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Eco-fashion 101

Eco-fashion looks at ways to mitigate the ills of the fashion industry. Also called ethical fashion, sustainable fashion and ecofashion, it is new method of business that takes into consideration the triple bottom line; the idea that a sustainable business considers the needs of all stakeholders (including other species) instead of solely maximizing profit for shareholders.


Biodegradable: is when a product is able to break down by biological means and then be absorbed into the ecosystem.

Biodiversity: is the variety of life on earth and includes all organisms. The issue: Species are becoming extinct at a rapid rate which is tied to human activity. Biodiversity is important not only for the preservation of the planet but also for the immediate human needs such as clean water, food and medicine.

Capsule Wardrobe: a collection of a few essential items of clothing that will not go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers and coats.

Carbon footprint: is the total amount of greenhouses gases that are emitted due to human activity and are usually displayed in grams, kilograms or tones of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Certification: is the label of verification that validates that a product, brand or service meets certain standards by a third party.

Clothes miles: refers to the distance that a piece of clothing has traveled from cotton field, to textile mill, to factory and to the sore. Today a garment supply chain is very long and often stretches over many countries.

Closed loop design: is when a product is designed to have another function after its use- eliminating all waste. A used products output becomes the input of a new product or function.

Closed loop production: is form of production aimed to eliminate. Loops may be closed, for example, by recovery, re-use or recycling, i.e. that would conventionally be wasted often can be recovered and re-used.

Clothing banks: are garment recycling stations put up in a community, often by a charitable organization, where consumers are able to recycle their clothing.

CO2 emissions: is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released from fossil fuels into the atmosphere.

Conscious consumerism: is choosing to purchase products and services that take into account their social and environmental impact (also called Responsible Consumerism).

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): is a voluntary initiative by companies to reduce the negative social and environmental impacts of their business.

Cost per wear: a financial formula that takes: Total cost of the item/ estimated number of days of wear = the cost per wear (also sometimes called cost-per-use)

Cradle to cradle: refers to a closed loop design process which is free of waste. When a product is no longer useful, it becomes material for another product.

Cut-offs: is excess fabric from the cutting and sewing phase of garment manufacturing. It is often considered waste and is discarded due to its uneven and small formats. Issue: Cut-offs generally constitute 25% of the fabric in the cutting and sewing phase. This can be recycled back into fibre production or as-is for materials for other products.

Down-cycling: is to recycle a material into something of less quality.

Eco: is a prefix for ecology and usually refers to ecological concerns or benefits.

Eco-chic: refers to something that is environmentally conscious as well as being stylish/cool.

Eco-textile: is a textile that has minimized the impact on the environment.

Eco-labeling: are environmental claims made on a product or through advertising using certifications, logos, symbols or vocabulary.

Fast fashion: refers to clothing that has been produced fast and cheap by retailers to replicate catwalk trends. Issue: at the end of the 90s fashion started speeding up as brands looked for new ways in which to increase their profits. With new garments in stores on a weekly or even daily basis, fast fashion has disrupted the fashion cycle and created a throw away attitude to clothing.

Greenwashing: is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s aims and policies are environmentally friendly.

Life cycle: is the resource extraction, manufacture, distribution, use, disposal and recycling of a product.

Post-consumer waste: is waste collected after the consumer has disposed of it.

Pre-consumer waste: is manufacturing waste that has not reach the consumer.

Reduce, reuse, recycle: are the so called 3R’s that classify waste management according to their order of importance. Reduce your consumption and usage, reuse items again and recycle materials.

Reconstruction: the process of making new clothes from previosuly worn garments or preformed products.

Recycled: is when a waste material or product has been reused and turned into a new usable material or product.

Recyclable: is a material that can be reused at a similar level of quality.

Responsible consumerism: is choosing to purchase products and services that take into account their social and environmental impact (also called Conscious consumerism).

Second hand: is a product that is aquired after it has been used by someone else and is not new.

Supply Chain: are the resources and steps involved in moving a product from raw material to consumer.

Sustainability: is a lasting system, process, that meets the current needs while preserving for the future.

Sustainable fashion: is clothing that is produced with respect to the environment and social impacts of its lifespan.

Sustainable textile: is a textile that is produced with minimial environmental impact.

Swapping/Swishing: is the free exchange of garments between people. It is a form of direct recycling through swapping garments. Public or private swishing events have become a popular way for people to upgrade their wardrobes.

Textile recycling: reusing or reprocessing used clothing, fibrous material and/ or clothing scarps from the manufacturing process.

Textile waste: are by-products in the manufacturing of garments, fabrics, yarns or fibres.

Triple Bottom Line: ‘people, planet, profit’ refers to a company considering more than their financial outcomes.

Upcycling: is the recycling of a material into a product of higher quality.

Vintage clothing :is a generic term for new or second hand garments originating from a previous era.

Zero waste: is a life cycle approach to design where a products resources are reused and zero or very little materials go to landfill.