May 23rd, 2022

Sustainability: key terms you need to know

By: Carys Thomas, via University of the Arts London

Did you know that the fashion industry is responsible for between two and eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions? The industry is having a detrimental impact on the environment, contributing to water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and landfill. It is one of the largest carbon polluters on Earth, and one of the biggest producers of waste.

Studies have shown that there are in fact enough clothes on the planet to clothe the next 6 generations, yet vast quantities of clothing continue to be produced and sold by increasingly popular “fast fashion” companies. If the demand for fast fashion continues to grow at the current rate, we could see the total carbon footprint of our clothing reach 26% by the year 2050, according to Greenpeace.

So, how can we change our ways and make better choices for our planet? Well, we can start by building our knowledge of some key sustainability terms and definitions. For this, we caught up with Schelay McCarter, Associate Lecturer here at UAL, to find out what these key terms mean and discuss how we can start to build a more sustainable lifestyle.

Sustainable fashion: is related to the sustainable production process. The circularity of the process from start to finish. From the conception to the end result. For example, the cotton or flax plants credentials, is it organic? This includes the fertilisers and soil, water sources, the harvesting process, the fair-trade employment rights of the workers. The disposal of waste materials – are they recycled? The manufacturing – workers working conditions and fair wage practices. Transportation by sustainable means, the geography – factories sourced locally are more sustainable than those from across the globe for reasons of fuel usage and pollution. The packaging of the items for retail locally using recycled paper and cardboard.

Slow fashion: upcycled clothing, Vintage, reinvented, customisation, second hand, choosing well buying less, make do and mend, sharing, passing clothes on, the rental market of clothes, swapping, recycling, invest in quality not quantity. Income is not an issue to engage in slow fashion – it is something that is open to all.

Ethical fashion: this type of fashion is based on morally directed consumer shopping choices.

Fast fashion: fast fashion is not ethical as it breaks all the rules of fair trade and sustainable practice and feeds on consumer hunger for regular replenishment. It engages in greenwashing and is based on profit and low-quality products that cannot be recycled, so by definition it is unsustainable.

Greenwashing: a falsification or misleading representation of sustainable practices in order to gain a pseudo sustainable image so that green working practice consumer acceptance is fostered.

Circular economy: the concept relates to the intrinsic recyclable value of a product. It is about whether it is made to last, and if it can be fixed, re-used or recycled rather than put in a landfill site.

Slow living: slow living runs on the premise that we all need to make morally right choices as to how we consume and recycle what we use. We need to make choices that have less impact on the environment and community. This involves a community mindset, acceptance of diversity and everyone working together as a whole whatever their ethnicity or background. The word ‘slow’ defines a ‘slowing down’ and pausing to take a breath and consider what is important in life. Living at a slower pace of life means saying no more. It means putting up boundaries where there haven’t been any before. Closer connection to the environment and mindful use of resources.

From FAD Connection we want to accompany you on building or directing your brand emphasizing the care for the environment, a key factor for contemporary companies. Therefore, together with the specialists Romina Cardillo, Lucía Chain & Pía Rey; we provide an advisory service for sustainable fashion projects. Our goal is to guide your project through advisory meetings that will help you improve the development and communication of your brand from a sustainable perspective. If you want to know more, click here. 

Inspired to find out more? Check out these 5 sustainability-based courses: 

MA Material Futures – Central Saint Martins – 2 years 

Go beyond existing limits to anticipate future needs; where science, technology and design come together.

Design for Sustainability Online – London College of Communication – 4 weeks

Lear the necessary tools and processes required for sustainable design practice, including systems thinking, circularity, stakeholder evaluation and co-creation. 

IED – Sustainable Fashion – 2 weeks

Manage sustainability projects, from the creation of new products and services to the definition (or the redefinition) of business models and fashion processes.

MA Sustainable Innovation Communication – Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti – 1 year

Develop design methodologies to face eco-social challenges. 

MA Design for Sustainability – SCAD 

Balance economic prosperity with social welfare and a sustainable environment.


If you’d like to learn more about the possibilities of sustainable and ethical practices in fashion, together we can find a course on sustainability that best fits your interests and goals.

For further information please contact FAD Connection