If “sustainability” was the buzz word of 2019, then “climate positivity” is the buzz word of 2020. And, ironically, it seems that practicing climate positivity is a more sustainable goal. At least when it comes to the fashion industry.
The Problem With Sustainability in Fashion
As a writer, I’ve used the word sustainable many times over to describe the practices and fabrics employed by global fashion brands and start-up designers alike. But as many of the panelists at Slow Factory’s Study Hall Summit, held at The New York Times Center a few days ago, made clear, the word sustainability can mean so many different things to so many different people.
Not to mention that using the word sustainability to describe an industry that has historical profited on grossly unsustainable practices (fast-fashion trends, cheap synthetic fabrics, exploitative labor practices) is still somewhat misleading. Because in the industry of garment creation, its really, really hard to be truly sustainable.
Climate Positivity Begets Hope
However, if we can’t reach the lofty goal of sustainability, (at least not right now), we can collectively decide to move in that direction. That’s where climate positivity, and its underlying message of hope, comes in. Due to its soft malleability and joy-giving characteristics, Climate Positivity has the potential to play a significant role in mobilizing brands and consumers towards a more sustainable industry. Even if we can’t reach it just yet.
As many of the day’s panelists pointed out, sustainability does not exist in a vacuum. By taking a more holistic (and hopeful) approach, brands and consumers can learn how to start small – instead of not starting at all.
And maybe the first step is simply getting more brands to admit that they aren’t really all that sustainable anyway.
Honesty & Transparency In Fashion
This was the approach taken by Estelle Bailey-Babenzien and Brendon Babenzien, the co-founders of Noah Clothing. The exceedingly transparent founders used the discussion, entitled “Honesty is Leading The Way: We Are Not Sustainable”, to clarify that Noah Clothing was not a sustainable brand. And that they’ve never actually labeled their brand as sustainable.
Instead, the company prefers to think of themselves as a responsible business that is focused on creating a sustainable workforce. Estelle added that sustainability starts with a conscious consumption. Conscious consumption simply means incorporating habits like using less plastic, buying less clothing, and buying clothes that are built to last.
Small Habits, Big Impact
I like to think that these small, approachable habits are ways consumers can practice climate positivity right away, in their daily lives. For example, instead of swearing off your favorite clothing brand forever because you found out they use virgin synthetic fabrics, just buy less next time you shop from them. You can go one step further by simply taking better care of the clothes you do buy so that they last longer.
This simple shift in mindset can not only save you money (YAY!), it can start you down the path of climate positivity, which may then lead to more significant changes down the road.
Climate Positivity & Individual Impact
Just the simple thought that, we, as individuals can have a positive impact on the world – may be inspiring enough to actually get us to behave differently. Even if that new behavior seems insignificant at first.
Brendon added that, for established fashion labels, it may be exceedingly difficult to turn the ship around, so to speak. Thus, as consumers and industry participants, we need to give these companies adequate time and space to make the appropriate changes. This is also where, as Estelle pointed out, new companies have a great advantage. Armed with new knowledge and a desire to make a positive impact, new brands can implement more sustainable practices into their companies from the start.