When was the last time you bought something to wear? Was it last month? Last week? Yesterday? Here in Delhi, shopping is more of a recreational activity than an errand. We say that the air-conditioned malls provide much-needed retreat from the scorching summer heat. Once there, what else to do but shop? Or we immerse ourselves in search of that addictive dopamine rush when we buy a branded item for a bargain price at a local market. And lost in rejoicing at the low price at an H&M showroom in a swanky mall or at the local market of Sarojini Nagar, we stay completely oblivious to the large cost to our environment.
A study by the Ellen McArthur found that one whole garbage truck’s worth of textiles are wasted every second. Furthermore the fashion industry is the second largest polluter globally, and generates more greenhouse emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Yes: while we in New Delhi dispute over odd-even number-plate days for cars, and walk around with face masks, we also continuously contribute to an industry that will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050 if the conditions do not change.
On March 14th, 2019, the UN Environment Assembly launched the Alliance for sustainable Fashion, which is ‘seeking to halt the environmentally and socially destructive practices of fashion, and instead harness the industry as a driver for improving the world’s ecosystems’. Many companies internationally are also finding creative solutions to this problem. In the Netherlands, a company called Wintervacht uses blankets and curtains to produce coats and jackets. Indosole, based both in Bali and San Francisco collects discarded tyres in Indonesia to turn into shoes, sandals and flip-flops. Ecoloaf, in Spain, uses plastic waste from the ocean to make clothing, bags, and shoes.
For a country with it’s own fashion sense, led by the scintillating Bollywood, where are India’s solutions? While we do not lack in resources or entrepreneurial ability, we lack awareness of this matter. Ultimately it is only through increased awareness that we will be able develop sustainable habits. In the past 15 years, the pieces of clothing bought by an average consumer has increased by 60%, while the duration for which each piece of garment is worn has decreased by 36%.
We have begun to see clothes as disposable items, wherein lies the biggest malaise. We have to begin to invest in fewer but more durable items, and reduce the quantity of our textile waste, before it is too late. We have to make fast fashion unfashionable, because we know it is not sustainable, for Earth!
Kaavyayini Pal is a class 12thstudent from Sri Ram School, Gurgaon, India. As she awaits her Board exam results, she indulges in meditating on the issue most dear to her sensibilities-Sustainability, for she truly believes that it is her generation that has to bear the biggest brunt of all that is ecologically wrong with the Earth today, and that it is also her generation which will come up with the right solutions for these problems they inherited.