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Fast Fashion Is Out Of Style: Sustainability Is The Trend Now!

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Astonishingly, 63% of textile fibers are derived from petrochemicals; which means a lot of your wardrobe is probably plastic.

by Neha Talwalkar

Did you know?

  1. Globally, we now consume about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year—400% more than we were consuming just two decades ago.
  2. The average person buys 60% more items of clothing and keeps them for about half as long.
  3. Even the average number of times a garment is worn before it ceases to be used has decreased by 36%–only to end up in landfills polluting groundwater, instead of being re-purposed through the correct channels of recycling.

Yet, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Easy availability, affordability and ever-changing trends drive consumer demand in the fashion industry, which is cutting corners where it counts most–our planet’s resources.

There’s plastic on your pants!

Have you ever wondered what your clothes are made of and how they are produced? Polyester, Nylon and Acrylic (the synthetic fibers most favored by fast fashion brands) are basically a kind of plastic made from petroleum, which take up to 200 years to break down. Astonishingly, 63% of textile fibers are derived from petrochemicals; which means a lot of your wardrobe is probably plastic.

Every time we wash these materials, they shed millions of plastic microfibers, which are particles of plastic below 5mm in size and thinner than a human hair. These threads are so small that they drain out of our washing machines, and pass straight through wastewater treatment plants into our seas and oceans. There they persist indefinitely, posing a serious threat to aquatic life and us. Small creatures such as plankton eat the microfibers, which then make their way up the food chain to fish eaten by humans.

‘63% of textile fibers are derived from petrochemicals; which means a lot of your wardrobe is probably plastic.’

Cotton doesn’t breathe easy either.

Natural fibers like cotton wreck as much havoc on scarce natural resources such as water. The water used to grow cotton in India could cover 85% of the country’s daily water needs, and yet 100 million people in India do not have access to drinking water. It takes 2,700 liters of water to make ONE cotton T-shirt; that’s how much water a person drinks in 2.5 years of his or her life!

‘The water used to grow cotton in India could cover 85% of the country’s daily water needs.’

Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned.

And the carbon footprint is whaaa…?! Textile production is very carbon intensive and clothing production emits more greenhouse gases than shipping and aviation combined. Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. If nothing changes, by 2050, the fashion industry will use up 25% of the world’s carbon budget. And only once catastrophe strikes, will fast fashion finally be forced to slow down.

‘If nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up 25% of the world’s carbon budget.’

Green Tips

  • Look at that new shirt/skirt/trouser – if you don’t think you’ll wear it more than 30 times, walk away.
  • If you absolutely must buy, consume consciously and responsibly by reading the labels first. Look for the ‘Made From’ on your label – is your item made from Natural Fabrics like Cotton or Synthetic Fabrics like Polyester, or is it a blend? Natural is always better! With Natural Fabrics, Material Certifications like GOTS (Organic Cotton Certification) are preferred. Care Instructions on Labels are important as the better you follow them, the longer your clothes will last and stay out of landfills.
  • Recycled materials are your best choice, as something that already exists reduces the pressure on virgin resources and tackles the burden of one more thing to dispose off. You can use Rental Services like Flyrobe or The Clothing Rental for big day events.
  • Increase the life of our clothing by adopting simple measures like washing as infrequently as possible in cold water, washing only when the machine is full, line drying and stitching in time!

The clock is ticking. The fashion industry must align itself with the only trend that matters – sustainability.

This article was originally published on Ethico India.

About the Author: Neha is a literature, classic rock and football enthusiast with a love for travel. A full-time Mommy Blogger, you’ll often find her reading to her daughter or looking up the best substitute to anything plastic!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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