Eco, Sustainable, Recycled, Green, Upcycled, Vegan Fast Fashion Explained

It’s Not All Healthy, Sustainable or Good For You or The Environment.

There’s no shortage these days of new buzzwords for supposedly green cleaner fast fashion to get you the consumer to buy into the HYPE, so much so we at CATA Consumers Against Toxic Apparel felt the need to clarify and explain them all so you can make more informed decisions about your fashion choices and how your dollars are spent. 

Eco Friendly-Sustainable-Recycled-Slow Fashion-Ethical-Upcycled-Vegan-Green are all terms used to brand, label and describe fast fashion that’s supposed to be more conscious, kinder to the environment and a step above the bad cheap and disposable fashion we all know and is in the news these days.   Most consumers don’t have a clue as to what these terms really mean, are they truly helping solve any of the problems being exposed in the fast fashion industry or are these terms being used to mask and shift our attention, tricking us into believing a problem is being solved when maybe and in fact more are being created?

Fashion_Buzz_1Recycled fashion is a prime example of how fast fashion is working to redirect our mentality to believe that recycling plastic bottles into still cheap, toxic laden disposable trendy fashion is good for us and doing the environment a favor by no longer being a bottle but now a pair of jeans with a footprint 1000% bigger than the plastic bottle along with a host of more toxic hazardous chemicals.  Let me explain.  We’re not against recycling plastic bottles.  We’re against recycling plastic bottles into garments. 

Here’s why

  1.  It takes two weeks of intense energy consumption to turn a plastic bottle into fabric to produce clothes.
  2.  Plastic bottles are made from petrochemicals and contain toxic chemicals such as BPA, a known carcinogen.  There are chemicals in bottles that are banned in clothes in other industrialized countries. These chemicals slip through the cracks because no one thinks of this as we’re busy recycling the bottles to make cheap trendy fashion. To convert the bottles into the filament used to create fabric many more toxic chemicals are used, increasing the already highly toxic state of the fabric.
  3.  The fabric is releasing tiny plastic fibre/beads into our water supply and the ocean that will build up over time and result in a much bigger problem than what we’re seeing today.
  4.  Wearing recycled plastic bottles is like wrapping your body in saran wrap.  Sweat is trapped, our bodies can not naturally detox, the natural frequency of our body is interrupted allowing our immune system to be compromised making you more susceptible to chronic illness and disease.
  5.  Every single piece of recycled fashion produced will remain on this earth FOREVER!  IT WILL NOT BIO-DEGRADE and the landfill footprint of a garment is much bigger than that of a bottle. 

Fashion_Buzz_2Eco-Friendly fashion oftentimes incorporates the words sustainable, ethical, recycled, vegan, upcycled and green.

The main notion of eco-friendly fashion is the fact that it’s fashion that’s considered to inflict minimal or no harm on people and the environment.

Here’s how 

  • Raw materials such as cotton grown without the use of pesticides or silk made from worms raised on organic vegetation.  Linen and hemp fibres are also more eco-friendly to grow, water consumption is less and these crops can add vital nutrients back into the soil.
  • The use of more natural plant based dyes but low impact (chemical) dyes are also considered to have a lower negative impact on the environment.
  • Recycled textiles, including creative use of materials such as recycled plastic falls under the eco-friendly definition.
  • Better quality clothes designed to be more durable so they last longer.
  • Clothes made without the use of harmful chemicals, dyes or bleaches.
  •  Eco-fashion incorporates human rights elements, such as how workers are treated who make the clothing, fair pay, safe working conditions and humane treatment.                                                                                                                                                                                               

Sustainable fashion goes hand in hand with eco-friendly fashions definition meaning the material used in a garment does not necessarily have to be organic to be considered sustainable or eco-fashion. A sustainable material is material that comes from a crop that can be regrown or replanted once it is harvested. Cotton can fit this definition, even if some chemicals are used during the processing stage. Animal-based materials such as wool, alpaca, cashmere and even silk (peace silk or raw silk) can also be considered eco-friendly, as long the animals were not harmed in the gathering process.

The goal of sustainable fashion is to create a system that can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility.

Fashion_Buzz_3Upcycled fashion also known as creative reuse, repurpose is the process of transforming by-products and other materials, waste materials, useless and/or unwanted products, outdated clothes into new materials/products putting less demand on the need for new raw material production, cutting environmental pollution at it source.

The materials used to create upcycled fashion more often are still synthetic, toxic, filled with chemicals that are harmful to humans and the environment.  The goal of upcycling is to use what’s already been produced and give it new life, therefore it’s seen as a more sustainable way to produce clothes.  Upcycling has been apart of fashion since the beginning and was once viewed to be a shameful practice carried out by the poor and less fortunate.  

Vegan fashion is any garment made without animal products from cruelty-free sources. NO animal products were used in making the garments and no animal was harmed. In some cases it can actually be made in a laboratory and include a small amount of plant base or no plant base at all yet, still be called vegan in the fashion industry. The term can be very misleading and deceptive.


Vegan does not mean the garment is toxic free or that it’s healthy for people or the planet.  Yet, somehow when consumers hear the word vegan they tend to associate it as being better.  The major takeaway for vegan fashion is eliminating clothes made from dead animals (hides) or the ability to exercise animal cruelty like shearing sheep or boiling(killing) the larvae of silkworms, etc.

Ethical fashion is an umbrella term used to describe the design, production, retail, and purchasing of clothes. It covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare.  

Ethical fashion considers what’s morally right and acceptable to create and produce clothes.  It must be fair, humane, of good intention, have a low carbon footprint and be sustainable.


Green fashion is a term that’s loosely used to imply that something is good or green when in fact the product can be far from being so in reality.  Its definition covers all the buzz words to include eco, sustainable, fair trade, ethical, vegan, recycled, upcycled, organic, slow fashion and even some of the techno fibre creations.

We often advise clients that when they hear the word green used to describe fashion they need to ask more questions to determine if the description meets their requirements.

Slow fashion promotes conscious consumption, values quality, encourages education, asks us to slow down, utilizes more organic and natural fibres, celebrates individual  personal style, employs fair labor practices, offers transparency in supply chain, demands sustainable raw materials, etc.  It offers a personal connection to the garment, whether that connection is where it’s produced-who made it or the goals and mission of the company align with values you possess on an intimate level.  

Here’s how

  • Opposes mass-produced fashion.
  • Uses forums, seminars and panel discussions to raise awareness about the negative impacts of fast fashion in regards to workers, communities, and ecosystems.
  • Works to slow down supply chains to reduce the number of trends and seasons being manufactured each year.
  • Promotes wardrobe building and investment dressing.  Teach consumers how to buy clothes to mix and match using each purchase or piece to build longevity into their consumption habits.
  • Advocates quality over quantity with the less is more mentality.
  • Encourages support for smaller businesses, fair trade, and locally-made clothes.
  • Discourages frivolous over-consumption of garments that are quickly thrown into the landfill.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

We recommend conscious consumers start with seeking organic clothing above all the buzzwords as it is truly sustainable, toxic chemical free healthy fashion.  Read the content label first look for organic cotton, linen, hemp, peace silk, raw silk, ramie, organic wool, alpaca, fibershed produced wool, cleaner cotton and blends.  These fibres are produced with higher conscious standards because the cost to produce is much higher than cheap disposable fashion and companies making the investment ethical and moral standards are higher by default.

Then seek in the order listed: 

  1. Slow Fashion
  2. Sustainable Fashion
  3. Ethical Fashion
  4. Eco-Friendly Fashion

We hope this article offers some clarity of a highly complex industry and will help you determine criteria most important to you for your next purchase.   At CATA we contact companies producing organic and slow fashion, speak with CEO’s and business owners to determine the integrity of their products, establish transparency, gain a greater understanding of their goals and mission, verify any certification claims, research garment raw materials and inquire about supply chain all in an effort to keep our movement fact filled, truthful and integrity driven; protecting your health and the environment.  Learn more about us at:                                                                                     

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