Clean Beauty brands have their ‘never lists’ of toxic ingredients to avoid and there are labels and rules galore for clean eating, but what about fashion? For those of us looking to extend our health-minded and sustainable values into our closets, where do we even begin to decipher what sustainable fashion really looks like? What lines up with our values and what should be left on the racks?
Following in the footsteps of the food and beauty industries, the fashion industry is now actively looking at the health, environmental and humanitarian effects of their product — and finally starting to make changes on a mass scale.
While we keep a running list of independent retailers that abide by sustainable standards, we’re also starting to see larger retailers catch on and step up. Recently, Nordstrom announced the launch of Sustainable Style — its newest online shopping category to help us shop responsibly-made products that meet higher social, ethical and environmental standards (shop a few of our fave finds here).
Nordstrom has mapped out its standards for Sustainable Style in an almost perfect overwhelmingly comprehensive guide. Their long list of principles should give you the lay of the land. Embracing sustainable style doesn’t mean your clothes have to hit every one of these ideals (impossible!) — pick a few that matter and start shopping your values…
30 Standards of Sustainable Style
Fair Trade Certified
Certifies that a product is made according to rigorous social, environmental and economic standards, including both using Fair Trade Certified Cotton and made at a Fair Trade Certified Factory, as it relates to apparel and textiles.
Fair Trade Certified Cotton
Cotton grown on a farm that meets rigorous social, environmental and economic standards, where farmers receive a premium to use for social and economic investments.
Fair Trade Certified Factory (or Sewn)
Factories meet rigorous social, environmental and economic standards, where factory workers receive a premium to use for social and economic investments. Also includes Fair Trade Certified-sewn products.
Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) certified
A certification that ensures products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits. FSC certification can apply to wood, paper and forest-based textiles such as rayon, viscose, modal and lyocell.
Brands That Give Back
With the sale of a product that “gives back,” a gift is made to a nonprofit organization. The gift may be driven by a percent or dollar amount of the net sale or net profit, or may be a one-for-one donation of a product or other item.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
A strict certification standard that covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, trading and distribution of all textiles made from at least 70% certified organic natural fibers. The final products may include, but are not limited to, fiber products, yarns, fabrics, clothes and home textiles. The standard does not set criteria for leather products.
Global Recycled Standard (GRS)
A voluntary certification for products with recycled content, GRS supports accurate labeling, innovation in the use of reclaimed materials, supply chain transparency and better information for consumers. GRS certification can apply to any product that contains at least 20% recycled material and includes environmental, social and chemical aspects.
A natural fiber from the fast-growing hemp plant, which requires about half as much water as cotton.
Leather Working Group (LWG)
A multi-stakeholder group including brands and suppliers that are working to improve environmental performance in the leather industry, including leather traceability and water reductions, energy reductions and chemical management at tanneries. Tanneries are rated Audited, Bronze, Silver or Gold.
OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified
Products certified to the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 meet strict limits for regulated and nonregulated chemicals and other substances, including pesticides, carcinogenic colorants and heavy metals.
Organic Content Standard (OCS)
A certification that uses third-party verification to confirm the amount of organically grown material in a final product.
Cotton grown without synthetic chemicals including pesticides, fertilizers and plant-growth regulators.
A natural fiber from the fast-growing flax plant, linen requires fewer resources than other natural fibers, like cotton, including water. Organic linen uses no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Like wool, used cashmere can be mechanically broken down into fibers and then re-spun into yarns to make new garments. This environmentally friendly process saves water and chemicals and can eliminate dye and wastewater.
Typically made by mechanically shredding cotton fabric back down to fibers and then re-spinning into yarn for use, recycled cotton (or reclaimed or regenerated cotton) uses less water and chemicals than standard cotton because it skips the cotton growing process. Recycled cotton can be made from pre- or post-consumer cotton yarn, textiles and garments, and must be blended with other fibers to maintain strength and durability.
Often made from used fishing nets, recycled nylon diverts waste from landfills and uses fewer resources like water, energy and petroleum in its production than virgin nylon.
Recycled Polyester (rPET)
A preferred synthetic fabric that can be made from post-consumer plastic like water bottles as well as unusable manufacturing waste and polyester garments. rPET diverts plastic waste from landfills and creates fewer CO2 emissions than virgin polyester in its production.
Used wool can be mechanically broken down into fibers and then re-spun into yarns to make new garments. This environmentally friendly process saves water and chemicals and can eliminate dye and wastewater.
A recycled nylon made from post-industrial recycled fiber waste.
A recycled polyester made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.
Responsible Down Standard (RDS)
A certification that aims to ensure that down and feathers come from animals that have not been subjected to any unnecessary harm. The RDS supports the Five Freedoms of animals.
Responsible Wool Standard
A voluntary global standard that addresses the welfare of sheep and of the land they graze on. On farms, the certification ensures that sheep are treated with respect to their Five Freedoms and that best practices are used in the management and protection of the land. Through the processing stages, certification ensures that wool from certified farms is properly identified and tracked.
SeaCell lyocell is made from renewable seaweed embedded within cellulose, in a closed-loop process.
Tencel lyocell and modal
Tencel lyocell and modal fabrics are produced through closed-loop, environmentally responsible processes from sustainably sourced, FSC-certified wood. Tencel fibers are certified as compostable and biodegradable.
Traceable Down Standard (TDS)
Sometimes known as the Global Traceable Down Standard, this framework of criteria supports animal welfare and maintains traceability requirements from farm to factory to ensure only compliant down and feather material is used in final products.
Worker Empowerment Program
A general term for programs that aim to offer education and development resources for women and men working in global supply chains.
1% for the Planet® Companies and brands that are members of 1% for the Planet have committed to donating 1% of annual sales to nonprofit partners in support of environmental solutions.
Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) cotton
BCI is working to make more sustainable cotton available as a commodity. BCI cotton is grown using less water, less fertilizer and fewer pesticides, while also improving the lives of farmers by increasing cotton crop yields.
bluesign® certified material
bluesign® certified materials can include textiles, zippers, buttons and other parts of products. The bluesign® technologies group monitors each step of the product value chain to improve water, energy and chemical use; support worker health and safety; implement strict standards for factory water and air emissions; and maintain strict chemical safety requirements.
bluesign® certified product
The bluesign® technologies group monitors each step of the product value chain to improve water, energy and chemical use; support worker health and safety; implement strict standards for factory water and air emissions; and maintain strict chemical safety requirements. All components of a bluesign® certified product meet these high standards.
HERproject is a worker empowerment program led by the nonprofit BSR (Business for Social Responsibility) in partnership with in-country organizations, which provides trainings for women working in global apparel factories. HERproject training programs focus on topics including financial literacy, health and hygiene and creating safe and respectful workplaces for women.
Cradle to Cradle Certified (C2C)
A product standard that helps designers and manufacturers consider five quality categories: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness. Certified products are rated Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum.
Regenerated nylon made with recovered nylon waste, such as fishing nets and fabric scraps.
What are your thoughts on sustainable style and the list of principals above?
Get chatting with the TCM community over on our private Facebook group, The Chat.