The theme for World Environment Day this year is Ecosystem Restoration. So apt as the present times have made us realize the need for making changes in the way we live our lives and see the environment around us.
We spoke to Jyotsna Belliappa, Founder & Director - Social Responsibility Impact Assessment at BlueSky Sustainable Business. She heads India's only accredited CSR Impact Assessment Inspection Body and is a thought leader on sustainability issues for responsible fashion brands. Here is what she had to say.
How would you describe sustainability concerning the Fashion industry?
The fashion and apparel trade is very fickle and always in a rush to create "new" things ahead of their competitors. This rush to create "novel choices" leads to mass consumption of resources and generates tons of wastage, ultimately ending up in our landfills.
A sustainable fashion brand can be created only when the brand and the customers work together. Brands need to be conscious while making their choices of accessories, trims, raw materials, fabrics, the way the product is manufactured, who is manufacturing it, and where it is being produced. They also need to be vigilant that the product and even the packaging they are using are eco-friendly and sustainable. One of the primary responsibilities of a sustainable fashion brand is to educate its consumer about sustainable fashion and its benefits. A consumer aware of his choices will always make more conscious decisions of his purchases, thus support the fashion industry towards becoming more sustainable.
Concepts like Slow Fashion, Made to Last clothing, Timeless designs, and an all-season color palette are some of the sustainable practices that the fashion brands can adopt in tune with the customers.
What kind of a future are we looking at if we ignore Ecosystem Restoration?
Humans are consuming resources at a much faster pace than they can be replenished. At this rate, we will leave a very barren planet for our next generations. Restoring our ecosystems is extremely urgent if we want our coming generations to survive. There will be no industry if we go on like this.
The fashion industry employs a large number of people directly and indirectly. To give you a small example, the cultivation of natural fibers like cotton, linen, silk, and all the other peripheral activities associated with this agricultural activity employs many people. Sometimes, whole families and communities are engaged in this occupation, which is their only livelihood source. According to an article published by the Cotton Corporation of India Limited, nearly 60 million people depend on cotton cultivation, marketing, processing, and exports for their livelihood. Shortage of resources means that fewer people will be able to engage in these activities, increasing the number of unemployed in the country.
This is just one of the many examples of what it will cost us at this rate of degradation of our environment. It is a fight for survival now. That's how urgent this issue is.
Is it possible for customers to make a difference in restoring our ecosystems?
Absolutely Yes! It is the customer who finally pays for the products and defines the fashion trend. They are one of the most significant stakeholders for sustainable fashion. They must educate themselves about the products they are buying and how their choice will affect the environment and ecosystems.
Investing in a garment made out of natural fabrics like linen or cotton will not harm the environment once discarded. A pure linen garment can decompose within two weeks, depending on the weight of the garment. And cotton also decomposes within 5 – 6 months. Whereas clothing made out of synthetic materials like polyester and lycra can take up to 500 years and even longer, they are predominantly made out of plastics.
What you choose to purchase defines the way for future generations and the future of our planet.
What message would you like to share as a Sustainability Expert on World Environment Day?
I live in the urban city of Bangalore. Once, it was known as the city of lakes. Today, the same lakes are choking with waste and pollution due to a destroyed natural ecosystem. Ecological Restoration cannot happen by any one group of people or even any one country in isolation. The change in our wasteful lifestyles needs to be adopted by one and all. We, as global citizens, need to come together and contribute to the cause of restoring our ecosystems together.
We are running out of time, and I urge everyone to start making educated, conscious, responsible choices today.