A few years ago, I decided to explore the world of zero-waste living. I began to avoid plastic cutlery, carried a water bottle everywhere I went, switched to reusable menstrual products. Somewhere down the line, I realised that there was one big aspect of my life that was still responsible for generating a significant amount of waste, and that was my large and frequently refreshed wardrobe.

Fast fashion is a huge culprit when it comes to generating waste and eco-unfriendly production practices. New styles on the racks every few weeks, prices going as low as a few hundred rupees for a T-shirt — this kind of consumerism comes at a cost. The apparel industry is one of the most polluting in the world, which is no surprise when you consider that almost half of all fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year.

Tips for an eco-friendly wardrobe

  • Slow down! It’s not necessary to be seen in something new every few weeks. I enjoy the clothes I have and take care of them so they last longer.
  • I no longer shop at fast fashion brands.
  • When I do need to buy clothes I read the labels more closely to understand exactly what they are made of. I try to avoid synthetic fibers at all costs.
  • For two years, while living in Sydney, I shopped only at second-hand clothes stores and flea markets. We have great flea markets in our cities too, and this is a great way to give clothes a second life.
  • I swap and borrow clothes from friends.
  • I vote with my wallet. When I can afford it, I support local brands that help empower local communities and work in more environmentally sustainable ways.

The strain on our natural resources is felt through this industry’s entire supply chain. Fiber production has become highly dependent on fertilisers and pesticides, which contaminate soil and groundwater. Toxic effluents from garment factories are dumped in rivers and oceans (untreated, in many parts of the world).

In every wash, clothes made of synthetic materials send micro-plastics into our water bodies, where they are mistaken for food by marine life. And then the clothes end up in our landfills, barely a year after they were first packaged and sold.

Perhaps worst of all, these clothes are produced on such a mass scale that they end up being incredibly cheap, which encourages people to buy them without a second thought, and dispose of them as easily, further intensifying the vicious circle.

Since it’s not considered acceptable to roam around in banana leaves, I decided to find other ways in which I could step out of this cycle. Our planet simply cannot support fast fashion much longer. It is up to us as consumers to choose lifestyles that prioritise people and planet over profit.

(Mallika Arya is a zero-waste advocate and works to create change from the bottom up)

First Published: Jul 05, 2019 20:48 IST


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