By Aakansha Jain:
This is not just another preachy post about sustainable fashion, or gimmicky post selling conscious consumerism. I don’t call myself an environmentalist either. I am just another millennial, trying not to cause more damage than what has already been done to the wildlife and natural resources. I too like to play around with fashion, but we live in the times when companies are at price wars with each other all the time, and what take a backseat in this neo-liberal framework are issues such as environmental sustainability and even human rights.
While cotton is biodegradable and may seem to be a wiser choice than non-biodegradable polyester, it does not compensate for the fact that cotton crop is highly water-intensive and requires harmful pesticides and chemical fertilisers for cultivation. On the other hand, polyester being a synthetic fibre requires coal, petroleum, and water — further stressing the limited natural resources.
However, it is not as if cotton clothes are being composted.
At the end of their life there are high chances that both will end up in the landfill, so biodegradability does not make cotton any better. But, recent studies show that micro-plastics from polyester get washed away, contributing to the already mounting plastic waste in the oceans and even making their way into our food chain.
While much of the conscious consumerism debates overlook the elitism of promoting sustainable fashion brands, we cannot ignore the fact that they are extremely expensive in most cases. And, it is a privilege to have that amount of money and time to research your fashion choices before making a decision. Anyway, organic cotton is only 1% of all cotton grown worldwide.
I know it is very tempting to buy lots of clothes at Forever 21, H&M, and Zara when they are on sale, especially after spending 12 years in school uniforms. These brands have big showrooms with huge variety, and you can always trust them for keeping up with latest fashion trends. But if you critically think over it, there is a much higher cost attached to these brands. The clothes are not made to last and wear off after just a few washes. These swanky showrooms are almost obscene when you compare them with the sweatshops where these clothes are produced. The factories are located in countries where labour laws are preceded by economic concerns.
But wait a minute before you say “Screw human rights. Screw environment. Because we are doomed anyway”. A study by Greenpeace showed that residues of hazardous chemicals which are used in manufacturing process remain in clothes that are already on the shelves. When we wash them, they make their way into our water bodies even turn into more toxic and hormone-disrupting chemical. And these chemicals again find their way into our food chain.
Knowing all this for the first time was quite disturbing for me, but over time I found some solutions:
Aakansha Jain has completed her Masters in Development Studies from Ambedkar University. She is currently interning at Chintan.