Considering the rapid development in economy worldwide, humans tend to keep up with the latest trends that are being produced and invented. More money means bigger investments will go to cover human’s necessities in a daily life. We have become a “nation of consumers”, where the feeling of satisfaction and addiction surpasses the actual need in product.
The Fashion world has become one of the world’s most polluting industries. Its negative impact on the environment is tremendous in which more than half of the world’s population is unaware of. A constant seasonal change in trends makes the current situation even worse. The chaos in mass media that uninterruptedly puts pressure on people to buy new stuff is another contributor for an environmental collapse in the near future, if no action is being made to resolve these emerging problems.
So, let’s dig into some common polluters of the environment…
Cotton is world’s most commonly used natural fiber that has a clean and wholesome image in a garment industry. However, the plant is water-dependent and requires a large amount of chemicals. according to Gleenis Sweeny’s article on environment, 2.4% of the world’s cropland is planted with cotton, and consumes 10% of all agricultural chemicals and insecticides. No doubt, cotton is grown all over the world. One of the leading countries in cotton production is China, followed by India, the United States, Pakistan and Brazil.
Uzbekistan, being the 6th largest producer, acts as a prime example of how cotton can severely impact the environment in general. In the 1950s, two rivers in Central Asia, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, were diverted from the Aral sea to provide irrigation for cotton production in Uzbekistan and nearby Turkmenistan. Today, water levels in the Aral sea are less than 10 percent of what they were 50 years ago.
Such consequences have brought lots of concern among the communities living nearby. Over time, the sea became over-salinated and laden with fertilizer and pesticides from the crop fields that in turn created a public health crisis in the region. A dramatic change in climate is another major issue to point out. As the sea dried up, a large body of water in the air has made the region’s winters much colder and summers much hotter.
The Citarum River, in Indonesia, is considered as one of the most polluted rivers in the world due to the hundreds of textile manufacturing companies lining its shore. The lives of 5 million people living in the river basin and wildlife are in danger because of the water contamination. The Citarum River served as a open sewer for clothing manufacturers. Dumping the chemicals into the river was just a normal thing to do, as nobody cared about such immense environmental hazards at that time.
Greenpeace tested the discharge from one of the textile plants along the river and found a large amount of nonylphenol which can be deadly to aquatic life, describing it as “highly caustic, will burn human skin coming into direct skin with the stream and will have a severe impact on aquatic life in the immediate vicinity of the discharge area.”
Let’s be honest, there is nothing beautiful in seeing a river polluted by toxic dyes and other additive chemicals.
The danger caused by nonylphenol doesn’t end at Citarum River. Nonylphenol is basically a family of organic compounds and commonly used in manufacturing antioxidants, oil additives, laundry and dish detergents. And is persistent in the aquatic environment, moderately bio accumulative, and extremely toxic to aquatic organisms. The chemical remains in our clothes after they are produced, and only comes out after a few washes, which can be hazardous to our health. For that reason, European Union member states have banned imports of textiles and garments containing nonylphenol ethoxylates (NP).
Some top clothing designers, such as Fisher, Stella McCartney, Ralph Lauren are on their way to reform the fashion world. Fisher’s company is already using 84% organic cotton, 68% organic linen, and is reducing the water usage and carbon emissions and working towards making its supply sustainable by 2020. Fisher in one of her speech at the Riverkeeper Ball, stated: “Because the fashion industry is the second most polluter in the world, I also think we can be a huge force for change. I have hope. I know it’s possible to make clean clothes, to do it better way.”
Indeed, it is possible! But first of all, big manufacturing companies, like Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Nike, Adidas need to educate their costumers about how their clothes are made and brought to store shelves. Then, I think people will become more mindful of what they are wearing in terms health affects and environmental issues.
Lastly, I want to bring up a quote:
“If you change your mind, you will change the whole world.”
That’s totally mind-blowing, because our conscious brain has a control on everything we do, both physically and mentally. Our whole life might turn upside down, once we start thinking differently, from a different perspective!