Is Your School Shopping Contributing to Climate Deterioration?

Are you contributing to our climate’s deterioration? 

With increasing ocean levels and concerning amounts of plastic pollution, it is no secret that we are facing an issue that is shifting from an urgent environmental crisis to a threat to humanity. How much do our shopping habits affect our climate and how can we make a positive impact as consumers? 

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the fashion industry contributes 20% of global water waste and roughly 85% of textiles end up in a landfill when they could be repurposed. To put it in perspective, one pair of denim jeans uses 10,000 liters of water to grow the cotton required to produce the garment. The fashion industry consumes more energy than aviation and shipping industries combined and produces an estimated 10% of the world’s greenhouse gases.

It is clear that sustainable practices need to be adapted into all areas of the industry - from growth of the materials, to the production of garments, to the distribution and retail of the products, to what happens to the item once it has reached the end of its lifecycle. Reducing our impact is the premise of sustainable fashion consumerism - which means considering all of these aspects while we shop.

With the season change and school approaching, we can likely admit that we are looking forward to back-to-school shopping – or will at least pick up odds and ends to accommodate the colder weather. Given our planet’s current state of affairs, it is important that we try to keep sustainable fashion in mind while we shop. Luckily there are multiple ways we can approach this principle without busting the bank or bending over backwards.


  1. 1. Thrift second-hand and vintage stores

    There are so many good thrift, second-hand, and vintage stores to explore - especially in the Ottawa area. It’s almost a no-brainer when it comes to sustainable fashion. Any item you purchase has a longer lifecycle and is one step further from ending up in the landfill. 

  2. 2. Take good care of your current garments and/or rework them to suit more recent trends

    When it comes to the lifespan of clothing, many consumers are quick to toss a stained shirt or discard a pair of ripped pants  - but stain remover or a needle and thread are sustainable and cost effective solutions that are easily dismissed. Although it may be easier to get rid of items instead of fixing them, it is a viable solution we need to start reconsidering.

  3. 3. Don’t buy fast fashion

    Fast fashion is pretty much the opposite of sustainable fashion. They are typically trendy and cheaply manufactured pieces that are in style at the moment but will expire in a month’s time, never to be worn again. It may be tempting to partake in the latest trend, but it is not realistic to buy a garment that will be out of style in the next few months. Try to avoid stores that promote fast fashion - such as Zara and Forever 21 - and focus on capsule wardrobe pieces.

  4. 4. Recognize which brands take the extra steps to carry out sustainable practices

    This may be a harder option, as it takes some research to determine which companies are actually adopting environmentally friendly and sustainable practices compared to those using green marketing to draw in revenue. To make things a bit easier, I have done some research of my own, and have a variety of sustainable luxury, outdoor wear, and ready-to-wear brands listed below:

    a) Levi’s

    Given that Levi’s is best known for their denim and how much water goes into the production of the materials and the garment, Levi’s has adapted a water<less technique which entails 96% less water consumption in the production of their jeans. They are also members of the better cotton initiative and framed their products as an investment to move away from fast fashion consumerism.

    b) rag & bone

    Rag & Bone is another brand known for their denim and encourages recycling denim by partnering with Cotton’s Blue Jean Go Green Denim recycling program.

    c) Stella McCartney

    Stella McCartney is one of the pricier options listed, as it is a luxury fashion brand, but nonetheless have made substantial progress in sustainable fashion. As a brand, they emphasize choosing eco-friendly fibers such as cashmere, viscose, and organic cotton to eliminate toxic chemical waste and help with water consumption. Stella McCartney also uses recyclable metals, nylon, and polyester - and is also a vegetarian brand.

    d) Reformation

    Reformation does exactly that – reforms and repurposes old stock, textiles, and vintage clothing to fit their beautiful, modern, and simplistic design. Their designs are also meant to promote a capsule wardrobe in place of fast fashion.

    e) Patagonia

    This well-established outdoor wear brand focuses on using sustainable materials and will repair your purchased Patagonia garments should something happen to them. They also provide their customers with a credit or a discount for bringing in older Patagonia styles to contribute to their recycling program. 

Hopefully, these tips will help you adapt to sustainable fashion in your back-to-school shopping.