On World Environment Day, four fashion-lovers share how they’ve been moving towards more sustainable wardrobes
With growing awareness about eco-conservation and the dangers of climate change, the fashion industry has come under increased scrutiny for its environmental impact. It is responsible for producing 10 per cent of the planet’s carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes our oceans with microplastics. Switching to more sustainable clothing habits, therefore, will require a conscious unlearning of our modern consumption habits. And as these eco-conscious fashion lovers tell us, the move to sustainability begins with one small but meaningful change.
Fast fashion is a thriving industry, and it has made more people compulsive buyers today than ever before. In fact, statistics reveal that clothing production has roughly doubled since 2000, and people were buying 60 per cent more clothes in 2014 than in 2000. Consider also that roughly 85 per cent of all textiles produced go to landfills every year and the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped every second, says Sana Khan, founder of Bombay Closet Cleanse, a Bandra-based thrift store. “I try to buy less and choose classic pieces, such as a smart white shirt, black blazer and mom jeans, which never go out of style and can be paired easily. I don’t have more than 30 pieces in my wardrobe, as of now,” she adds.
Instead of being swayed by price tags, Sujata Biswas, co-founder of Suta, a clothing brand, recommends that you purchase based on how often you can wear a garment. She points to the #30Wears trend on Instagram, which challenged fashion-lovers to consider whether they would wear a piece at least 30 times. Before buying very cheap garments, consider that these may have been produced unethically, with their makers not being paid fair wages or working in inhumane conditions. “On the other hand, buying expensive handcrafted items that you rarely wear is also unhelpful as it creates more waste — they may tear along the folds over time and be rendered unusable,” she explains.
“We’ve become accustomed to washing our clothes too frequently, both in terms of how often we wash each garment as well as how frequently we run our laundry loads. With each wash, our garments release microthreads and microplastics [in the case of polyester fabrics], while also consuming large amounts of water and electricity. Fewer washes mean lesser use of resources and lesser pollutants being released with greywater,” says Prerna Singh Butalia, founder of a sustainable fashion website called Pretty As You Please. She recommends airing your clothes out after every wear to kill bacteria and help your clothes last longer. Also switch to natural detergents such as soapnut or bioenzymes, which are kinder to your clothes and just as effective. The greywater can be safely used to water plants. Finally, remember to clean your washing machine’s filter often so that it catches microplastics more effectively.
“Today, when our clothes become tight or tear, we immediately seek to replace them. Rewind to a few decades ago and this is quite unlike how our parents’ generation would treat clothes — they would either try to mend or alter them at home or take them to the tailor. I think it’s important to return to our roots in this sense. There are so many DIY upcycling hacks available online, which one can take inspiration from. I’ve also been sourcing at least a part of my wardrobe from thrift stores,” says Kriti Tula, co-founder of Doodlage, a sustainable fashion brand.