We might not ponder upon it, but our life choices affect our surroundings and planet in numerous ways. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the daily-use products we buy, everything impacts the environment.
Many of us are hoarders, which is not a great thing; however, it is a fact. We love to purchase clothes we do not need, and we never give them away, for they may be needed in the future. Our clothes have a significant environmental consequence, as they go through many stages of production and are usually made of unsustainable materials.
For instance, almost everyone on this planet loves comfy pyjamas, don’t we? However, we do not realize the tedious and harmful process that the fabrics go through to mass produce our favourite PJs.
Not only are most pyjamas made of non-biodegradable material, but they also cause significant environmental destruction.
Environmental impact of our clothing
A plethora of fabric types are used for making pyjamas, and each has its supply chain that differentially impacts the environment. The deciding factors are the life-cycle of the pyjamas, their quality, and so on. It also depends on the consumers’ purchasing power, shopping habits, and requirements.
The environmental impact of pyjamas or any other piece of clothing also depends upon the production process, right from raw material selection and procurement to thread making, machine manufacturing, transportation, and sending the cloth for recycling when it is no longer wearable.
All these steps of production have an environmental impact. For instance, manufacturing uses lots of water, causes soil, air, and water pollution, and is unsustainable. Most manufacturers also flout ecological and labour regulations simultaneously by giving lower wages to the workers and employing child labour.
While the stakeholders are indeed at fault, we as consumers are more to blame. Although we are aware of climate change and environmental protection, we fail to link it with what we wear. We tend to throw away clothes easily once we are bored with them. This fast fashion trend and buying ‘one-time wear’ and ‘trendy clothes’ needs to be stopped.
Let us look at some of the fabrics used to make pyjamas and other clothing and their environmental impact.
We all love the feel of cotton on our skin. Be it pyjamas or any other cloth we prefer cotton clothes in summer. However, cotton is a drain on natural resources, especially water. Research has suggested that cotton production is environmentally hazardous and also harmful for local communities.
There are many reasons for this, the first being excessive water requirements, enormous use of fertilizers and pesticides. The soil on which cotton is produced loses its fertility over time. The leaching of harmful chemicals from the fields pollutes nearby water bodies and can cause health issues for people using this water. Thus an environmental issue always spills into a human health problem. If people were to understand this correlation, many ecological and health problems would be mitigated in no time.
The harmful effects of cotton production can be seen in Uzbekistan. This country diverted the two rivers, the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya, from the Aral sea to provide water for cotton producers. This has led to a drastic decrease in the water level of the Aral Sea, and it is now over-salinated and pesticide-ridden. Not to say that local fields and fisheries suffered the most from this overproduction of cotton.
To put things in perspective, studies have shown that the manufacture of one cotton cloth requires more than 700 gallons of water in total, that is enough water to fill 23 bathtubs. ⅓ pounds of fertilizers and pesticides are sprayed, and when the cloth is coloured, it leads to 20% industrial pollution from dyeing and then improper water treatment. So next time you buy cotton cloth, think of its environmental burden and try to limit and even change your clothing preferences.
Nylon and polyester
Other synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester are also mass-produced and bought by most as they are cheap and easily discarded. However, they are made from petrochemicals and are not eco-friendly as they do not degrade quickly. During the production of nylon, nitrous oxide is released. It is a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide.
Polyester manufacture is a water-intensive process as gallons and gallons of the precious natural resource is used in cooling. Numerous lubricants are also used that cause contamination. All in all, it is an environmentally degenerative and energy-consuming task.
Rayon or viscose is yet another artificial fibre promoted as sustainable among other options; however, it is not valid. It is made from wood pulp, and ancient forest cover is swept aways to lay down eucalyptus plantations to derive its pulp for making this fabric. Eucalyptus trees require enormous quantities of water that might cause ecological imbalance and prompt land degradation and even landslides in geologically sensitive regions.
Thus, rayon which looks like a sustainable fibre, is, in fact, a cause of deforestation and soil erosion. Also, it doesn’t end here. After the wood pulp is procured, it is treated with chemicals like caustic soda and sulphuric acid.
The manufacturing process is even more polluting. Dyeing is most polluting as the extra dye washed out from the cloth often ends up in nearby rivers or seas. Dye fixatives that are heavy metals can cause health hazards, and all polycotton pyjamas and clothes are treated with formaldehyde, a highly toxic chemical. Acid solvents are also used that have a negative environmental impact.
All these fabrics harm the environment, so it is better to shift to sustainable wear that might be costly but surely environmentally friendly. This is the only way to decrease environmental destruction.
Shifting to sustainable pyjamas and clothing
You should try to look for eco-friendly clothing brands that utilize natural, low-environmental impact materials such as hemp, linen, Tencel and organic cotton. Though they do have an impact, it is not as significant as the other synthetic clothes. These natural fibre clothes can also be quickly sent for recycling, or even when discarded, they decompose quickly.
It would be best if you looked for non-toxic certifications. Sustainable brands come with non-toxic third-party certificates such as OEKO-TEX and GOTS.
It is also important to take manufacturing conditions into consideration. While the conventional process of manufacturing clothes is harsh on the environment, look for brands that use eco-friendly production processes and try to stay away from fast fashion brands.
Also, check the labour practices of these brands and how transparent their processes are. Does the brand reveal where it gets its raw material from or what pay its workers get, or what is their environmental impact of production? Know these answers before you opt for a sustainable brand, as many pretend to be one but are the opposite.
Why go for sustainable pyjamas and clothing?
Sustainable clothing might not solve all environmental problems, but it sure can reduce some, including your carbon footprint. Sustainable and ethical clothing is a saviour for our planet.
Not only is it comfortable, but also eco-friendly, free from harmful chemicals and is not resource-intensive after all; sustainable wear is all about the earth’s preservation.
Some sustainable brands use organically grown bamboo that has many advantages. It is free from the touch of fertilizers and pesticides and improves air quality, taking in more carbon dioxide. This bamboo doesn’t require much space to grow and does not lead to deforestation or waste of water. It grows swiftly and is quite regenerative.
If such a sustainable crop is used for making clothes, then those clothes are bound to be healthy, breathable and would surely feel good on the skin. They will also be beneficial for the body.
Choosing sustainable clothing and pyjamas means you are opting for ethical trade practices. These are not built on malpractices like forced labour or injustice to the working class. This also means that they are employed for the long term and work in a healthy environment free from abuse.
Ethical and sustainable clothing requires time and effort as it is not made in bulk. Hence, brands that focus on sustainability are driven by a motto to bring about positive change in the world.
Also, compared to the artificial and synthetic made cloth that ultimately ends up in landfills and takes years to decompose, sustainable clothes are long-lasting and of high quality. They are made with care and are absolutely unique.
As environmentally conscious consumers, it is our duty to judiciously choose the clothes we wear as our choices have ripple effects that don’t end with us. Environmental health is in our hands, so it is important to grasp the gravity of the situation.
Climate change and global warming continue, however making small changes in our habits can go a long way in reversing this impending environmental catastrophe.