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You’d Be Shocked To Know The Fate Of Unsold H&M And Zara Clothes

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WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

“Our house is on fire”, these were Greta Thunberg’s words, in response to the trend #2019in5words. And I was shocked to see the replies to this tweet. Here is a glimpse of the troll army:

I mean, have people lost their minds? Or have they become so heartless, that they get pleasure in trolling kids? This was an eye-opener for me. It made me realise that people are ignorant towards climate change, global warming etc. They think that these problems are not real!

Why don’t they understand that almost all our activities are adversely affecting the environment? One way by which we are harming the environment is our clothes!

You will be shocked to know, that as per a research study published by Quantis, in 2018, the fashion industry produced almost 8% of manmade CO2 emissions – more than aviation and shipping combined. This means that there is definitely something wrong with this industry. As we are all aware, there cannot be supply without demand. So, it is not only the manufacturers’ fault but, we, the consumers, are equally responsible. Ergo, it is very important for us to look at two things which are creating havoc in the environment:

Fast Fashion

According to Merriam-Webster, it means –  “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions, that emphasises making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.”

So, the fashion industries produce clothes for the latest trend in bulk and sell them at an affordable price. After that, to meet the new trends, they again start producing new clothes, while the previous stock doesn’t even get consumed completely, which leads to wastage. And then, to clear their stock, they resort to giving heavy discounts. When we try to ignore it, they constantly send us messages, emails etc. We often think, “Let’s just see, we will not buy anything”. And, boom! We find ourselves trapped in their plan. We end up buying piles of clothes!

The fashion industry made 100 billion pieces of clothing for 7 billion people in 2015! I know this is obvious, but I want to remind everyone, that clothes are a necessity but should not become our greed. Brands like H&M, Zara, Gap etc., are the front runners of fast fashion. My friends rush to H&M or Gap stores whenever there is a sale, come back with piles of clothes and say that – “Tu bhi ja, 400-500 mei jacket mil raha hai” (you should also go. Jacket are available for RS. 400-500.) How can one not go after hearing this?!

You will be surprised to know that H&M burns several tonnes of unsold clothes every year! A report by the New York Times revealed that their unsold clothes valued $4.3 billion; many of which were burnt.

Now take a deep breath and try to understand, that firstly, this massive production is already creating a lot of problems for the environment. I will elaborate this statement with some “fun facts” which were compiled by Science Friday.
Designed by Andrea Corona

Designed by Andrea Corona

Apart from that, think about the trees that were cut, dyes which went into the water bodies, industrial wastes, and emissions during transportation etc. But, this doesn’t satisfy the fashion houses, so they are creating additional problems by burning them.

As per a report by Fast Company, every piece that ends up being burned produces greenhouse gases. Incinerating clothes releases 2,988 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, which is even more than burning coal (2,249 pounds per megawatt-hour) and natural gas (1,135 pounds per megawatt-hour). Here, I may sound like Dr. Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory but that’s fine by me!

This was the case with clothes which are burned by the industries, but what about the clothes which are discarded by us? They clog the oceans and landfills! According to close the loop, the non-biodegradable fabric can “bless” the landfills for up to 200 years! A report by Ellen MacArthur Foundation claimed that, in the United States alone, 21 billion pounds of textiles are sent into landfills every single year!

A lot of brands are trying to take an environment-friendly approach to production. For example, Adidas is eliminating virgin plastic from its supply chain. Levis is reducing water waste. Nike is moving to 100% renewable energy. These are great efforts but these are not sufficient. The major problem, today, lies with the quantity produced.

The Ignorant Attitude Of Celebrities

Guys, I will name and shame them here, because they deserve it. Do you remember that line from the song ‘Mercy on Me’ by Badshah – “Body teri hotter than a chinchilla fur?” Not to forget, he even wore fur in that song! Or do you guys remember that episode in friends, where phoebe wants to burn the fur coat and Rachel says – “It is a crime against fashion”!

A lot of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga etc. wear fur without any guilt. Apart from it being cruel to animals, it is a problem for the environment as well. So, people invented the concept of faux fur, which is even more dangerous for the environment!

Why do celebrities forget that people follow everything they do? The way they talk, the way they walk, the way they dress and every other thing is copied by people and, eventually becomes a trend. And, let’s not even bring up the leather products!

Ideally, a piece of clothing should be worn at least 30 times. But, celebrities and people from the upper class don’t seem to care! They have to buy a new piece of clothing for every other event. Why don’t they try to normalise repeating of clothes? Instead, they try to glorify their 400-500 pair of shoes or 1000 dresses!

All limits are crossed when they buy suits or pantsuits of the same colour again and again. It all looks the same; why can’t they repeat it? I have to give credit to celebrities like Anushka Sharma, Virat Kohli, Deepika Padukone etc., who repeat clothes. Media and fashion bloggers are also to be blamed because they exaggerate or even start shaming celebrities when they wear the same thing more than once.

Celebrities need to understand that it’s not about being rich or poor, or who can afford clothes, or who cannot. It’s about having a rational mindset – that too many clothes are not going to help the world in any way! It creates a problem for those who can’t afford many clothes. People laugh at them for frequently repeating clothes.

All I am saying is that we should try to buy fewer clothes; instead of throwing away clothes, we should donate them, repeat them, or share clothes with our friends or cousins. Nobody is telling you to leave everything, and start meditating in the Himalayas! But all we want, from everyone, is to have compassion towards the environment. Is it too much to ask for?

Act before it’s too late guys!

This post has been written by a YKA Climate Correspondent as part of #WhyOnEarth. Join the conversation by adding a post here.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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