Sustainable Fashion – Navishka D Pandit.

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Sustainable Fashion – Navishka D Pandit.

Sustainable Fashion

The textile and clothing industry happens to be one of the largest global polluters and contributes to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions while also generating 20% of all global waste. It’s absolutely appalling that the sweat, blood and hard work of underpaid and overworked women and children in countries like Bangladesh ends up in global dumpyards. While we strive to find the latest trend to purchase every season at the cheapest possible price, someone else pays the true cost of that purchase.

Before we can begin to discuss how we can reduce our fashion footprint and create a lasting sustainable impact we need to understand exactly what sustainable fashion entails. Contrary to popular opinion, sustainable fashion refers to the entire fashion system, from fiber crop growth all the way to garment recycling. For an item to be truly sustainable, its design, manufacture, distribution and usage should all be executed in ways that are environmentally friendly.

Another related term is ethical fashion. Ethical fashion is the term used to describe clothing made while being mindful of social welfare and worker rights. Ethical and sustainable fashion are two sides of the same coin and must both be practiced together in order to provide a solution to the problems posed by the fashion industry today.

Our eyes are almost inevitably drawn towards the cheaper items on the display racks. This kind of “fast fashion” at throw away prices is designed to be utilised fast, resulting in customers believing the clothes are disposable and only worth a few wears. This behaviour dramatically consumes the Earth’s resources, exploits cheap labour and results in astounding mounds of waste.

In April 2013 Rana Plaza, a clothing factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,134 people. Companies alleged to be sourcing clothing from that factory included Primark and Matalan. This incident demonstrated the true cost of cheap clothing. But it doesn’t end here, there are many more environmental costs from fast fashion, for example the average amount of water required to manufacture just a pair of jeans and a T-shirt is more than 5,000 gallons. That is enough water to sustain a family of 5 for 10 days. So we have to ask ourselves, is buying a new pair of jeans really worth it?

We have a long way to go before the entire fashion industry can be made sustainable but there are numerous ways in which we can begin to reduce the carbon footprint generated by the fashion industry.

1. Look for clothing made from low impact materials that are natural and organic.
Hemp, linen, cotton, silk and wool are a better option to invest in when compared to synthetics derived from petroleum like nylon,polyester and acrylic. This is a more sustainable option as natural and orgnaic fabrics are able to biodegrade at a much faster rate than synthetics which also leach out toxic chemicals into landfills.

2. Opt for materials which are deadstock or recycled.
It’s always more advisable to create new garments by using pre-existing materials as it doesn’t require the utilisation of new resources from the Earth and instead makes complete use of materials that may otherwise end up contributing to fashion waste.

You may keep an eye out for materials made of recycled fibers such as recycled cotton, recycled polyester and recycled nylon. Another attractive option is exploring upcycled clothing and garments or clothing made from deadstock fabric which refers to fabrics made but never sold or used due to small defects.

3. Purchasing designs and garments that are low waste or zero waste.
A large amount of waste is generated from the cutting out of patterns and designs. In order to reduce this kind of waste generation some sustainable fashion brands are designing patterns that result in low waste or zero waste material.

Alternatively, some brands also work towards minimising the resources used during manufacturing such as water and energy or doing away with plastic packaging during transportation.

4. Thrifting or purchasing durable clothes.
It’s not easy to completely eliminate the purchasal of fast fashion, however, taking good care of your clothes will help them last longer and thus reduce the need for you to throw away garments and frequently purchase items.

Buying second hand clothing that is well maintained and kept goes a long way in reducing your addition to the fashion industry’s carbon footprint. The practice is commonly referred to as thrifting. It is not uncommon to find thrift stores available very close to you or on social media outlets such as instagram.

Investing in clothing that is more durable and of a higher quality that will withstand the passage of time and the changing fashion trends will become a game changer in your fashion consumer habits and help reduce the environmental and life cycle impact of our clothes’.

As members of the south asian community we often have such timeless ethnic sarees stored in our mother’s closets. Even just upcycling them with new blouses or restitching them into lehngas for festive occasions and weddings instead of buying new ethnic wear would make a bigger difference than you realise!

Taking into consideration even one of the suggestions outlined above would go a huge way in bringing about change in the fashion industry. I hope to see you make more sustainable fashion choices in the coming future and inspire your friends and family to do the same.

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