The fashion industry, which is worth $1.5 trillion globally and employs more than 300 million people along the value chain, is a significant contributor to textile waste and carbon emissions. It is also responsible for as much as 10% of global pollution, making it the second-most polluting industry after aviation. Therefore, being eco-friendly or environment-friendly has become very important in the field of fashion. An estimated 80 billion pieces of clothing are consumed every year. Considering this insatiable demand for new clothes, we as consumers need to look at more than just a price tag on our next shopping spree. By seeking information about who made your clothes, the working conditions in which they were crafted, the materials they are made up of and the effect of entire supply chain on nature, we can begin making the choices that are easier for the future of the planet.
When we see the definition of the word eco-friendly in terms of fabric, it is evident that natural fabrics like cotton, hemp (made from plants) or Tencel, silk (made from wooden pulp and silkworm respectively) are more sustainable than man-made fabrics like polyester and nylon (which are petroleum-based and take hundreds of years to biodegrade). However, there’s a catch! Cotton, which is a natural fibre, is biodegradable at the end of its life cycle, but it is also one of the most demanding crops in the world/country. The cotton industry uses 22.5% of the world’s insecticide. Cotton crops also require a vast amount of water to grow (nearly 257 gallons for a T-shirt), which in turn places a substantial strain on the environment. Though there is a big organic market for cotton, that doesn’t solve the water issue. Organic cotton also comes at premium prices which makes it unaffordable to many, thus making its reach limited.
Priti Sahni is a fashion entrepreneur with luxury Indian wear brand Priti Sahni, a made-to-order brand focusing on slow fashion (demand based production), local sourcing, supporting Indian art & craft and promoting artisanal.