When it comes to fashion, consumers can be pretty picky. There are so many trends to choose from, the fear of being outdated is high, and with social media, it’s easier than ever to look fashionably inept. But one trend that’s taking off is biodegradable or eco-friendly clothing. Brands like Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, and H&M are all jumping on the green trend, and it’s easy to see why: consumers want to do the right thing, and the clothing industry is notoriously wasteful.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 75 percent of our clothing is thrown away within 10 years. This statistic is astounding and is due in part to our habit of buying more clothes than we need and wearing them until they wear out. The production of said clothes, however, is another factor. The textile industry uses a lot of water and energy in its manufacturing, which is bad news for the environment.

Did you know that it takes over 1,000 years for a single plastic grocery bag to decompose? And once the plastic is broken down, it still releases toxic chemicals that can harm the environment. Thankfully, more companies are beginning to make eco-friendly clothing. But what does it mean to be truly biodegradable?

Environmentally-friendly clothing is taking the world by storm. Since 2015, more than 1 billion plastic items have been pulled from the waters around the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, according to CNN. And according to a 2017 report, the clothing industry is the fourth-largest polluter of textile waste. Plastic microfibers (tiny pieces of plastic shed from clothing) are one of the main culprits, and a recent study found they could make their way into waterways via wastewater treatment plants and enter the food chain. Like everything in the world, it’s evolving.

The fashion industry is already big on recycling, but it’s now moving towards a greener future. A growing practice in the industry is making clothing from biodegradable fabric, which can reduce the amount of waste generated from production. The biodegradable fabric is made from plants, algae, and bacteria, and the material is sometimes dyed to look like traditional cloth. 

When it comes to clothing, we’re used to throwing away our unwanted and worn-out clothes. But what if those clothes could be made from something that could break down quickly? Each year, Americans throw away 15 million tons of textiles, which can take up a lot of space in landfills. This decreases the soil’s ability to absorb water, which contributes to flooding. Thankfully, new innovations in biodegradable clothing production are being made so that our clothes can be biodegradable at the end of their lives.

The oceans are an important resource for much of the world, but they’re also a huge source of pollution. Planning on making a fashion statement but dubious about the consequences of doing so? Biodegradable clothing could be the answer. Technology has long existed to make clothing out of sustainable materials, but until recently, the materials have been fairly expensive and weren’t always able to stand up to the elements.

Who says we need to throw away our clothes? That’s exactly what we did with clothes in the past. Today, however, thanks to advances in biodegradable clothing production, clothing can be made with materials that are biodegradable and easily break down in the environment. This means we can recycle clothing instead of tossing them out.

As an environmental issue, biodegradable fashion has long held a special place in many people’s hearts. Biodegradable clothing has begun to creep into the mainstream, however, as designers look for ways to help the environment in more creative ways. Freediving and underwater photographers can especially benefit from biodegradable swimwear, as a bathing suit made of 100 percent biodegradable materials will absorb less chlorine while in the water.