on our planet, sends a positive message to the industry and consumers. A positive message such as this, will encourage everyone in our society to move forward and stand strong in the fight to reduce carbon emissions and preserve our beautiful planet for future generations.

As time progresses the environment and global issues become more pressing, so does our thirst and desire for uniqueness and originality. We are on the cusp of a changing society, in which we are expected to fit into a particular mould, while also being expected to accept a changing world ideology and all the time striving to stand out in an ever deepening population of regularity. We are surrounded by irregularity and beauty, if we would like to preserve this natural beauty, we must shop responsibly and we must be given the opportunity to shop responsibly by those who produce the goods we purchase.

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