Affordable Sustainability; Breaking the Barriers to Sustainable Fashion - Corethics

Affordable Sustainability; Breaking the Barriers to Sustainable Fashion

Are you a consumer aspiring to embrace a sustainable lifestyle but are concerned about the costs? Continue reading to discover how to make sustainable fashion more affordable.



In a society where mass consumption and fast fashion trends triumph, the call for sustainable fashion practices has grown louder than ever. Research has shown there has been an increase in people's concerns for the environment and a want for sustainable products. 

A study conducted by EY Australia found that 31% of Australians reported sustainability is important when purchasing products. However, despite an interest in living sustainably, there is a behaviour-attitude gap, meaning the number of people who want to purchase sustainable products are not doing so.

Cost is one of the main barriers preventing people from purchasing sustainable products. While ethically and sustainable brands often come with a higher price point, most of the time, this is not true.

Here are 4 tips and tricks on engaging in sustainable fashion practices without the added costs.

1. Be conscious of your buying habits

While sustainable and ethical products may come with a higher initial price tag, they often offer a superior long-term value. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (2022), people buy 60 per cent more clothes but only wear them for half as long. 

This can be explained by comparing two pairs of denim jeans: one from a fast fashion brand, which costs $69, made of 100% cotton and the other from a sustainable brand, which costs $229.00, composed of 80% organic cotton, 16% polyester and 4% elastane. 

The reasoning for this price difference comes down to multiple factors, including fair wages and the size and speed of production. However, the focus here is on the cost of materials. Eco-friendly and sustainable materials cost more. The sustainable brand uses organic cotton, meaning harmful pesticides have not been used in the farming process. These pesticides, typically used to grow cotton, damage the environment by infecting local waterways, impacting the health of animals and workers (McFarlene, 2022). The use of polyester and elastane may not be considered ethical materials. Still, they contribute to the quality and longevity of an item compared to 100% cotton, which results in fewer items produced and, ultimately, less waste in landfills. 

Numerous shopping habits have become ordinary in our society harm the environment and are often not cost-efficient. This is why it is essential to be conscious of your purchasing habits to live more sustainably. Consider asking yourself the following questions:

• Do you frequently buy multiple inexpensive clothing items, which must be replaced often?

• Do you feel the need to purchase clothing to fit in with current trends?

• Are there clothes in your wardrobe you have never worn?

These are all purchasing habits we have all indulged in at least once. However, if you want to make a change to a more sustainable lifestyle, here's what you can do:

2. Invest in buying-high quality sustainable clothing

The money spent on low-cost unethical clothing, which you have to replace every season, could be used to invest in sustainable pieces which are timeless and will last for years, reducing the need to frequently purchase from fast fashion brands. This can not only help you to save money in the long run but also means you're engaging in sustainable practices. 

Various sustainable fashion brands exist, competing with fast fashion pricing for those who are still looking for lower-priced products without compromising on quality or ethics. 

To find sustainable and ethical brands, it is important to do prior research before purchasing. There are resources online that rate the sustainability of brands such as This website allows you to find sustainable brands from a range of price points, and you can also search for brand names to see their rating. However, some tips on how to spot an ethical brand from the unethical are;

• They use organic and recycled materials 

• They are transparent about their manufacturing processes, environmental impact and ethical practices, which may include;

• They have accreditations and certifications

• They will usually only have a few items with limited stocks

3. Upcycle 

Upcycling is both sustainable and affordable as it allows you to use clothes you already own and repair them so they can last you longer or turn them into entirely different pieces of clothing. Not only does this prevent the need to purchase new items, but it also fosters creativity and allows you to create unique pieces. Upcycling has a rich history, with its importance heightened during times of economic crisis, such as during World War II. The war resulted in resource rationing, including clothing. This meant people had to adapt by repairing old clothes and utilising materials around the home to make new ones. This period changed society's outlook on clothing, focusing more on durability over excessive consumption. Today, upcycling is used economically and socially for financial and environmental sustainability and creativity. 

4. Advocate for Transparency 

To make sustainable fashion more affordable and accessible for everyone, it is important to encourage brands to be more transparent about their sustainability practices. By purchasing from sustainable brands and advocating for transparency, fashion brands will be encouraged to compete with the competition by improving their practices. This can lead to discovering new and innovative ways for companies to produce clothing sustainably, leading to more accessible and affordable sustainable fashion. Here are some examples of how you can help advocate for brand transparency;

• Do some research about what sustainable and ethical fashion is

• Engage on social media with ethical fashion and sustainability topics and communicate with others passionate about making a change.

• Contact brands through social media, emails and letters to ask about their ethical practices and encourage them to be more transparent.

• Make conscious choices to purchase from sustainable brands.

• Support not-for-profit organisations and groups like Corethics which advocate for sustainability by volunteering your time or donating.

Sustainable fashion is a collective effort.

The pathway to a sustainable world is through collective action. We all are responsible for doing what we can to help in this mission. The global climate strike in September 2019 demonstrated just how collective action can have the power to create good change in the world. According to The Guardian, it became history’s largest climate change protest. The movement led by activist Greta Thunberg resulted in millions of people from all over the world standing together to demand government action against climate change.

Whilst there can be limitations to living sustainably through fashion due to accessibility and costs, it is essential to acknowledge sustainability and affordability can coexist. These 4 tips are a helpful guide to start embracing a sustainable lifestyle, and through collective action, it can empower us to contribute to positive change for people and the planet.


Aleisha Condon