What Is Sustainable Fashion?

Chris Ondatje May 14, 2021
Pretty blonde sitting on a porch dressed in jeans and long sleaved shirt



When shopping for wardrobe essentials, you probably consider a range of factors, from affordability to ease of wear. You may ask yourself things like, “Can I wear this to the office and into the weekend?” or “Are these timeless staples that I can hold onto for years?”

You may also consider how and why your clothes are made—are you buying from companies that implement sustainable, ethical practices? 

And what does sustainable clothing mean, really? One type of textile that we love is bamboo viscose. If you’ve ever wondered what bamboo viscose is, it’s an eco-friendly material that you can feel good about because it benefits the environment.

In this brief guide, we’ll explore what sustainable fashion is, why this practice came to be, and how you can implement more sustainable practices into your everyday life to improve your environmental impact.  

womens bamboo clothing

Sustainable fashion 101: Understanding the fast fashion industry

Did you know that the fashion industry produces 10 percent of all carbon emissions?1 

Before we dive into what is sustainable clothing, we have to understand what it’s not: the fast fashion industry. Cheaply, hastily made garments that fall apart after several years are probably not what you want to stock your closet with. Here’s why.

According to Business Insider, these are but a smattering of ways the fast fashion industry negatively impacts the environment:

  • Big, international clothing brands are introducing more collections per year, which means people are buying more clothes and keeping them for shorter periods of time. This clothing production has nearly doubled since 2000.
  • Clothes that are discarded often end up in the dump. In fact, up to 85% of textiles go into landfills each year. 
  • Washing clothes releases microfibers into the ocean which harms natural ecosystems. 
  • Polyester production releases 2-3 more carbon emissions into the air than cotton—and the production of polyester-based clothing increases year over year. 

In order to combat these high levels of air and water pollution—and excessive waste—many clothing brands are stepping up to the plate and making it their mission to produce clothes that tread lightly on the environment. 

Pretty young woman in black neglige sitting on on a terrace

The solution? Sustainable fashion

Sustainable fashion is more than just a buzzword. Brands that qualify as sustainable respect the planet as much as they respect the bodies they dress. They typically:2

  • Consider sustainability at every level of production. Just because cotton and bamboo produce fewer carbon emissions than polyester doesn’t mean that using these materials alone makes a business sustainable. If the bamboo and cotton are not sustainably harvested, then the ‘sustainable’ label is moot. Understanding where and how garments are made is essential when striving to become a sustainable company. This includes storing and transporting garments responsibility and making sure every item in a collection is recyclable. Want to learn more about cotton vs bamboo? We have you covered!

  • Think about both environmental and human impacts of fashion. Sustainable fashion companies consider both the effects their brand has on the earth and on the people who dedicate countless hours to making these clothes. Are working conditions fair and ethical in the factory or field? Are employees able to enjoy a high quality of living because of the benefits of the business?

  • Encourage sustainable practices in all aspects of life. While the fashion industry is often maligned for contributing to pollution, it is certainly not the only culprit. Sustainable clothing is a lifestyle, which means companies who champion the merits of sustainability should also encourage their customers to implement eco-friendly practices every day. This could include cross-posting other environmentally friendly brands to their social media accounts, or offering discounts to shoppers who share a photo of their compost bin, for example. 

Individuals who choose to only (or mostly) wear sustainably made garments and the ethically responsible companies who produce these clothes have the same goal in mind. They want to be considerate in their choices, dressing in comfortable, high-quality clothing that is made without harming the planet or wasting natural resources. 

Sporting young woman in short black tights and top tank, resting on a porch after workout

How to easily incorporate sustainable fashion into your life 

Now that you have a better grasp on what sustainable and conscious fashion is, you may be wondering how you can incorporate sustainable practices into your life. 

Here are three easy ways to dip your toes into the world of sustainable fashion, no heavy lifting or big spending required:

  • Embrace vintage styles.4 What’s old is new again, and cool again. There is no new energy being used or fashion waste when you shop at vintage markets and thrift stores. By purchasing garments that have withstood the test of time, you can incorporate one-of-a-kind pieces into your wardrobe while feeling good about indulging your insatiable shopping habit and participating in the sustainable fashion movement. 

  • Stay informed. Doing a bit of research before buying can save you money (as higher quality clothes last longer) and can help the planet, too. Learn which materials are more sustainable2, and familiarize yourself with brands that utilize sustainable materials and sustainable fabrics like reclaimed rubber, recycled bottles, or organic cotton to make their goods. Educate yourself on the different types of natural fibers and natural fabrics. Here at Boody Eco Wear, we love to utilize bamboo viscose as the foundation for our timeless undies, activewear, and loungewear.5 Bamboo is the fastest growing woody plant in the world and is able to thrive in diverse climates, making it an ideal resource for sustainable fashion. 
  • Shop local. One of the easiest (and most fun) ways to support the sustainable fashion industry is to shop locally and put your dollars back into the community. For instance, if you purchase a dress from the boutique down the street, you can return the item without participating in the global supply chain, thereby reducing your carbon footprint. 

  • Recycle old clothes. We all go through phases of fashion and might do a closet purge every once in a while. Instead of throwing away your old clothes, recycle by taking them to a consignment store or a local shelter. Not sure what to do with old bras? Transform your old garments into a DIY project! 

Keep in mind that embracing a sustainable lifestyle starts with a few small steps. 

Boody Eco Wear: Soft, simple, and sustainable

By understanding how and where clothes are made and the mission behind each fashion company that makes them, you’ll be better equipped to stock your wardrobe with beautifully made, environmentally conscious garments.

That’s an ethos we stand behind. At Boody Eco Wear, we offer organically grown, bamboo-based viscose fabric that’s luxuriously soft to the touch. All elements of our fashion brand are ethically and sustainably sourced. From sustainable bras to women's bamboo shirts and athleisure, you are sure to love all of our women's bamboo clothing!

In essence, at Boody Eco Wear, we practice what we preach.

About the Author:

Daisy Hemmen is a San Diego State University Fowler College of Business alumni. Based in Encinitas, California, Daisy is a part of the marketing team at Boody North America. She is passionate about learning the ins and outs of living a happy and healthy lifestyle that benefits both people and the planet, and enjoys sharing her bountiful findings with the community.



  1. Business Insider. How Fast Fashion Hurts the Planet Through Pollution and Waste. 
  2. Live Kindly. What Is Sustainable Fashion? A User’s Guide. 
  3. Forbes. Why Sustainable Fashion Matters. 
  4. Harper's Bazaar. 10 Simple Steps to Being More Sustainable. 
  5. Boody Eco Wear. Benefits of Bamboo.

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By: Heather Bien We’re all trying to be better stewards of Mother Earth. From recycling to upcycling and eating conscientiously to dressing mindfully, our choices affect the planet. So choosing organic cotton clothing seems like an easy decision, right? Not so fast! As with all sustainable choices, it’s important to take a moment to learn a bit more about why organic cotton might win over conventional cotton—and what makes these two materials different in the first place. Read on if you’re interested in learning about organic cotton and whether it’s the best choice for you and the environment. Conventional cotton Before we get into debating modern cotton farming techniques, let’s get familiar with the plant we’re talking about: cotton. It’s soft, durable, and probably on your body right now. But what else do you really know about cotton? Here are the basics: Cotton comes from the cotton plant – The cotton plant is a warm-season woody perennial shrub from the genus Gossypium and the family Malvaceae. Cotton fabric is made from the plant’s fibrous seed-hair (which is also called a cotton boll). Cotton is one of the top agricultural crops – Traditional cotton is the most widespread and profitable non-food crop in the world. Although the plant is capable of growing in any warm-weather climate, India and China are now the top producers of cotton globally. Cotton is thirsty – A normal cotton plant requires 10 gallons of water to reach peak potential. That doesn’t sound so bad, but multiplying it outward, that means it takes about 5,000 gallons of water to produce just 2.2 pounds of cotton fabric. Pests think it’s delicious – Not only is cotton thirsty, but it’s prone to pest infestations from bollworms, weevils, aphids, stink bugs, thrips, and spider mites. In order to combat these common pests, conventional cotton is routinely sprayed with a veritable salad-dressing of pesticides, many of which can remain in the soil and water supply for years afterward. Cotton harvesting requires defoliation – In order to quickly and efficiently harvest cotton, many commercial growers use chemical defoliants to strip the leaves from the cotton plant prior to harvesting the bolls. Like pesticides, these chemicals remain in the environment and on the cotton itself. Is organic cotton better? All of those cotton factoids point pretty compellingly to buying and wearing organic cotton fabric. But first, it’s important to understand what sets this organic alternative apart. Why exactly is “organic” cotton anyway? You might associate the word organic with your healthy fruits and veggies, but it’s not always clear what this term means when it comes to cotton. For many years, there was not a standard definition, but today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) require that any cotton product labeled “organic” meet the following criteria: Made with fibers from USDA-certified organic crops Third-party certified (ie., through the Global Organic Textile Standard) under the National Organic Program standards Has a specific percentage of organic material (depending on the crop) But this definition is a little circular, so we need also to define USDA-certified organic crops. According to the USDA, organic crop standards are defined as follows: Land must have had no prohibited substances applied to it for at least three years before the harvest of an organic crop. Soil fertility and crop nutrients will be managed through tillage and cultivation practices, crop rotations, and cover crops. These can be supplemented with animal and crop waste materials and allowed synthetic materials. Crop pests, weeds, and diseases will be controlled primarily through management practices, including physical, mechanical, and biological controls. When these practices are not sufficient, a biological, botanical, or synthetic substance approved for use on the National List may be used. Operations must use organic seeds and other planting stock when available. The use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge is prohibited. What is organic cotton? In short, it’s cotton that is farmed according to these practices and certified organic by the USDA. Why should you choose organic cotton? With fewer pesticides, fewer synthetic chemicals, and more thoughtful cultivation practices, organic cotton can certainly offer a more environmentally friendly choice when compared to regular cotton. Is organic cotton sustainable?  Here are a few other reasons why organic cotton can be a better alternative for you and the earth: It’s better for our water resources – According to an analysis by the Textile Exchange, producing an organic cotton T-shirt requires 1,982 fewer gallons of water compared to a regular cotton T-shirt. Because organic cotton uses less chemicals, its production also releases fewer toxins into our aquatic ecosystems. It’s good for the soil (and our carbon footprint) – According to the Soil Association, the more natural cultivation practices and fewer pesticides used by organic cotton farmers can support healthier soil. That soil, in turn, can absorb more carbon from our atmosphere and help keep the planet healthy. It encourages biodiversity – Multiple studies have shown that organic farming practices can encourage more diversity among the animal species of our planet. Sustainability is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. But when it comes to plant-derived textiles, the ones which help us create a healthier world are always a better alternative.  Explore the benefits of bamboo with Boody Whether you choose to purchase conventional or organic cotton clothing, the fact that you are shopping mindfully for yourself is a win for the environment. At Boody, we believe in bringing you quality, comfy, sustainable clothing basics that keep you feeling good about yourself and your personal impact on Mother Earth. From our sleepwear to our loungewear, women’s bamboo shirts to our underwear, sustainable and ethical are our touchstones. Our clothing is made of bamboo viscose, requiring less water than cotton while putting precious oxygen back into the environment. That just feels good, doesn’t it? Explore the bamboo benefits today, with Boody. Sources:  Britannica. Cotton. Cotton. The Story of Cotton - Where Cotton Grows. World Wildlife Federation. Cotton. Textile Exchange. Quick Guide to Organic Cotton. Soil Association. What is organic cotton?  USDA. Conservation and Biological Diversity in Organic Production. About the Author: Heather Bien is a copywriter and writer based in Washington, DC. She works with retail, ecommerce, and creative brands on their website copy and digital presence, and her freelance writing has appeared on MyDomaine, Apartment Therapy, The Everygirl, and more. When she's not with laptop and coffee in hand, you'll find her planning her next weekend getaway, working on her budding green thumb, or scouting for her next great vintage find.