The families living on the banks of river Yamuna, in Delhi, struggle to get access to clean potable water on a daily basis. And due to their low income, they are not even able to fulfil basic necessities. Upon passing by the river today, it is hard to imagine that this was once the river around which huge civilizations developed. The pervading stink of chemical dyes and micro-plastics that have engulfed the water body today, are impossible to ignore. One can now safely call it a huge open sewage, especially the 600km stretch of the river surrounding the national capital. Sadly, the ‘holy river’ is now often referred to as a ‘dead river’ due to its current inability to support aquatic life.
Yamuna owes much of this disastrous transformation to irresponsible dumping of toxic industrial waste, particularly by our much-loved textile/fashion industry. Aside from being the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, the fashion industry is also the second largest polluter of local freshwater in the world. It seems as though the industry has become synonymous to the Hindi idiom- ‘JisThaali Me Khana, Ussi Me Chhed Karna’ (literal translation- making a hole in the same plate that you eat in, i.e. betraying the one who helps you).
The bitter truth is that water pollution is just one of the many kinds of environmental degradation caused by the fashion industry. Rather, it contributes to all three types of environmental pollution: land, water, and air. To put this into context, it is responsible for about 10% of global carbon emissions, greatly contributing to air pollution. By the time one finishes reading this sentence, an equivalent of six garbage trucks full of clothing and other fashionable items will have been burnt into ashes, or dumped in ill-maintained landfills. This causes a huge amount of both land and air pollution. It does not come as a surprise that the fashion industry is considered to be one of the most polluting industries in the world.
Credit: STORYPLUS (GETTY IMAGES)
Despite these heart wrenching facts, the fashion industry often skips our mind when we think of environmental degradation. This is because the issue has not been highlighted enough in order for one to notice its ill effects, possibly because showcasing it does not contribute much to the T.R.P. (Television rating points) of television channels. Even those who are aware of the situation have mostly fallen prey to the human habit of overseeing issues that do not, very directly, affect them. It seems as if they have eyes to see but not a mind to comprehend. This causes them to effectively ignore the significant amount of environmental degradation caused by the fashion industry. It, thus, becomes very vital to raise awareness around this rapidly growing issue. Thankfully, even though the effects of this issue are monstrous, it is definitely solvable through collective effort. One of the most effective ways to curb this problem is to resort to sustainable fashion.
The concept of sustainability is considered by many a fairly vague one, of which the only purpose of showcasing is to gain followers on social media. Our Instagram feed is often filled with posts from popular accounts with captions like ‘Oh look! I bought one clothing item from a thrift store. I am saving the world.” We can definitely agree that social media is a very powerful tool for raising awareness around contemporary issues, and that there is still a key issue of not being able to identify that these accounts/brands that claim to be 'sustainable' could in fact be 'greenwashing' themselves to glamorize their products and their brand identity. However, we need to understand that sustainability is more than just a social media trend. It is a way of living and not something that can be practiced once to gain praise and subsequently forgotten. It is a whole lifestyle transformation from a ‘selfish’ to a ‘conscious consumer’. To learn more about sustainable lifestyle and how one can inculcate in one’s life, you can read our article on “How to be a Conscious Consumer”.
Coming back to shifting your choices from fast fashion (which is the reason I had to state so many facts earlier) to choosing other (definitely better) alternatives for getting clothes. First, you must understand why fast fashion brands are absolutely abysmal even though you have been wearing them from cradle to grave. They absolutely green wash themselves and make the world think they are sustainable. Fashion giants are responsible for all the waste and pollution generated in the fashion industry and carry out unethical practices in simple words. The only way to ensure the waste is lessened and the carbon footprint of each individual is decreased is to thrift/buy second hand/sustainable/ethical clothing items. Don't forget that optimising the usage of what you already have is necessary to move further and make a greater choice as a consumer. These stores will have everything in circulation. Some garments would be recycled while some would be from archives or second hand but would be looking brand new.
The average consumer now buys 60% more items of clothing than in 2000, but each garment is kept for half as long as consumers discard items more quickly. Out of the discarded clothing, four fifths go into the waste disposal stream and one fifth goes into recycling and sorting streams. Hence, there is a need for a circular fashion economy. Here are a few reasons why you should shift from fast fashion to different methods:
You can find unique items and all from different brands in thrift stores, many times even cheaper than what you'd get in the store. Imagine having a diverse wardrobe with styles unmatchable to your friends' wardrobes.
You can find vintage collections and style yourself just how your parents used to in the 90's. You can create your own aesthetic this way.
Reusing, remaking, regifting (clothes, perfumes, electronics) will be a great way to be sustainable and save money. You will be able to channel your own creativity and give something more heartfelt and personal to your dear ones.
Thrift and sustainable stores are often small businesses in your locality hence, by supporting them you'll help your community grow. Especially during these unprecedented times of a pandemic, going vocal for local is the best you can do to support your country's economy.
You can proudly share with your friends and family that you've "THRIFTED IT!” to make them realise how the time is to be woke in the fashion world by supporting sustainable and thrift stores.
You will find upcycled items which will even be better than the original ones at such stores. I once found a pair of Nike Air force 1 shoes with rainbow shoelaces, it was too cute to die for not going to lie!
How cool will it be, the denims and tops which took gallons and gallons of water to be made will be used to their full extent instead of filling up landfills if you thrift and buy second hand.
Organic sustainable brands will be great for the environment as well as your body since they are free of harmful chemicals. They will protect your skin and cause no harm to nature.
By opting these practices you can help the future generations live a brighter and conscious life. You'll be protecting and nurturing the planet which has given you a place to live and food to eat.
As consumers, we have the power to change the world by just being careful of what we buy. A single drop can make an ocean one day and with this spirit we all must move forward and bust the myth that the 'choices made by a single consumer isn't going to make any difference'.
We here at Emacity ensure that style and sustainability coexist by providing GOTS certified organic cotton tees , masks and eye catching home essentials like toothbrushes and combs which again are eco friendly in every way so that awesome people like you can help us in this cause. So go ahead, make the sustainable dream come true.