From organic holi colors to natural sanitary napkins to organic food to denims made of waste plastic, market is filled with options of switching to more environment friendly options.
One commodity which we all use and are never satisfied with its range and variety we already have, is definitely the clothing range. With online sales and never ending options in stores, clothing industry fascinates the buyers the most. The changing trends, ever increasing needs just cannot stop us from buying more stuff. Apart from the scarcity of space in houses, overflowing wardrobes and expenses beyond budget, there is another angle associated with the clothes as a product.
We as customers are oblivious to the processes that go into the manufacturing of these products which we use without even noticing. The fashion industry is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to pollution. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 26 billion pounds of textiles end up in the landfills. The pollution generated by textile industries during the processes of dyeing and washing affects the water bodies adversely. When value and ease of purchase are the main drivers of purchase decisions, it is difficult to think of sustainability as a choice.
I became aware of the option of being conscious about the cloth choices in terms of sustainability during my visit to Auroville, about 5 years back. The friends and colleagues in the city would choose sustainable ways of choosing and using clothes. I saw them choosing cotton clothes, the ones made by local communities, not following the trend of ironing the clothes (because it would crease any way and who wants to consume so much of electricity?), using organic detergents and buying very limited number of clothes.
Today, the markets are flooded with latest clothes manufactured by cheap labour in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia and other such countries. The kind of resources that go into the production is veiled by the fashion trends and dropping prices. It is not easy to look for the options that would be more environment-friendly or curb the desire of wanting that one product that you cannot forget. As customers it is a big struggle for us to look for an apt fit, design and appropriate pricing of a piece of clothing. To ask for an added parameter of carbon foot print of that production, its recycling viability or reusability is too much to ask for, right?
But, during these unprecedented times of pandemic the importance of vitality of the pristine environment has stood out like never before. As a responsible citizen of this planet, it becomes important for us to understand the products we use on daily basis. However, the seeming indispensability of large number of fashionable clothes in our cupboards overshadows the zeal to be a concerned habitant of the planet.
We need to make a conscious choice of what are we investing (and it is not necessarily about money). The manufacturing processes that make the cloth we wear and the ensuing marketing needs to be cautious of its impact on the environment. The brands and companies we buy need to reflect the aim of building a healthier planet. It is indeed heartening to know that the handful of brands and customers around the world have started considering sustainability as an important factor. Companies are realigning their business models and strategies to move towards greener options. This change is slow but definitely not far from reality.
Where, however, I think the real potential lies is in the hands and thoughts of the customers. I came to believe in this when I met a group of environment loving individuals last summer. These were young men and women, between 25-40 years old, who have taken an oath to spin their own cotton yarn and wear clothes out of it. They encourage other people to do the same by replacing one piece of to-be-purchased clothing with this self produced organic cotton clothing. If such thought process is adopted by people at large, the companies would be bound to offer products that are ecologically sensitive. The customers need to pay heed to the raw materials used, carbon footprint, reusability options, viability for recyclability.
Here, it would seem to be impossible to become conscious of such parameters, given how the market presently functions. But a conversation today can lead to changes tomorrow. We can start with smaller steps of reducing and reusing, where we buy only what we need and making sure the cloth is used by oneself or the others to the farthest extent possible. We may start with the discussion among our friends and family, of how these daily choices impact us and the planet at large. Our choices reflect our personality and thought process and I am sure none of us want to come out as insensitive or apathetic.
We need to think if switching to sustainable products is really a choice that we need to make. From when did sustainability become an “option”? How did we reach a point that it has become just another “choice”? Such questions nudge the positive actions! Let us make sure that sustainable options do remain a choice but become a way of life.