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!
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).