Sustainable Clothing for a Smart Planet


Millions of people around the world indulge in the system of fast-fashion, the rapid production of inexpensive clothing by mass-market retailers. However, this system is very harmful to the environment. Companies such as Nike, Under Armour, and Carhartt are known to have unsafe working conditions, utilize unjust child labor, and produce clothing in an unsustainable manner. 

Our team (Megan Onello, Nico Mangano, and Mikey Pratt) plans to fight against fast-fashion and its harmful effects on the environment by making our school more sustainable. Our plan involves talking with school officials about how we can achieve this in our school store while also creating an educational video to inform Pingree students about the disastrous impact of fast-fashion. We hope that by doing our part in the fight against climate change, others in the community will also be inspired to do better.

One of the ways that you can shop sustainably is through your brand choices. One misconception about sustainable fashion is that their clothing isn’t affordable. But today, there are many brands that are committed to sustainability and affordability. Some of these options include Pact, Everlane, Amour Vert, and Honest Basics. All of these brands come in below around $50 for t-shirts and sweaters, and they’re also better quality than fast fashion. Another way to shop sustainably is through where you shop. Interestingly enough, some stores have their own sustainability practices that all companies and products have to meet to be sold in their stores. One of these stores is REI, which in 2018 launched its Product Sustainability Standards providing clear expectations to brand partners. 

While big corporations like Forever 21, H&M, and Urban Outfitters may be a cheaper option than purchasing durable and possibly more pricey clothing, these stores are known to be detrimental to the environment. Although the clothes are cheaper, this means they are usually made unethically through processes such as child or prison labor whereby workers are paid little to no money for their contributions, forcing them into poverty. 

Cheap clothing generally means the quality is worse, as well. After wearing a cheaply-made article of clothing a few times, many people throw the clothing away, which creates a cycle of unsustainable and unethical practices. Thrifted clothing has recently become more popular; this is better for the environment, as it gives purpose to second-hand clothing and is a more affordable option overall. As opposed to throwing clothes away, we should first consider if the article of clothing could be donated. We should limit the amount of clothing in landfills and instead donate it so that it could be repurposed or upcycled by someone else. By thrifting, we can also reduce the greenhouse gases emitted through the mass production of clothing. While switching to thrifting will not solve climate change completely, it is a step in the right direction to reduce our carbon footprint.

Lastly, we hope to transform our school store. We hoped to make a change in Pingree’s athletic apparel, but Pingree recently renewed its five-year contract with Under Armour. Conversely, our goal is to introduce more sustainable clothing into the school store. There are many hidden obstacles for this to happen. The three pillars of sustainability are “People, Planet, and Profit,” and our initiative has to go beyond these pillars. Through sustainability, we will make the Pingree community more environmentally conscious and help the school store find brands to partner with that truly follow the sustainability pillars.