The worldwide production of cotton has reached its limit due to land and productivity constraints. Polyester production is bound to the consumption of oil, thus its worldwide availability is decreasing. Therefore the need for new and sustainable fibres such as bamboo, hemp or nettle is imperative (Fletcher 2008).
The many environmental issues that plague our world today and which are becoming more severe as time goes on, and as the population increases, has exploded with interest and concern from people all over the world wanting to do their part to help.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of knowledge among consumers about the clothing industries environmental impact and unsustainable nature which is severe in every stage of its manufacture and disposal processes.
Knowledge Versus Action
Growing awareness and increasing consumer’s knowledge about the impacts this industry causes is imperative to reduce the apparel’s harm to the environment. Therefore it is necessary for clothing companies to find more effective ways to encourage consumers to choose eco-friendly clothing (EFC) such as bamboo or hemp textiles.
Unfortunately, there is a gap between caring about a topic and then actually taking action. In 2007, the Green Gauge Report found that, of the 2000 American adults surveyed, 87% were concerned about the environment. Furthermore, 50% felt that environmental legislation did not sufficiently protect the environment (CSRNews, 2007). However, despite the concern and interest in protecting the environment, pro-environmental attitudes were not consistent with pro-environmental behaviours.
Additionally, the lack of knowledge but high interest in the term ‘sustainability’ is also a factor that companies should address, as Wilhelm (2009) found a low level of knowledge of sustainability matched with a high level of interest in the concept.
Bhaduri and Ha‐Brookshire (2011) point out the desire of Generation Y consumers to make informed decisions regarding sustainability and yet they are unwilling to research product options.
Therefore, this indicates that there are numerous barriers that are restricting the ease and likelihood for consumers to align their values with their behaviours. If we are to move forward as a society to adopt more environmentally friendly lifestyles, identifying and finding solutions to remove such barriers is essential for environmental protection from the apparel industry among others.
Scholarly articles have found that there is indeed a gap between these two factors and for reasons that are quite understandable but can be solved.
The surveys that were conducted in many of the scholarly articles surveyed consumers from the Generation Y group. This is due to the fact that apparel companies tend to target this age group because they usually have the most disposable income, are more likely to use clothing for self identity and style then other age groups, and conveniently, this age class is also the target for EFC companies, because they are more likely to engage or care about the environment, as it affects them the most in the future.
The surveys found that the most popular factors that compromise consumers buying EFC would be:
- New trends
- Lack of knowledge
- Self expression
Therefore, the big question EFC companies need to ask themselves is, ‘how can we overcome these barriers to entice consumers to choose EFC over common clothing textiles?’
What previous research is consistently telling us is that knowledge is a determinant of eco‐conscious consumer behaviours. For example, studies by Schahn and Holzer (1990) and Meinhold and Malkus (2005) found consumers with greater environmental knowledge being more likely to engage in pro‐environmental purchase behaviours.
Stemming from education, if companies are to encourage a consumer to buy EFC then they need to help the consumer understand how much of a difference they are actually making when choosing to pick EFC.
Does going out of one’s way to buy a bamboo clothing item, for example, really make a difference?
This comes into encouraging a consumer’s consistency to shop for EFC which is needed for EFC brands to flourish, and not just get
Therefore, finding out how much a company is contributing to sustainability can help a consumer understand what they are actually paying for, and increases their likelihood of coming back to buy more and sharing this information with others. Consequently, this comes into the company’s ability to showcase their contribution in a way the consumer can understand, by a means of making it clear in their marketing as well as detailing their contribution in their policy section for consumers to read more on.
The Fast-Fashion Dillema
Another large issue that makes it harder for EFC companies to gain attraction and increase sales is the dilemma of ‘fast fashion’.
Fashion is a concept that is meant to change frequently, introducing new trends and styles which are then advertised in magazines as the latest ‘must haves’. Young women especially are consistently falling victim to the never-ending cycle of keeping up with what’s ‘in’. Clothing trends and styles stay in for a short period before new styles come in and the old are disposed of quickly and thoughtlessly.
Nowadays, it is moving faster than ever due to globalisation. Globalisation has made clothing so affordable that purchasing becomes more tempting and
It is a dilemma for EFC companies to see that the drive to be fashionable often outweighs a consumer’s ethics or sustainability desires. This paradox highlights the clash of the desire to consume with efforts to limit consumption.
What Should EFC Brands Do?
Clothing brands need to keep up with trends, be consistently advertising their environmental progress/stance, and using education to help consumers gain knowledge about the apparel industry and why supporting EFC brands is helping the world in a BIG way.
In regards to keeping up with style, companies providing ‘basics’ are in the right lane, as basics are always ‘in’.
Boody Eco Wear, a bamboo clothing line has embraced the ‘basic’ life and is succeeding in gaining consumer attraction with 35.7 K followers on Instagram and growing. In their marketing, they are consistently educating their followers about how the bamboo textile is the way of the future due to its sustainable and eco-friendly nature.
Some examples include:
- Bamboo has a naturally fast growth rate, it can grow 1 meter in a day!
- Because of bamboo’s fast growth, it needs little to no fertilizers
- Bamboo requires very little if any pesticides as it has no natural pests
- Bamboo requires 1/3 the amount of water that is used to grow cotton
Thank you for reading this blog and caring about your contribution to the world. It is important for us to not only be interested in a global issue, but to actually find ways we can practically go about making a change, and buying EFC is one way to do that. So thank you for supporting this movement!
The Earth Co.
McNeill, L. and Moore, R., 2015. Sustainable fashion consumptionand the fast fashion conundrum: fashionable consumers and attitudes to sustainability in clothing choice. International Journal of ConsumerStudies, 39(3), pp.212-222.
Yoo,J.J., Divita, L. and Kim, H.Y., 2013. Environmental awareness on bamboo productpurchase intentions: do consumption values impact green consumption?. InternationalJournal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, 6(1), pp.27-34.
JinGam, H., 2011. Are fashion-conscious consumers more likely to adopt eco-friendly clothing?. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal, 15(2), pp.178-193.e