By now, most people know that the clothing industry is terrible for the planet. It’s estimated to be responsible for up to 10% of greenhouse gas emissions and growing, plus billions of pounds of textiles that end up in landfills each year.

Several big brands in the industry, such as LVMH, are turning towards more sustainable practices. Recently, even fast fashion leader H&M launched a new eco-friendly line from singer Billie Eilish, along with other sustainability initiatives. 

Those are steps in the right direction, but according to some sources, a more widespread transition to sustainability requires billions in investments to change infrastructure. To make such a large-scale change, demand for sustainable clothing must be considered. A recent study from CivicScience of 2,260 U.S. adults reveals a few key insights.

Importance of Sustainable Shopping

First, the survey found that 57% of adults felt sustainability practices carry some level of importance in deciding where to shop for apparel, and what to buy. Only a small percentage of that majority felt sustainability was “very important”; most were lukewarm, rating it as “somewhat important.” 

“Somewhat important” seems to be in line with where sustainability practices sit with the fashion industry, with a smaller following around sustainability-focused brands, such as Reformation which is geared towards young women.

That said, the survey shows that women place a higher precedence on sustainable clothing than men – 64% say it’s important, compared to 50% of men.

It also shows that sustainable clothing matters more to young adults. About 20% of Gen Z and Millennials say that it’s very important. Overall, Millennials are the most likely to place importance on sustainable clothing, while Baby Boomers are the least likely.

Paying the Price for Sustainable Clothing

It seems that most people have become fairly accustomed to cheap clothing – for example, most of us won’t pay more than $50 for a pair of jeans. The survey shows that outfitting the masses in eco-friendly apparel would require driving down its price, given that 65% aren’t willing to pay more for sustainable fashion.

Yet some are much more willing to pay a higher price than others. Over 50% of Gen Z say they are likely to pay more for eco-friendly fashion, followed by 41% of Millennials

Is Sustainable Fashion a Fad?

The survey indicates that about one-quarter expect that most fashion brands will start practicing sustainability in the near future, and just a small percentage see sustainable fashion as a fad.

However, most people don’t have an opinion about the future of sustainable fashion.

Even though the fashion industry leaders are gradually shifting towards more sustainable practices, eco-friendly apparel still has room to grow.

Yet, looking ahead, the industry appears to be on the right track. The survey shows that age matters when it comes to the future of sustainability and the clothing industry. Not only are young adults the most likely to value sustainable clothing, they are expecting to see more of it. One-third of Gen Z and Millennials anticipate that most fashion brands will practice sustainability in the near future:

That transition may not happen as quickly or as radically as they hope, but ultimately, young adults are poised to be the biggest disruptors to the current industry model and to drive further change towards sustainability. 

It’s also likely that social media will have a significant role to play in moving the needle – the survey found that people who say sustainable clothing practices are important are nearly twice as likely to be influenced by social media when it comes to clothing and accessory shopping, compared to those who say it’s not at all important.