Buying a fashionable garment, did you know you are contributing to degradation of environment. Well not aware? but this is fast turning a reality,with leading fashion designers taking the "Earth Pledge" to use more environment friendly materials and socially responsible methods in producing clothes. This initiative is designed on principle that any product created should have minimum carbon footprint impact on the planet. Their concern goes by the fact that at least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw cotton to garment and 25% of worlds pesticides are presently used to grow non-organic cotton resulting in 20,000 deaths each year. To support this philosophy of sustaining environment with economics and social responsibility, industry captains have rightly called it Ethical clothes or more appropriately What is Green Fashion ?


Tracing the Life cycle, a piece of clothing spreads through various stages, from farmers who grow the cotton, workers who make the fabric and sew the material,toxic chemicals used in production to marketing and finally to the waste bin for recycling. In this entire chain the approach is to ensure that interest of none is harmed, without exploitation of natural resources and keeping environment top of mind to reduce the garments total carbon footprint. Though fashion may mean different things to different people but GREEN FASHION encompasses all aspects of design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing in a way which benefits all section of people and does not damage the environment.

To ensure a Fair Practice code of conduct, we need to understand the underlying ethics involved at various stages of garment production and how interest of different groups are affected:-
FARMERS CONCERN : As cotton is a natural and eco-friendly fibre supplying nearly half of worlds textile requirements, health of farmers need to be protected from regular usage of insecticides and pesticides that cause blood poisoning and also harmful to the environment.
DYING AND BLEACHING OF FABRIC : Day by day with increasing number of dyes, bleaches and chemicals being used to make fabric more appealing and acceptable to the consumer, the use of toxic pesticides leads to air, water and soil pollution besides also causing skin problems to workers.
STITCHING OF GARMENT : Normally clothing of better known brands are stitched among under-developed countries around the world, as labour costs are cheaper. Though it provides income and employment opportunities to poorer communities, it means unfair and unsafe working conditions as long hours of work is compensated with meager daily wage of below $1. This is much too low to even take care for the workers food and health care needs.
TRANSPORTATION : As markets of most branded clothes are in developed countries, transporting the finished garments over thousands of miles involves burning of fossil fuels, which pollutes our environment and is responsible for global warming.
BUYING AND DISPOSAL : Over the years price of clothes has gone down in high end stores in comparison to rising input costs and rate of inflation. This implies lessor money is going into the pockets of people who make the clothes on other side of the globe. Lower prices suggest consumers are buying and discarding more clothes than before which is creating more waste for disposal. Destroying or using such materials for landfill purpose creates environmental hazard as synthetic fibers do not decompose, while chemicals used in the garment leach into the surrounding soil and underground water, making it unfit for normal use.

To overcome the social and environmental problem at each stage, Fashion designers are incorporating several sustainable practices into making of modern clothing by taking a more ethical approach. Several such initiatives listed below could provide us the solution to a healthy living.

  • ORGANIC FABRIC : Adopt clothes which are made from natural fibre- cotton, hemp, flax, and wool grown / processed with minimum use of chemicals.
  • ECO LABELS : Support companies which are taking steps to improve workers health, working conditions and surrounding environment.
  • FAIR TRADE LABELS : Encourage garments sporting such labels as it implies better price to farmers and wages to workers.
  • RECYCLE GARMENTS : Remember to recycle used clothes through charity shops instead of throwing it away, as it results in energy saving and lessor pollution than in making the new fabric.
We as customers too should consider a few questions whether fashion companies are sincere in their approach on reduction of poverty and environmental footprint.
  1. Are garment producers doing enough for communities where goods are produced.
  2. Are all sections paid fairly in all stages of producing the product.
  3. What levels of toxic chemicals have been used in the production process.
  4. Is the garment produced with minimal environmental footprint with respect to raw materials, energy, water and waste disposal.
  5. What role does the brand play for raising awareness on social and economic issues.

Considering the huge potential of branded garments, an honest approach and adoption of green fashion ethics by influential members of EFF, IFAT, BAFTS and ETI can hold the key for reduction of both poverty & environmental damage in the fashion industry.

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4 comments
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