10% of total carbon emissions come from fashion industry – more than emissions from international flights and maritime shipments combined. It is second largest emitter of CO2 – only behind oil and gas industry. This is alarming!
There is rising fast fashion. Average number of wears per clothing is falling dramatically. Big companies are churning out new products on weekly basis and selling them cheaply. A lot of this clothing ends up in landfills. According to World Economic Forum, an equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second – leading to increased pollution and carbon emissions.
Some clothing materials cause higher emissions than other. Becoming mindful of that could lead to a seismic shift. There are many companies here in India that are producing organic and biodegradable clothing and promoting slow fashion. While learning about various sustainable fabrics, we’ll learn more about a few of them.
Jeans made from conventional cotton takes up to 2000 gallons of water – enough water to sustain a human for 10 years. The pesticides used in the crop also harm the ground and surrounding environment.
Organic cotton on the other hand is a positive and sustainable alternative. It is grown without fertilizers and pesticides that maintains soil fertility and prevents contamination of groundwater. Water pollution from organic cotton is found to be 98% less than conventional cotton, and it is also biodegradable.
With increasing awareness among millennials, it isn’t surprising that many local companies are offering clothing in organic cotton – Satva and Deivee for active lifestyle, No Nasties, Upasana, The Summer Houseand Nicobar for daily wears, Buna Studio for exquisite handmade classics. There are so many others.
Not just highly breathable during the scorching heat, it is one of the most environment friendly, fully biodegradable (when not dyed) and sustainable fabric. As long as the manufacturer is mindful of the dyeing process, there are so many places and brands you can buy linen clothing from. A local store next door, FabIndia or VanHeauen. Luckily, there isn’t a dearth of linen clothing option here in India.
It takes about 2500 silkworms to produce a pound of silk, and there are animal cruelty concerns regarding its use. It is however relatively sustainable and eco-friendly. Compared to cotton for example, there is far less impact on the land, water and air, and it doesn’t involve the use of pesticides. With India being one of the major silk producers, we often find it being used for traditional clothing like sarees and kurtas.
Although welfare standards of wool producers are often arguable, wool itself is a sustainable fabric. It is renewable, resilient, durable and also biodegradable. Companies like Monte Carlo are known to produce 100% wool sweaters.
This sustainable material is man-made is created using natural materials. It is soft, strong, and biodegradable. Satva uses modal and organic cotton for most of its clothing.
Hemp is made from stalks of cannabis sativa plant. It grows organically almost anywhere, which means no harmful pesticides, or fertilizers are needed to grow it. It is sustainable and biodegradable. Brown Living offers clothing in hemp (in addition to organic cotton, khadi, recycled materials, and other sustainable fabrics)
Vegan leather can be made from innovative and sustainable materials such as polyurethane, pineapple leaves, cork, apple peels, other fruit waste, and recycled plastic. Veja and Achilles’ Heel offer vegan leather shoes; Aulive offers bags and suitcases in vegan leather; and Arture offers wallets made from natural cork.
This cannot be emphasized enough. Recycled polyester, recycled cotton, recycled wool, recycled leather – basically recycled anything. By recycling something you are increasing the product’s life and saving them from reaching the landfills. Doodlage actively uses recycled materials in its clothing; their motto is ‘making fashion more sustainable, one scrap at a time’.
This is a small list of sustainable materials that have become popular over the years. But with rise in sustainability consciousness, we hope to see continued innovation to create sustainable fabrics. Always be on lookout for new sustainable options.
It could be helpful to know what to stay away from. Some of the most harmful materials for the environment are virgin polyester, virgin viscose and conventional cotton. It is also better to avoid artificial dyeing as it uses large amounts of water, contaminates the environment and takes long to degrade.
A lot of the brands mentioned in this article are expensive and not a lot of us can afford them. But what we could do is buy less and aim sustainable clothing materials. Also, since there is still only a small number of producers who are completely conscious of environment, it is perhaps easier to just turn your clothing inside out and look at its composition to determine whether or not it is sustainable.
Leaving you with the sustainability mantra for life: reduce, reuse, recycle, upcycle. Buy less and use more. Don’t let anything go to landfills. Buy consciously.