Each and every sustainability-related word you have always wanted to know.
Here to help when shopping. Plus a great way to show off on your next dinner date!
How dare you not know the difference between biodegradable and compostable?!
Biodegradable fashion is clothing made from materials that can break down naturally. The materials are decomposed and digested by microorganisms such as bacteria. Attention: biodegradable is not the same as compostable. Read the definition of compostable further down.
The bluesign® certification system is a solution for sustainable textile production. It eliminates harmful substances right from the beginning of the manufacturing process and sets and control standards for an environmentally friendly and safe production. So once again: no harmful substances in your clothes (pinky promise!).
👗 Capsule Wardrobe
You can call it a “mini wardrobe” made up of high quality, versatile clothes that never go out of style.
The idea behind a capsule wardrobe is to select 30-40 well-fitting items you will wear all season (including accessories). It’s not about how many items are in your closet, but rather being thoughtful about how they all work together cohesively.
First came leggings, then the crop tops, now carbon neutrality is the new fashion must-have. What do scientists, environmentalists and brands have to say? Is going carbon neutral going to solve our problems? Going carbon neutral actually means offsetting carbon emissions by planting trees to achieve net zero. Just by existing, we emit greenhouse gases. Among them, CO2 is the most well known. Finding a balance through carbon neutrality is the spark we need to move the needle in the right direction.
Ahh … cashmere, one of the rarest and most luxurious fibers in the world. This exceptionally silky material is said to be three times as warm as wool and is known to be long-lasting. Cashmere doesn’t come from sheep, rather from goats. When the temperatures rise, goats naturally shed their coats. That’s when producers comb out the fine hair, sort it by hand, send it to facilities to be cleaned, refined, baled and shipped to Europe, where it is sold to manufacturers. As is always the case with cheap, fast fashion, somebody or something else is bearing the true cost.
Goats are the first to pay the price of cheap cashmere production. As they have very little fat, shearing them too early in mid-winter means they can freeze to death as the temperature drops. The tragic story can go on, but we’ll stop it here. If you want to do better, choose better.
🌈 Certification B Corp
The B Corporation certification is a popular standard that ensures a company takes responsibility for its supply chain workers. Certified B corporations must adhere to stringent environmental and social standards. Certified B corps such as Veja are completely transparent with regards to where their shoes were manufactured and by whom. They even go as far as sharing the origin of their raw materials. This radical transparency coupled with the B Corp certification ensures the final product is truly sustainable. Is the B Corporation Certification the way of the future? Probably.
✊ Compliance Certifications
Oh dear! What a term: compliance certifications. And here are two more that will drive you crazy: SA8000, ISO14001. Sounds like names Elon Musk would give to his new baby. SA8000 is an auditable certification standard that encourages organizations to develop, maintain, and apply socially acceptable practices in the workplace.
ISO14001 Environmental Management System (EMS) is a systematic framework to manage the immediate and long term environmental impacts.
Ok, now what can you still remember?
Don’t worry we’ll never bother you with those ever again – we can check them for you.
Composting your natural-fibre clothing works in exactly the same way as putting vegetable scraps and spoiled food into the compost. Compostable products are biodegradable, but with an added benefit: they decompose and become food for new plants. The composting process recycles 4 of life’s building blocks – carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen – back into the soil to support new growth. The fibre becomes food for microbes, bacteria, fungi, moulds, worms, beetles, snails, mites, cockroaches, and other critters, which are all part of the process.
So what’s the difference between biodegradable and compostable? While all compostable material is biodegradable, not all biodegradable material is compostable: they need extra care in the after life as they might not release the nutritious elements that have the added benefit + might also take more time if not in the correct environment.
Craftsmanship is the quality that comes from creating with passion, care, and attention to detail. It is a quality that is honed, refined, and practiced over the course of a career. No wonder why fashion becomes like an exclusive art.
Deadstock is a term to describe clothing that was never sold to a customer, usually because it has gone out of style. Ever wonder what happens to sale items that never sell? It becomes dead stock: it’s sort of dead because what can we do with t-shirts and bags nobody wants to buy?
Oh, maybe use them to create new clothing? That’s what some brands do on Renoon.
🧥 Deadstock Fabrics
Deadstock refers to a textile that has remained unused or unsold. Out of fashion? Produced too much? These are all possible reasons that turn textiles into deadstock fabric – basically stuff that would become waste if we didn’t find another use. Some brands get really creative with deadstock and produce great collections. High five to them!
🌍 Earth Day
Every year on April 22, we celebrate Earth Day. Earth day is a day to celebrate how far we have come in addressing sustainability, but also a day to reflect on areas and industries in which change is imperative. Climate change is a reality. In May 2020, we have already hit 9 out of the 30 “points of no return” identified by scientists as potentially catastrophic tipping points.
ECONYL® is made by taking synthetic waste such as consumer plastic, deadstock and abandoned fishing nets, and regenerating it into a new material that is equal in quality to virgin nylon. ECONYL® is a more sustainable alternative that is ideal for swimwear and activewear.
Normal (virgin) nylon is a material made from petroleum.
ECONYL® is not.
👣 End of life
End of life in clothing is a term linked to circular economy. Imagine a world where business, society and environment can sit together at a table without screaming at each other. That’s not something that happens that often today. A circular economy approach could do the trick: instead of taking something and throwing it away, we could make it into something new.
A term that will make you definitely stand out on your next dinner date: “Cradle to Cradle”. Don’t know what that is? Easy. It’s doing it like nature teaches us to: when a tree or animal dies or creates waste, that waste breaks down and becomes nutrients for another process.
🤝 Fair Trade Clothing
You might want to go for certifications that ensure workers receive fair wages and safe working conditions. Fair Trade certified brands such as clothes from People Tree or Global Organic Textile standard certified clothes are definitely the ones for you!
👠 Fashion Revolution Week
The Fashion Revolution is a global movement that was created one year after the Rana Plaza tragedy, where more than a thousand garment workers lost their lives due to a preventable factory collapse. The goal is to improve traceability and transparency in the fashion industry. Since 2017, the movement #Whomademyclothes has trended on social media. Every year, to commemorate the incident in Bangladesh, Fashion Revolution Week encourages millions of people to come together to campaign for systemic change in the fashion industry.
⏭ Fast Fashion
Fast Fashion is a bit like Fast Food. It’s the way in which brands and businesses design, produce and bring new collections to market in a very short timeframe, sometimes less than 2 weeks. The result? You have a t-shirt that costs less than the salad you just ate. Cheap, quick and sometimes “dirty”. No, really. You (or anyone really) can refresh your wardrobe easily with almost single-use pieces that will pile up on your shelves.
Toxic materials and chemicals are not the only fun in here: labour for fast fashion is usually outsourced to factories that have dangerous working conditions, extremely low wages, and oftentimes child labor. The cherry on top: the fast fashion designs are so “in” because the company has replicated Versace’s fall collection that was in Milan fashion week the month before. Let’s call it “borrowing fashion’s creativity”.
🦊 Faux fur
Fake fur is a type of textile fabric fashioned to replicate genuine animal fur. It is typically made from polymeric fibers that are processed, dyed, and cut to match a specific fur texture and color. Faux fur is having a real moment these days.
With more and more luxury fashion brands ― and even entire cities ― doing away with real fur, it’s time to turn the spotlight on faux fur. As we’ve seen on the runways at Stella McCartney and Givenchy, faux fur is prolific and can be virtually indistinguishable from the real stuff. When it comes to fur, questions of ethics and sustainability arise. And while it’s true that faux fur appears to be a more ethical choice than real fur, in that animals aren’t harmed for its creation, some believe faux fur is much more harmful to the environment than natural fur. If you despise plastic and love the oceans, material innovation is the way to go.
Fleece is a synthetic insulating fabric made from a type of polyester called polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or other synthetic fibres. It is very comfortable due to its lightweight and anti-perspiration qualities, and allows moisture to evaporate, while blocking humidity from the outside. Fleece is made from non-renewable resources and needs an extra chemical coating to make it windproof and/or water resistant – not great for the environment. What’s more, fleece can only stand so many trips through washers & dryers before showing signs of wear, meaning it has to be replaced frequently!
Eco-fleece is an alternative to fleece, made from recycled polyester. It is considered a better option saving its primary ingredient – raw petroleum – as well as the energy it takes to manufacture it. By preferring eco-fleece you can save some plastic from ending up in landfills with very little effort.
🌱 Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
GOTS stands for Global Organic Textile Standard and it is the most famous and stringent certification for organic fabrics. It ensures the textile (for example cotton) has been processed in both socially and environmentally friendly ways. GOTS is definitely a certification to look out for!
✅ Global Recycle Standard
GRS or the Global Recycle Standard is an international, voluntary, full product standard that sets requirements for recycled content in textiles, chain of custody (who had it), social and environmental practices, as well as chemical restrictions. It’s basically a certification that puts everyone’s mind at ease when it comes to buying clothes made from recycled materials.
So to recap:
Does it verify recycled content? Check.
Responsible social practices? Check.
Environmentally responsible? Check.
Safe to buy? Check.
Greenwashing means creating an illusion of sustainability, rather than actually doing it. We’ve all had that friend who brags about being the best at something when all she/he really did was get it right that one time. So, when reading labels with vague claims like ‘’sustainably made’, “green”, “ethical”, “transparent” without any explanation of the reason why, it’s important to be skeptical.
Mind us, that’s not always the case, but trust is something that needs to be earned.
To give you also another definition, put your smart hat on and read this: greenwashing is when a company or organization spends more time and money on marketing themselves as environmentally friendly, rather than actually being eco-friendly.
One more thing to know: the most basic example of greenwashing in fashion would be a t-shirt that claims to be made with sustainable materials, but in reality, it is composed of less than 5% of those sustainable materials it claims.
🐄 Leather Working Group (LWG)
The Leather Working Group (LWG) is a not-for-profit membership organisation created for tanneries (factories that produce leather). Since 2005, they have developed audit protocols (like a fancy checklist) designed to certify leather manufacturers according to their environmental impact and performance capabilities. Products made with LWG leather are considered a more sustainable option, if you don’t mind leather of course.
🍍 Natural Waste Materials
Byproducts. That’s right, we are not misspelling “Buy Products”. Byproducts are leftovers from a production process; things that become waste because we don’t know what to do with them. Well, the good news is that humans can get quite creative. So for example, a byproduct from the pineapple harvesting process are the leaves that nobody needs anymore. They are actually quite huge and are normally burned or discarded. Here comes Piñatex®: the leaves are taken and processed into a leather-looking sustainable material. How about Bananatex and Orange Fiber? Different fruits, same story. Now you can Buy Products made with byproducts.
Is your clothing toxic? Maybe. Want to ensure that toxic chemicals in your clothing are kept in check? Meet OEKO-TEX®. The OEKO-TEX® certification allows you to rest easy knowing that there are no harmful chemicals in the jeans and t-shirts that touch your skin for so long during the day – or night if you are thinking of pyjamas. Now you know how to make responsible decisions that protect your skin & the planet. A similar certification to OEKO-TEX® is Bluesign®.
Organic clothing is made with materials such as cotton, linen, hemp or silk that are grown without the use of toxic pesticides. Think about it like agriculture, cotton is grown in the fields and resembles a flower. Traditional cotton is very water intensive to grow and uses pesticides that are toxic for the environment and famers. The organic label ensures that you can avoid all the above. The most common certification is GOTS. Beware of other certifications that sound great, but could be greenwashing.
🐛 Peace Silk
Peace silk is a method of breeding and harvesting silk without violence. The traditional process of silk production involves boiling the intact cocoons of silkworms. Translation: silkworm dies in the process. This violent process is done to prevent silk fibers from breaking. Really, is there no other way? Introducing peace silk, also known as ‘Eri’ or ‘Ahimsa’ silk. Basically, peace silk is the vegetarian version of silk. Produced ethically, peace silk has also the potential to provide women in emerging economies with a sustainable income source. Its production is also low in water footprint, creating almost 0% waste, except for the piece that will stay in your wardrobe forever.
💡 Plastic Waste Materials
It really looks like trash – this could actually be a compliment. We can only imagine the amount of plastic we produce every year, why not recycle it? Most of the recycled plastic used in fashion is made of a material called polyethylene terephthalate, otherwise known as PET. rePET-made clothing is strong, light, flexible and because it is made from waste, Life Cycle Assessment (environmental) studies have deemed it a valid eco-alternative. For those who are curious, there is also a significant difference in the process of making recycled material: whether it is made in a mechanical process (grinding plastic into tiny pallets) or chemical – which is more expensive but allows for better durability of the product. Another example of material made from plastic waste is recycled nylon. Maybe you’ve heard of ECONYL?
Recycling is the process of transforming waste into something new. For example, recycled paper is made from used paper. Recycling is extremely important because it helps to divert waste from landfills.
🛍 Shopping Local
Shopping locally is the act of every day consumers, like you, making the decision to buy from a local business instead of going to a large retailer. Shopping locally is a trendy new way to create a one-of-a-kind neighborhood. When you purchase at locally owned businesses rather than internationally owned, more money is kept in the community because locally-owned businesses often purchase from other local businesses. The concept of local can be relative: a town, region, country or even a continent now that we live in a global world.
Silk is made by unraveling the cocoons of silkworms and spinning the threads into yarn. Once this yarn is twisted into fibres, it can be woven, dyed and treated to make shiny silk camisoles and pillowcases.
🐌 Slow Fashion
The slow fashion movement was born in response to the social and environmental backlash surrounding fast fashion. Slow fashion takes an intentional and holistic approach to buying clothing; it involves buying better-quality garments that will last for longer and values fair treatment of people, animals and the planet.
👚 Synthetic Fabrics
Examples of synthetic fabrics are Polyester, Modal fabric, Acrylic, Elastane, Nylon.
This is the category that holds the majority of the skin-harming fault. These man-made fabrics like rayon, acetate, and nylon are treated with thousands of harmful toxic chemicals during production. You can do better.
Ready for some numbers? Cotton, especially when industrially farmed to satisfy global demand, uses up to 20 times more water than TENCEL™. So what is this fiber everyone seems to talk about in sustainability and fashion (if you’ve never heard of it, no worries, we won’t judge, Renoon has got you covered). Tencel fibers originate from a renewable resource: trees. Mainly beech, birch, eucalyptus and spruce, and the pulp is used to make TENCEL™ fabric.
Good to know: the fibers are certified as compostable and biodegradable. This is a great example of circularity: TENCEL™ can fully revert back to nature (recyclable) and helps you save water and energy in the creation of your next timeless piece of clothing.
Traceability (also known as transparency) in fashion means that the clothes can be traced back from different stages of the production process. What’s important to know is that traceability is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable: your cat Luna can be very transparent to you and show you the mess she made in the house. It does not mean she did something good. Bad cat!
One way to achieve traceability is through blockchain. We know you tech people are excited now, so we won’t tell you what blockchain is because you already know…or sort of know. Okay so very quickly: blockchain makes the history of any digital asset unalterable and transparent through the use of decentralization and cryptographic hashing.
Other ways are SAOS or OCS, just so you know…aha!
Put simply, trashion is trash that has been transformed into clothes.
This process is called ”upcycling”, where waste becomes a new and more valuable resource that can be used as a raw material. And no, it does NOT stink! Why would you think that? It Smells Like Teen Spirit!
Upcycling is a process that gives waste a second chance.
Sometimes the waste itself doesn’t even need to be processed and transformed which saves even more energy, it’s called Trashion.
🌻 Vegan Fashion
Vegan fashion is for people who want to extend their diet to their lifestyle through fashion. Like with food, buying vegan fashion means making sure that no animal content was used. And yes, we know: finding vegan fashion can be quite hard. Even if an item that was made without the use of leather, there can still have some components (like chemical treatments) that make it non-vegan. It is difficult but still doable. For example, you can look for PETA Approved brands, follow vegan fashion bloggers, and buy products that are explicitly labelled as vegan.
👜 Vegan leather
Vegan leather is often made from polyurethane, a polymer that can be made to order for any designer. It can also be made from innovative and sustainable materials such as pineapple leaves, cork, apple peels, other fruit waste, and recycled plastic.
Velvet is a sleek, soft fabric that is commonly used in intimates and upholstery. Historically, this fabric was very expensive to produce, which is why it is often associated with aristocracy. Even though most types of modern velvet are adulterated with cheap synthetic materials, this unique fabric remains one of the sleekest, softest man-made materials ever engineered. So, no cheating: go for the real one or nothing at all.
The term “vintage” describes clothing that dates back anywhere from 20 to 100 years ago. Let’s make a bet: there is a 90% chance you can find a vintage item in your parent’s house. A blazer, a pair of jeans or earrings: pieces that take us back to another era and make us feel like listening to the Beatles again. Basically, vintage is when you see something and think to yourself: that’s definitely from the 90s!
A common misconception is that vintage always means pre-owned. But it doesn’t always – if we’re talking about “vintage style” it could be a new item with a vintage look to it. Authentic vintage is the pre-owned kind – we love it since it is also a sustainable option.
100 years old or more? That’s an antique.
Viscose is currently the third most commonly used fabric in the world. If you’ve never heard of viscose, you may know it by another name: rayon. It’s a semi-synthetic fibre made from trees—but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any better for the environment, or for you. In fact, the material has become a hot-button environmental issue recently. As a plant-based fabric, viscose is not inherently toxic or polluting. However, the wood pulp that viscose is made from is manufactured by treating it with chemicals, which is then filtered and spun into a fine thread. This is a highly polluting process and releases many toxic chemicals into the air, waterways, and surrounding production plants. Viscose, you stay away from us, ok?!
It means having any amount of water, even the tiniest drop, and/or compensating for water that cannot be used again. Basically, the concept is very similar to carbon-neutrality. Easy.
Now that you had a look at the Sustainable Fashion Glossary, shape your own world of Sustainable Fashion by adding your values here:
What do you Love and Value?