-Chinmoyee Deka |
In the times of fast fashion, social media, and online shopping; clothes and accessories have become a major part of our lives. They determine the social status, financial strength, and in some cases the profession of a person. People dress up in a certain way so that they can be taken more seriously. However, this extreme reliance on outside appearances to gain importance is not only costing our self-confidence but also our environment.
Many have talked about the ills of fast fashion but people are still oblivious to it because of the huge role that social media plays to make sure that every day we come across some garment that we would love to own. This sheer desire to own a new piece of clothing and then show it off in a few good photos are convincing people that they need something they never did or already had. For most, money is a limiting factor but now that too has been taken care of by brands like Zara and H&M that rip off trendy designs of high-end brands like Balenciaga in a matter of hours of its release and ensure that people can wear what their favorite celebrities are wearing at a much cheaper price. This makes the consumer feel intelligent but what he/she actually did was spend money on something that they never really needed.
What these brands are targeting in people is their inability to distinguish between what they want and what they need. Greed has no limits so if people just start buying everything they want they would have no place to store so much so one must be very mindful of the things they buy or consume and make it a point to only buy what is necessary. This way we not only save money but also do the planet a huge favor.
According to an article by Guardian, in 2015, the textile industry created more greenhouse gases than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. So the clothes that we wear are doing more harm to the planet than the flights we board while carrying and wearing them. It becomes easier to understand the impact when we talk in numbers so here are some statistics. One denim jacket requires 10,330 liters of water from its inception in the cotton fields till it finds its place in a retail store and that is equal to 24 years of drinking water. One cotton shirt requires 2500-3000 liters of water. Shocking, isn’t.t it?
There is more. Thanks to online shopping and its effort to cut costs of delivery and transport, lighter fabrics like polyester, nylon, viscose, rayon, etc. are becoming immensely popular now but these are extremely harmful. Not only are they resource-intensive, but they are also non-biodegradable and hence cannot be discarded. This should not make people think that cotton, wool, etc. are totally fine to dispose off, they are not. The dyes used usually contain toxic chemicals that harm aquatic life and soil, and in turn humans and animals as well. Polyester, Nylon, and Spandex use 342 million barrels of oil per year for production and 33% of the raw materials used to produce viscose comes from ancient forests but 70% of it is either dumped into landfills or incinerated.
Even though the West is the highest consumer of clothes but 87% of the clothes that are thrown away are burnt or landfilled in Africa. Someone else is bearing the brut for somebody else’s luxury. In India too, the situation is not very different. In 2018, Indians spent 5408 billion rupees on clothes. 75% of Indians spend more than 1500 rupees per month and 50% spend more than 2500 rupees. India is the third-largest consumer of clothes, 6 billion in 2017.
Sadly, the textile industry is also the biggest polluter of the environment. According to the World Bank, More than 200 chemicals are used in the processing of clothes and just the ones used for dyeing and finishing are responsible for 17-20% of the total industrial water pollution. One medium-sized textile factory uses up to 1.6 million liters of water per day. This is enormous. By dyeing 1000 kilograms of fabric 2,00,000 liters of water is contaminated. Emissions from textile industries disrupt the pH of habitats, damage the cells of living organisms, and also degrade metal artifacts. Packaging fabric also leaves a whole another set of impact as most of it is petroleum-based. 20.6% of the total energy used by the textile industry is spent on packaging.
However, not all hopes are lost. We can fight this and bring down the effect by adopting three simple habits –
- Wear clothes for longer times: let us slow down fast fashion and switch to sustainable fashion. We, as consumers have the power to control the market so let us do it. If even one of us decides to wear our clothes for nine months more than we usually do, we can reduce our carbon footprint by 30%.
- Thrift shopping: Buying one used item instead of a new one can reduce 2.72 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which is equivalent to removing 5 lakh cars from the roads for a year. This is easy and extremely impactful.
- Reduce online shopping: Switch to local weavers instead of buying from online websites. This will not only contribute to the local economy but also ensure that you are wearing sustainable fabrics, and reduce your carbon footprint as it will eliminate packaging costs and traveling footprint. If at all you have to shop online, reduce the amount, and look for sustainable brands and online thrift stores instead.
By adopting these small practices and supporting businesses that help make these options more available we can spread awareness and this chain of good deeds can make a huge positive impact on the planet and in turn our quality of life. If just by wearing a piece of clothing for a longer period of time we can make the world a better place, then why not do so?