Code Green, explores sustainability and the environment in light of the UN’s recent moves to tackle problems in the fashion industry. The essay tackles the writer’s thoughts of what it means to be in this era of transformation, in an industry finally veering its focus towards responsibility, mindfulness and change.
I have often found myself thinking about sustainability in light of my choices, big and small. With constant dialogue on the planet’s impending doom and the stark realisation that we aren’t doing nearly enough to stop it, it is hard not to think about it.
The present perception of sustainability is along the lines of a groundbreaking lifestyle that opens us up to an alternative of the trend fuelled consumption that we are destined for. But practice in many parts has shown otherwise.
In fashion, there is a serial offender- the fast fashion lifestyle many of us are accustomed to, some way or another. Cheaper takes on luxury items have a way of making us feel special. Vintage trends recreated for the market through polyester versions of tie-dye and destroyed denim. All accessible by an easy ‘Add to Basket’ option.
Some have been luckier, witnessing mindful living throughout their life. Preservation and purpose make part of their inheritance, passed down across generations. Many of the tools we need are right in front of us. All we need is to understand and appreciate their use, play a conscious role in using them and educate others to do better.
Earlier this year, I got to witness the launch of the United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion at the Fourth Session of UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya. The UN Environment Assembly is a programme that brings together stakeholders, government bodies and other organisations to address the critical environmental challenges facing the world today by setting priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law.A timely launch, making concrete a plan of action for an industry that not only needs hope but strict direction moving forward.
Until recently, the fashion industry’s impact on Earth was not taken seriously. Many of the standards set, both environmental and labour were often ignored. But it is clear — for the United Nations to specifically tackle sustainability issues in fashion, something must have gone terribly wrong.
On the positive, we are on the cusp of an industry shift. Serious attention is being paid to the impact of fashion. Representatives from well known and young brands like H&M, Gucci, Olistic The Label, discussed their position on issues like toxic chemicals, the use of sustainable materials and reduction of industrial waste. The audience was not shy about asking the right questions and labels were willing to answer, adapt and learn how to be better. Initiatives like Forests for Fashion and T3 explored ways in which to use nature’s resources respectfully and a new concept of recycling plastics in this industry.
The past couple of years has seen many taking on the feat of disrupting fashion’s negative practices. The launch of the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion is a stepping stone for the future. We need bigger players to be part of the change. Countries need to set regulations, communities need to demand better and industries need to look beyond profits as just monetary value. Let us set out expectations for how we want our future to look like and work together to achieve them.
Learning about how many environmental and social problems exist as a result of this industry is a gift I don’t take for granted. I was able to be part of a conversation bigger than myself where the overwhelming sense of dejection was replaced with a sense of excitement on what’s to come.
Reflecting on this event gives me a sense of nostalgia. A welcome breath of fresh air, needed from the worry I bet we all feel when thinking about the issue of climate change. The comfort it brings is not different from the sense of security I had as a child in the arms of my mother. Knowing that with all the wrongs in the world, eventually, all will be well if we rally to work towards it.
My takeaway from this is a sense of hope reinforced. Going forward, I want to create that same sense of comfort for those that will come after me. To be the change and pass on this gift to others.
Writer Krupa Mandavia has a degree in Law, directing her focus on the implications of global trade agreements and regulations on the fashion industry. She sits on the Trade and International Relations Committee of the Kenya Fashion Council and on the board of directors of World Leaders of Today, an NGO working towards conservation, good governance and poverty reduction. She also works with IKKIVI as head of content.
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