fashion Insiders logo
Close this search box.

7 Eco-Friendly Practices Every Small Fashion Business Can Do

Brands with any integrity have been thinking of ways to build their businesses with a sustainable advantage for a while now.

Below are some Eco-friendly practices that you, as a business can do to contribute your share of sustainability in the fashion industry.

With planet earth being pushed to the limit and recent headlines predicting that a 2C rise in temperatures could set off an uncontrollable chain of events within five decades, everyone needs to do their bit.

No one is more aware of the urgency than millennial students at fashion colleges. Many of them have been developing their work on an eco-friendly ethos.

However, once these students graduate one can only hope that their fledgling businesses are set up in such a way that helps reduce their carbon footprint. Travelling on a path towards greater sustainable practices means analysing the environmental impact of your company and your suppliers.

Here are the 7 Eco-friendly practices for your fashion business:

1. Studio

Setting up a studio can be an expensive endeavour and if you choose to go it alone, it can become even more expensive. It’s worth considering a studio share with another designer who compliments your aesthetic.

Perhaps a digital print designer to your clothing designer could work? Traditional screen printing methods use vast amounts of water so teaming up with a digital printer will not only avoid this but will also reduce waste by allowing for the more precise placement of prints. Elliss Solomon set up her studio in the same East London building as her manufacturer in order to reduce her carbon footprint.

  • When selecting machinery for sewing and overlocking, buy second hand industrial. These items are made to last and with a bit of TLC and regular servicing, their use will save you money.
  • Second-hand mannequins can be found easily on Gumtree, eBay or through fashion studio sales. If they’re a little shabby, recover them in cotton lycra.
  • Consider swapping energy sapping traditional incandescent bulbs for LEDs. While they can initially cost more than the traditional bulbs, during their lifetime they save you money because they use less energy.
  • Save all offcuts from the calico you use for toile making and re-use them.

2. Re-using Materials and trims

Excess fabric that’s left over from sampling and production, AKA cabbage could be put to good use. Dust bags could be made from large enough pieces and as a creative, it shouldn’t be too difficult to design something small from the smaller pieces of excess. This is one of the great eco-friendly practices that are really easy to incorporate.

Consider making something that could be sold as a signature item and can be re-made every season with whatever offcuts you may have. One company that is building a business by using offcuts is Kapdaa, the offcut company. They offer a service to fashion companies whereby they create a range of fashionable stationery out of their offcuts. You could perhaps consider covering items in your offcuts and selling them alongside your main products.

Le Kilt has launched a childrenswear range that uses the offcuts from their cult womenswear kilts to produce mini kilts. As Samantha McCoach, the designer says “I love the idea that the same piece of cloth that went into our classic styles now makes up the miniature versions.”

3. Choose alternative materials

Tencel is a great product that uses cellulosic fibres of botanic origin. They offer recycled fabric such as the pioneering RefibraTM technology that upcycles a substantial proportion of cotton scraps from garment production, in addition to the wood pulp or sustainable products.

The Elliss brand recently discovered a company that regenerates nylon in their Econyl process. It combines fishing nets and nylon waste and reforms it into the fabric that they use to make swimwear.

Alternative textile is in a way, the root of sustainability without eco-friendly materials, the entire life cycle of the garment would have no importance.

The vintage market is the ultimate eco-friendly marketplace to source materials. Products such as vintage scarves, of which there are plenty, could form the mainstay of your collection and be transformed into all sorts of items such as shorts, tops and panelled sections on vintage knitwear. Vintage garments could be re-used and juxtaposed with other items to form new and interesting looks. Vetements used vintage types of denim which were cut up and re-sewn into new styles three years ago.

This practice has now been adopted by E.L.V. Denim. The (ridiculously expensive) brand was built by Anna Foster on the aesthetic of reforming vintage denim jeans into perfectly-fit new styles and collaborating with Blackhorse Lane Atelier  (a London-based factory that practices environmental and social sustainability)

4. Packaging

This is one area that could incur a lot of expense if approached traditionally. Most brands tend to push the boat out by creating a beautiful point of sale bespoke boxes or bags to wrap their goods in.

Why not consider this great idea? The brilliant sustainable brand, Silent goods has eschewed the typical fancy packaging favoured by other brands and opted for the humble cardboard box. Their boxes are pre-used and redundant and very simple.

Another option would be to source a company that produces boxes using recycled, unbleached cardboard. As they say, beauty is within and this option would allow you to spend money on the product, where it is most needed.

Plastic and paper bags are the typical choices favoured by the fashion industry for point of sale packaging.

However, now there is another choice available thanks to the company. They have developed a sustainable material that is made from wood fibre and is suitable for uses where plastic films have previously been the only alternative. Unlike paper, Paptic® products when wet, do not shrink but return to their original dimensions when dried out.

Paptic® could be used to wrap items in prior to bagging or boxing as well as being used to make dust bags for handbags and accessories.

5. Printing

While it may seem like the only difference between fonts is style, it appears that some fonts have a much higher rate of ink consumption.

Therefore it is worth considering the use of fonts that use less ink when printed.

“Ecofont” for example is one such font – it is specifically designed to save as much ink as possible while retaining readability. Other ink saving fonts worth using on regular basis are:

Ecofont-vera-sans, Century Gothic, Courier, Brush Script, Jardotty, ABC Print Dotted

6. Paper

Using recycled paper will further improve your carbon footprint.

Using less paper by switching communications to email will further your endeavours.

Many fashion companies rely solely on sending out show invites via email.

It isn’t quite the same as receiving something tangible in the post but so much waste is produced that its worth it.

7. Transportation

Most of the fashion industry’s garments are lightweight and hence can be easily transported in bulk. While it may seem that, the more you send the garments together, the more fuel, time and money you are saving – the story is far from the truth.

Did you know that a single ship (the widely used medium to transport fashion goods) can produce as much pollution in a year as 50 million cars combined?

You might argue that transporting by road (diesel) carries more carbon footprint. Again, the low-grade bunker fuel used by a ship is 1000 times dirtier than the one used by trucks on road.

Preferring airfreight for international transport and rail over road or ship can minimize the impact of transportation.


Some could argue that it’s a little too late to warrant bothering themselves with eco-friendly practices. However, if every startup looked for alternative ways to run their studio from sharing space, purchasing second-hand machinery and reducing waste by upcycling offcuts, major changes are possible. Etc (more to come)


What are some of the eco-friendly practices you employ, that work? It can be the smallest of thing and if each one of us does it, will lead to huge impacts. So, please share them in the comments below.