10 tips for ethical and eco-friendly clothing

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Clothes hanging on racks in second-hand shop

© iStock

Opt for slow fashion

The current trend in fashion is ‘fast fashion’, with companies producing very cheap clothes at a fast pace. Customers wear them for a while and then throw them away. If you choose a more durable garment, you can wear it for a longer period. Replace your bulging wardrobe stuffed with bad purchases with a so-called 'capsule wardrobe' which consists of a limited number of items that you can easily combine. Choosing what we call ‘slow fashion’ can make a huge difference to the environment!

Small wardrobe with open doors

Not Fast Fashion, but so-called 'capsule-wardrobe'. © iStock


When the time has come to get rid of your garment, you can give it a second lifeby dropping it in a container you can find at Curitas and Wereldmissiehulp.

Buy second-hand

Who said that clothing should always be brand new? Every year, four billion kilos of unworn clothes are thrown away, but we could easily reuse them. The environment will thank you for it, because reusing clothes helps reduce pollution caused by production and transport. So be sure to take a look at the second-hand shop in your area. An overview of all second-hand stores in Belgium can be found on this website.

Woman looking at clothes on the market

Take a look in a second-hand clothing store!
© Shutterstock

Consider barter trade

Sometimes you do not even have to bring your wallet to buy second-hand clothing. Through barter, you can get rid of bad purchases and get something else instead. You can organise a clothing swap yourself or keep an eye on the Swishing website, where you will find an overview of clothing exchange events in Belgium. 

Choose lower-impact materials

The material from which a piece is made can have a huge impact on the environment. The production of cotton, polyester and denim, for example, involves a lot of energy consumption and pollution. The fashion industry is increasingly experimenting with alternative materials that are more environmentally friendly, for example organic cotton, fish leather, hemp, bamboo and lyocell. In the article ‘How to shop ethically’, we take a more detailed look into the advantages and disadvantages of these fabrics.

Cotton plant

Organic cotton is a lot less poluting than normal cotton.
© iStock

Check the label for quality marks

Some clothing brands have indicated that they also want to see things change. They strive for more sustainable and ethical fashion and show this by means of quality marks that can be found on the garments’ label. The most important ethical and sustainable quality marks are FWF, Fairtrade, Ecolabel, GOTS and Oeko-Tex 100. More information on these quality marks can also be found in the article 'How to shop ethically'.

Keep asking questions

Be sure to keep asking questions when you cannot clearly deduce from the label how a garment is produced. You could, for instance, send an e-mail to the clothing brand of the garment you are interested in and ask what the working conditions of the person who made it looked like. What effect has the production of this garment had on the environment? If you keep asking these kind of questions, you have the power to change things.

Woman asks shoplady for jacket advice

Get informed before bying something!
© Shutterstock

Support the pioneers

Not only big clothing brands, but smaller boutiques too make an effort. Since it is not always easy for these to survive financially, it is important to support them as much as possible. By doing this, more and more sustainable and ethical boutiques will see the light. KnackParisMatch and the blog HappyGreenMe each give a list of recommended shops in Belgium.

Get informed

The search for ethical and sustainable fashion remains complex. You have to be an expert to master all its aspects. Fortunately, some websites and apps have already done a large part of the research for you. For example, Good on YouFair Fashion and Rank a Brand have conducted large-scale research into fair fashion at major clothing brands. Each of them has moulded the results into an application you can use to compare clothing brands and make the right sustainable and ethical choice.

Do not give up too quickly

At times, the search for fair fashion is daunting and yet it is definitely worth the effort. By staying critical when buying clothes and looking for alternatives, you show that there is a demand for ethical and sustainable fashion. You make a well-considered choice. And that choice has consequences!