‘Oh, but I have nothing to wear’ and its ripples on the future of the eco-system

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How are we to think of sustainability in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives? What does it mean to us in the various stages of life – as a student, as a free youth, as a householder, as a parent, as an elder etc?

Penning down some things I have picked up along the way – when selecting clothing and home furnishings for example, many of us Indians are spoilt for choice. There is kalamkari, warli, batik, block printing and baandini (tie and dye) to name a few, in our rich and colourful artistic heritage. Among handwork and embroidery, there is kashmiri dogri work, Lucknow chiken, gujraati mirror work, hyderabadi maggam, etc. And these on a wide variety of cotton and silk fabric and mixes such as maheshwari and chanderi. Then there are various traditional types and colours of dyes used. A whole science and art together. In fact the art of applying color to fabric has been known to mankind since 3500 BC.

It is not uncommon for the average middle class lady to possess more sarees and clothes, and moreover types of clothes than really needed. (there is research and numbers which support that!). There is a whole range of casual ethnic wear to confuse a less knowledgeable person – short skirts, long skirts, the full and slit wraparounds, the tunics, buttoned tops, angarakhas and kurtis, the loose slacks, lounging pajamas whatnot.  There is of course the rituals and associated must-wear traditional apparel for every major life event and that of our loved ones. Enter the heavy ghagras, pattu langa vonis or  half sarees and sarees. So we can safely blame it on our culture and flamboyant society!

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However, for the discerning citizen, a slightly deeper interest and knowledge of how these are manufactured will yield a great awareness.

Next to agriculture, textile industry is the second polluter of clean water. More so, there are 72 toxic chemicals that can reach water bodies through textile dyeing. The use  of  synthetic  dyes  has  an  adverse  effect  on  not just water bodies but the eco-system as a whole.  Presence  of  sulphur,  naphthol,  vat  dyes,  nitrates,  acetic  acid,  soaps,  enzymes  chromium  compounds  and  heavy  metals  like  copper,  arsenic,  lead,  cadmium,  mercury,  nickel,  and  cobalt  and  certain  auxiliary  chemicals  all  collectively  make  the  textile  effluent  highly  toxic.  Other  harmful  chemicals  present  in  the  water  may  be  formaldehyde  based  dye  fixing  agents,  chlorinated  stain  removers, hydro carbon based softeners, non bio degradable  dyeing  chemicals.  These  organic  mate-  rials react with many disinfectants especially chlorine and form by products (DBP’S) that are often carcinogenic  and  therefore  undesirable.  Many  of  these  show  allergic  reactions.  The  colloidal  matter  present  along  with  colors  and  oily  scum  in-creases  the  turbidity,  gives  the  water  a  bad  appearance  and  foul  smell  and  prevents  the  penetration  of  sunlight  necessary  for  the  process  of  photosynthesis.  This  in  turn  interferes  with  the  Oxygen transfer mechanism at air water interface which  in  turn  interferes  with  marine  life  and  self  purification  process  of  water.  This  effluent  if  allowed to flow in the fields’ clogs the pores of the soil resulting in loss of soil productivity. If allowed to flow in drains and rivers it effects the quality of drinking  water  in  hand  pumps  making  it  unfit  for  human  consumption.

Meanwhile, the production of cotton is responsible for 2.6% of annual global water usage, and its production is dependent on pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. More so, 25% of worldwide insecticide use and 10% of global pesticide consumption is used for growing cotton. As a result, individuals who are involved in the manufacturing of cotton may be in great risk of being exposed to harmful chemicals. Meanwhile, others may also be at risk for exposure due to pesticide drift.

Being better informed make us better consumers and more responsible about choices. We start seeing the people behind our possessions, we begin to feel. We realise less is more ,and all this while still enjoying an elegant wardrobe! Borrowing from the ‘minimalist lifestyle’, let’s not attach too much meaning to our stuff, forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves.

Sharing this short documentary which influenced me, about the beautiful art of block printing in India, and , also the effects of over-consumption on the art and the lives of the craftspeople: A Lasting Printing – Block Printing in India

The term “sustainable development” can be defined as satisfying the needs of the current generation, without jeopardizing the future generation’s ability to meet their needs. It should be stressed that this sort of ecological sustainability is closely related to economic and technological sustainability, meaning efficiency in the use of resources, and with a demand for social justice, that can be called social sustainability (Ginsberg, 2000).

 

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