Is Being Sustainable Unattainable?



With the likes of Depop and Vinted, buying second-hand high-street clothing has become easy and accessible. It is widely understood that buying second-hand does wonders for the environment. Following in these footsteps, high-street brands have introduced ‘eco-friendly’ campaigns. This allows the buyer to continue buying first-hand but in a more sustainable way. However, the same brands launch new clothing lines every week, demoting last weeks into the sale section. This leads to the question: are these well-known brands genuinely being sustainable, or is it a technique to lure customers in?


The Promotion of Sustainability in High-Street Brands


Zara is well-known for its expensive-looking, affordable clothing items. Aiming to achieve climate neutrality by 2040, the company launched its ‘Join-Life’ campaign in 2015. The campaign categorised certain clothing items as being made from sustainable material, in an environmentally friendly way.


Maybe you have not heard of ‘Join-Life’, or you are not aware of the climate change proposals Zara makes. Here is why: Upon entering the Zara website, you are bombarded with their ‘new in’ section. Each week, new collections are flaunted across their homepage, This entices customers to keep up with the fast-paced fashion world. At first glance, there is no sign of their sustainability promises. It takes scrolling through the entire website until you reach the very bottom, where ‘Join-Life’ is presented in small print.


The Secrecy Behind Sustainability


Promising climate neutrality is highly impressive, and with more and more people wanting to shop sustainably, why make this information so difficult to find?


‘Good on you’ is a website devoted to investigating the truth behind how sustainable companies truly are. Despite their claims, Zara was not able to show any evidence that they are on track to meet their climate neutrality target. Their ‘Join-Life’ campaign also did not evidence any reduction in textile waste.


Non-trackable goals make it easy for companies to pass off sustainability claims. Not everyone has the time to navigate through the entire website to find them, never mind having the time to debunk the truthfulness of the claims. Instead, putting a well-designed ‘Join-Life’ badge next to highly sought-after items helps us be convinced by Zara that our purchases are going towards a greener world.


Alternatives to High-Street Fashion


Typically, more sustainable brands come with a higher price point. This is not accessible to everyone and hopefully will change in the future as the demand increases for sustainable shopping. In the meantime, a plethora of brand-new items from the likes of Zara can be found on Depop and Vinted, but for half of the original price. Not only are you reducing fabric waste, but it also saves money.


If you do feel like splashing some cash, Djerf Avenue offers non-seasonal, versatile pieces of clothing, with a price point just slightly higher than Zara’s. Sustainable ethical clothing consumption was a key factor in the development of their brand. The website clearly explains how the pieces are made and they don’t propose unattainable goals either. The brand only produces a set number of each item, this way nothing goes to waste and there is less over-consumption.


Despite being primarily American based, ‘Good on you’ ranks clothing shops based on their sustainability. They also pick out alternatives to well-loved high-street brands. The company carefully looks at all aspects of sustainability and ethical working. Being provided with a well-rounded, easy to understand explanation of the environmental impact a company has helps us to make better-informed choices. If you fancy trying a new brand or want to read up on how sustainable your favourite brand is, this is the place to go.


Overall, it can be difficult to constantly shop sustainably, and it gets more complicated when big companies tell us we are when this is far from the truth. It is also nearly impossible for individuals to make a large-scale impact on the fast-fashion world. However, building up your knowledge on shopping sustainably, opting to shop second-hand and reducing consumption of non-sustainable brands is effective and will most likely encourage those around you to do the same!