My choices to a Greener Future

Growing up in Africa and currently living in the US has given me the chance to appreciate how people from two different cultures perceive sustainability. From a place where people hardly have enough to survive hence forced to reuse, or totally depend on the environment to a culture where there is consumption beyond what an individual actually needs was a great culture shock. The first two weeks of my sustainability journey have helped me realize that the pressure put on the environment by the developed countries to reach their level of civilization not only affects them but also the people in less developed countries. As an ADP student, the term “sustainability” is heard a lot as being critical to the producer, supplier, retailer, and consumer of apparel products. I would then define “sustainability” as production, supplying and retailing of clothing items while ensuring that employees are treated and paid fairly as they work in a safe environment with new or recycled materials to produce adequate quantity of items with design appeal for profit realization without depleting available resources. This definition is based on the TBL principle that was developed by John Elkington in 1994 who believed that all development should focus on enriching the 3Ps; People, Planet, and Profit. Producing adequate items would reduce the amount of waste into the environment.

The Wild Things class exercise was a great experience to discuss in my learning community the sustainability problems currently faced in the DHM field and how we can contribute to eradicating them to attain a clean environment that is safe for our habitation. The issue that stood out for me was the vast effluents put out in the production of textile products yet consumers have not put any pressure on the industry. This gave us the insight that this could be due to the fact that consumers are unaware of the negative impact these activities are causing. I learned that people can design home made products like soap and cleaning products that are environmentally friendly using natural products. What can I do as an ADP student? Because I may not have the platform to change the entire industry, it is my responsibility to first change my habits and then take a step further to talk to someone else. If we are all willing to change, SD may be achieved through sensitization.

Self-knowledge by my 8.3 tonnes carbon footprint value is a great starting point to initiate positive change for a safer environment. Understanding what habits I need to change to release less carbon dioxide into the environment is very critical to my sustainability journey. The habits I need to change include; recycling more paper, buying green electricity, not leaving the TV and PC on standby, eating less meat and dairy, replacing the incandescent bulbs with an energy saving version, and installing draft proofing around doors and windows. Although I am currently a student renting an apartment, some habits are not within my means to change but I will start with ones I have control over.

Watching the 11th Hour movie helped me understand the scoop of the term sustainability and the extent of destruction human activity has created in quest for civilization of which at a large extent cannot be reversed.  The consumerism culture that we have adopted encouraged by constant marketing of the hugely new manufactured products has increased immense waste in our homes. The important question to ask ourselves is whether consumers pay attention to the production and supply chain of all these products because every purchase is an endorsement of that product. As a final consumer, I need to pay attention needs to the materials used, the type of energy used, the working conditions of the employees, packing, supply chain, and the corporate social responsibility. As the population continues to grow, more of these products are manufactured to meet the demand but much of the natural resources are being exploited every day without replacement. My designing effort should focus on creating sustainable garments with design strength to attract consumers and demand prolonged use to reduce waste.

Easter Island and the Dust Bowl are great examples we can relate with today to understand the possible impact of civilization. Located 2300 miles west of Chile is Easter Island known for its iconic standing heads. It is assumed to be was one of the remote places on earth where early inhabitants lived in squalid reed huts or caves and engaged in wars and cannibalism for their survival. Human societies depended on their environment and later civilization caused massive destruction due to wars between the short-eared and Long-eared tribes led to burning of people to death. This made me relate to what I watched in the 11th hour movie, where the consequences of civilization today were emphasized due to desire to attain economic gain. The Dust Bowl in the 1930s was a time of massive dust storms that damaged the environment and agriculture due to failure to apply dryland farming to prevent wind erosion. This manmade disaster due to mechanization of farming equipment caused the expansion of farming land to forested areas. Thousands of families were forced to abandon their farms. I can relate this to some farmers in developing countries practicing poor farming methods in mountainous areas that have led to land and mud slides killing many people.

The fashion and sustainability article is one place that took me through the journey of how far the Clothing industry has gone to give its consumer an attractive product in an ambient mall. The volume of cotton, water, animals, and energy that have to be utilized to keep up with the industry’s products high demand yet there is no proper plan of disposal of waste for both manufacturers and consumers. I can now agree that the agriculture industry is the biggest supporter of the fashion industry without which we may not have enough fur, leather, cotton or silk to continue production. It is then the responsibility of the production industry to reduce or treat the effluents released in to the environment to allow growth of crops and animals from which the raw materials are generated. The thought of producing synthetics is exciting of the benefits of recycling, less energy to maintain the apparel but when I think about the belief that nylon for example takes 30-40 years to biodegrade, I get discouraged from buying such a product. If the supply chain of brand product is not following the sustainability standards that have been put in place, it is my right to avoid purchasing that product.

My general take away is that current development and civilization has come at the cost of mismanaging the environment. This could possibly have been realized 30 years ago but it’s not too late to do something to reduce pollution in air, soil, and water. The key step is raising awareness among industry key players and consumers that there is need to treat the environment like we are part of the it and not separate from it because it will survive anyway and we are the ones who will suffer destruction and die. The thought about my sustainable journey in the next few months will be based on how to incorporate sustainability in my entire research and the potential it has in impacting the Planet and People while realizing Profit to enable economic empowerment of the people directly involved. I have to think about all the materials and processes that I will be using if they are environmentally friendly when discarded or if they have the potential to be recycled or reused.

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