Sustainability in Fashion and its Environmental Impacts

Sustainability in Fashion and its Environmental Impacts

1. Introduction to Sustainable Fashion

Sustainable fashion is a movement for encouraging the transformation of fashion goods and the fashion production system towards improved environmental sustainability and social justice. Sustainable fashion advocates for more than just addressing fashion fabrics or end products. It includes addressing the entire system of fashion. This means engaging with social, economic, ecological, and financial structures that are interdependent. It also means contemplating fashion from many stakeholders' viewpoints: consumers and manufacturers, all living beings, current and future earth residents. Therefore, sustainable fashion belongs to and is the responsibility of people.

1.1. Origin of Sustainable Fashion

Replacing one type of fiber for a less environmentally harmful alternative like organic cotton can be promoted by increasing the number of fashion products produced using such alternatives. Consumers must be encouraged to buy them more. Sustainable fashion is also called eco-fashion. The origins of the sustainable fashion movement are interwoven with those of the modern environmental movement. It all started with the publication of the book Silent Spring by American biologist Rachel Carson in 1962. The book brought to light the serious and extensive pollution caused by the usage of agricultural chemicals. This fact is the root of the debates held about the environmental and social impact of fashion in the world today. The effects of industrial activity and new concepts for alleviating these effects gave rise to sustainable development. This term was coined in 1987.

2. Materials used in Sustainable fashion

When considering a material 's sustainability there are several influences. The renewability and source of the fiber, the method of turning raw fibers into a garment, the effects of fiber preparation and dyeing, the use of resources in processing and storage, the working conditions of the people who manufacture the materials. When it comes to sustainability, there is no such thing as a single comprehensive approach. The following materials are comparatively more sustainable than others.

2. 1. Cellulose Fibers

Natural fibers are fibers that are not petroleum-based and are found in nature. These are categorized as cellulose or plant fiber and protein or animal fiber. Cotton is the most common plant-based fiber. Others include jute, flax, hemp, ramie, abaca, bamboo, soy, corn, banana, and pineapple leaves. Organic cotton is cultivated without the use of any fertilizers, pesticides, and other synthetic agro-chemicals that can harm the environment. This is done using a combination of innovation, science, and traditional practices. Organic cotton makes use of 88% less water and 62% less energy than growing normal cotton.

2. 2. Protein Fibers

Protein fibers are derived from animal sources. They are made up of protein molecules and hence called protein fibers. Natural protein fibers include wool, silk, angora, camel, alpaca, llama, and cashmere.

2.2.1. Wool

Similar to cotton production, pesticides are also used in the cultivation of wool. However, the used quantities are much smaller and this practice can significantly limit any negative environmental impact. Injectable insecticides and pesticide baths are given to the sheep regularly to prevent parasite infections. If managed poorly, these pesticides can harm human health and water sources.

2.2.2. Silk

Almost all commercially produced silk is cultivated. It involves feeding silkworms a carefully controlled diet of mulberry leaves cultivated under specific conditions. A few mulberry trees are grown to act as homes for the silkworms. The silk fibers are then extracted by steaming the silk moth chrysalis and then washing it in hot water.

2.3. Manufactured Fibres

Manufactured fibers come under three categories: Manufactured cellulosic fibers, manufactured synthetic fibers, and processed protein fiber (azlon). Manufactured cellulose fibers include modal, rayon and viscose manufactured from bamboo, rayon, and viscose obtained from wood and polylactic acid (PLA). Manufactured synthetic fibers include polyester, nylon, spandex, acrylic fiber, and polyethylene. Azlon is a type of manufactured protein fiber.

2.4. Fibers recycled from plastic bottles

Clothing can be manufactured from plastics. Approximately seventy percent of plastic-derived fabrics are obtained from polyester. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the most commonly used type of polyester used in fabrics. PET plastic clothing is created from reused plastics, mostly recycled plastic bottles. Usually, the manufacturing process of PET plastic clothing from recycled is done by collecting and compressing plastic bottles. They are then rolled, and shipped into processing facilities where they are cut up and melted into little white pellets. Then, the pellets are processed once more and spun into yarn-like fiber. This fiber is made into clothing. The major benefit of manufacturing clothes from recycled bottles is that it prevents the bottles and other plastics from ending up in landfills. Each plastic bottle can take up to 700 years to decompose. It takes 30% less energy to manufacture clothes from recycled plastics than from normal polyesters.

3. Environmental problems in the fashion industry and how sustainable fashion is solving it

Textiles and fashion industries are one of the top industries that have the most negative impacts on the environment. It greatly jeopardizes environmental sustainability. Since globalization has allowed factories to produce clothing at very low prices, countless attractive designs are available for consumers. This causes consumers to begin thinking that fashion is disposable and they begin to buy more and more. This adds to pollution and creates environmental hazards in the production stage, usage, and even when disposed of. Considering the environmental perspective it is an urgent concern for fashion to become more sustainable.

3.1. Environmental concerns

3.1.1 Water Contamination

High use of water, contamination from chemical processes used in dyeing and storage, and the disposal of large amounts of unsold clothing by incineration or landfill deposits are environmentally hazardous. More than 8,000 chemicals are used to convert raw materials into textiles and almost 25% of the world's pesticides are used to cultivate non-organic cotton. This results in irreversible damage to the environment.

3.1.2 Food Chain Contamination

Microfibers from synthetic fabrics pollute the earth's waters even when they are washed. Microfibers are small threads that are shed from cloth They are too tiny to be filtered out in wastewater treatment plants filtration systems. They enter our water supply and contaminate our food chain as a result. A study revealed that 34.8% of microplastics present in oceans originate from the textile and clothing industry. By using natural fibers made of organic cotton or fibers made of recycled plastic instead of synthetic, we can prevent harmful synthetics and microfibers from polluting the natural environment.

3. 2. Temporal concerns

3.2.1. Unnecessary Discarding

Fashion can be defined as a phenomenon related to time. Your clothes are a popular expression during a certain time and context. This has an impact on the perception of what is and must be made more environmentally sustainable. Fashion can be fast or slow. It can also be more exclusive or inclusive. Like most designs, the products of fashion live in the zone between want and throw away. Waste is defined as every object created, plus time. So, it’s only a matter of time before clothes are discarded.

3.2.2. Durability

When it comes down to the clothes themselves, their durability and usability depend on their purposes and "metabolism". Certain clothes are made to withstand long use (outdoor wear, winter jackets) whereas others are not made to last long (party appropriate clothes). This means some clothes have characteristics and a shelf-life that can be made more long-lasting. Others can be made eco-friendly by making them compostable or recyclable for faster disintegration. When using sustainable clothes, you can be ensured that the clothes are durable and they can be recycled or disintegrated easily if discarded.

3.3. Social concerns

3.3.1. Exploitative Labor

One of the major social issues in the fashion industry concerns labor. The industry takes advantage of racial, class, and gender inequalities. The demand from brands and retailers for low prices and short production times lead to exploitative working environments and lower wages for the workers. Local production forces garments to be labeled as "Made in Italy". This means that there is global sourcing of labor and worker exploitation. Unions are ignored and social welfare contracts are not enforced.

3.3.2. Illegal Employment Firms

The total number of workers employed in textiles, clothing, and footwear is hidden and not openly disclosed. It is estimated that at least 25 million people, the majority being women, are employed in clothing manufacture and most of them work with cotton. Nevertheless, it is really difficult to estimate the exact number because many small-scale manufacturing plants and labour contracting firms operate illegally. Sustainable fashion manufacturing plants provide good working conditions and fair wages to their employees.

3. 4. Economic concerns

3.4.1. Fast Fashion

One of the most common causes of the present unsustainable condition of the fashion system is the endless stream of new products into the market. This is popularly called fast fashion. The major problem of unsustainable fashion is that cheaper, easily accessible, and trendy clothes have become available to people with limited incomes. This means that more and more people across the globe have taken up consumption habits that were reserved for the rich in the 20th century.

3.4.2. ‘Rich’ Buying Habits

In other words, the economic concern brought about by the fashion industry is that poor people now have no hindrances in updating their wardrobes as much as the rich. Fast fashion becomes a problem when poor people take part in it. These concerns of fashion also mean many of the sustainable products to fashion, such as buying quality goods that are durable, are not preferred by people with fewer means. Sustainable clothing manufacturing plants teach the less educated about responsible consumption. It encourages them to buy only what they need.

3. 5. Global concerns

3.5.1. Contracting Production to Developing Countries

China is the largest exporter of fast fashion in the world. It accounts for almost 30% of the world's total clothing exports. Unfortunately, Chinese labourers earn as little as 12–18 cents per hour working in exploitative conditions. Every year Americans purchase more than 1 billion garments manufactured in China. Today's largest factories and mass scale production of clothing and apparels originate from China and Vietnam. The manufacturing of garments, footwear, and plastics was encouraged as a part of a national effort to improve living standards and adapt to a modern lifestyle. This led to companies in the USA and Europe to contract their production to these countries.

3.5.2. Fierce Competition

These companies began focusing on design, marketing, and logistics, and introducing innovative product lines that would be manufactured in foreign-owned factories. The fierce global competition in the industry leads to poor working conditions. Sustainable clothing manufacturers do not contract their labours and ensure that all manufacturing processes take place in the home country itself.

4. Water Crisis - How is sustainable fashion addressing it?

The fashion industry has one of the largest impacts on the planet. It accounts for high water usage for chemical treatments, dyeing processes, and in the disposal. There is increasing water scarcity in the world today. The current usage level of water by fashion materials (almost 79 billion cubic meters per year) is alarming because textile production plants are usually found in areas facing freshwater stress. Sustainable fashion makes use of natural fibers like organic cotton that is grown without pesticides and PET fibers. These use up lesser water in the manufacturing and dyeing process.

5. Sustainable Cotton - Everything you need to know

5.1. Benefits

Organic cotton or sustainable cotton is cotton that is cultivated organically using non-genetically altered seeds, and without using any synthetic agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers or pesticides apart from the ones approved for organic cultivation. The production of sustainable cotton promotes and enhances biodiversity and biological cycles around the world. Since cotton accounts for at least 2.5% of the world's cultivated land and uses 10-16% of the world's total pesticides which is more than any other major crop, it is immensely beneficial to switch to organic cotton.

5.2. Cultivation

Organic cotton growing methods ensure that the chemical impact used in the processing of cotton is minimal. This means there’s less pollution in the air and surface waters. There is no shifting of the equilibrium in ecosystems that are usually caused by the use of pesticides. To make a comparison between organic and regular crops, efforts must be taken to standardize harvest rather than cultivation area.

5.3. Harvest

Like many crops, harvests (per hectare) in organic cotton farms are a little lower when compared to normal methods. However, this harvest gap means that the water used to cultivate cotton fiber can be higher in organic cotton. But since there are lesser pesticides used, it is more beneficial to the environment.

6. How to create your own sustainable wardrobe?

Firstly, making the switch to a more sustainable wardrobe will require a change in your mindset. Making slight changes in shopping habits is key to the change. Rather than heading to the mall after work on Friday to buy a dress for the weekend party, reconsider and wear an existing item in your wardrobe. Skip the shopping sprees and ignore the sales happening every month. Plan your wardrobe realistically and strategically within a specific budget. When you start to restock your wardrobe, spend some time to research the brands you purchase from.

6.1. Brands

There are numerous sustainable fashion labels like Ecoline available and a quick browse on Instagram using hashtags will give you access to a new world of ethical and sustainable fashion. Care for your clothes so they last for a long time. Read the care instructions for your clothes, and follow them. Each clothing item comes with brief instructions stitched. These instructions are usually very easy to follow. If you want detailed instructions you can always get in touch with the brand. They will guide you on better care for the clothes you have bought.

6.2. Maintenance

Hand washing may seem like hard work, but it gives your clothes a prolonged lifespan. Get a small hand steamer and use it on your clothes. Steam gives new life to fabrics and can make them feel neat, clean, and new again. Another way to build your eco-friendly wardrobe is by hosting or attending a clothes swap party. These fun social gatherings offer an opportunity to repurpose old clothes that might have gotten discarded.

7. Global support

There is a wide range of both global and local organizations that have voiced their support for sustainable fashion. The support represents particular stakeholders, particular issues, and some wishing to promote the sustainable fashion movement as a whole.

Global organizations supporting sustainable fashion

7. 1. Fashion Revolution

Fashion Revolution is a non-global movement founded by Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro. This movement brings to light the poor working conditions and the exploited people behind garment manufacturing. Fashion Revolution has teams in over 100 countries around the world. The organization publishes the Fashion Transparency Index every year, ranking the biggest fashion brands in the world based on how much they reveal about their policies, practices, procedures, and their social and environmental effects.

7. 2. The National Association of Sustainable Fashion Designers

This organization aims to assist entrepreneurs and startups with growing fashion businesses that impart social change and use eco-friendly practices while manufacturing. This organization provides specialized education, training, and programs that can change the fashion industry by encouraging collaboration, sustainability, and economic growth.

7. 3. Red Carpet Green Dress

Founded by Suzy Amis Cameron, Red Carpet Green Dress is a global initiative that focuses on sustainable fashion on the red carpet at the Oscars ceremony. Actors and Actresses supporting this initiative include Naomie Harris, Missi Pyle, Kellan Lutz, and more.

7.4. Top sustainable fashion brands

Ecoline Clothing is a fashion brand that focuses on making fashion completely sustainable. Each of its products is manufactured from recycled PET bottle waste and Organic Cotton that can be traced 100% to its origin. Products are manufactured by recycling, upcycling, and earth-friendly processing. Approximately six water bottles are recycled to manufacture a T-shirt. Ecoline Clothing uses futuristic technology that pretreats the fiber. This makes the dyeing process much more efficient and eco-friendly. ViaJoes is another Sustainable clothing manufacturer. They produce eco-friendly fabrics from recycled cotton and other sustainable materials.

8. Sustainable fashion ecosystem in India

8.1. Indian Traditions

While reusing clothing has obtained immense popularity around the globe over the last five years, Indians are no strangers to it as it has been existing for ages. It has been a kind of tradition to wear pre-worn and hand-me-down clothes from other family members like older siblings or cousins. Apparel bought in a family is usually first worn by one person, and it is then passed down when it no longer fits. Once the garment becomes unfit for wearing. it is repurposed as a washcloth or for cleaning purposes.

8.2. Current Trends

At present, consumers all around the globe are moving towards sustainable and eco-friendly fashion. Consumers no longer make purchases based on what's new in stores. This sustainable fashion ecosystem already exists in India. However, the availability of cheaper clothing has tempted them to invest in new trendy clothes and discard old ones even though they are in good condition. But consumers in India are slowly returning to their old ways of choosing to own pre-worn clothes as it has a lesser environmental impact.

9. Statistics about sustainable fashion

  • The complete fashion industry which includes apparel and footwear accounts for almost 8.1% of the whole world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Almost 20% to 35% of all the microplastics found in marine environments originate from synthetically produced clothing.
  • By the year 2030, it’s estimated that there will be more than 148 million tons of fashion waste created by consumers.
  • 7,000 liters of water are used in the manufacture of a pair of jeans. This includes the water required to grow the cotton required and the dying and stitching processes.
  • If you recycle old apparel at the end of its life, less than 1% of the material can be used to produce new clothing.
  • The fashion industry is expected to use 35% more land for fiber cultivation by 2030. This is an excess of 115 million hectares from the present usage. If more people switch to sustainable fashion, this land could be left for biodiversity or used to grow crops to feed people.
  • Just a small increase of 10% in buying and reusing second-hand clothing could cause exponential environmental benefits which include a reduction in carbon emissions per tonne of clothing by almost 3% and water use by approximately 4%.
  • By prolonging the life of clothing by at least an extra nine months, carbon, waste and water wastage can be reduced by 20–30% each.

10. Top 20 FAQs on the environmental impacts of sustainable fashion

10. 1. Can fashion be sustainable?

To make fashion completely sustainable, both companies and consumers must do their parts. Factories must use eco-friendly fibers like PET, Bamboo, and Organic cotton and efficient manufacturing processes to reduce water waste and chemical contamination. Consumers should buy only what they need and not be swayed by market trends. Opting for second hand clothes or clothes manufactured using sustainable processes can reduce the impact on the environment and make fashion sustainable.

10. 2. What is textile recycling?

Fibers from discarded clothes are reclaimed and are crafted into new garments. Threads from the old fabric are pulled out and used for creating new clothes or blankets. Natural and synthetic fibers can be repurposed this way. These textiles are recycled based on their colour and material.

10. 3. What is slow fashion?

Slow fashion is a collection of durable products, products manufactured using traditional production methods, or design techniques that aim to be long lasting. These clothes can be worn for all seasons. Slow fashion affects many aspects of the production chain. For workers in developing countries, it means fairer wages. For consumers, each apparel is designed and produced with more care and each product is of the highest quality. For the environment, slow fashion means that there are less clothing and industrial waste.

10. 4. What is ethical fashion?

Ethical fashion is incorporating ethics in the design, production, retail, and purchasing of each clothing apparel. It includes a range of issues that must be addressed such as good working conditions, no exploitation of workers, fair wages, environmentally sustainable production, the welfare of all entities including the environment, and animals. Production and purchase of clothes while fulfilling these conditions are ethical fashion.

5. Is sustainable fashion the future?

Yes, for the sake of future generations, the future of fashion desperately needs sustainability. Pollution and water scarcity caused by the textile industry are alarming and it keeps increasing day by day. Presently many large clothing brands, footwear brands, and even startups are adopting sustainable practices to manufacture their clothes.

6. Top 3 facts about sustainable fashion

  • More and more brands are switching to more sustainable production methods. Around 5 percent of the world's fashion market has guaranteed to implement these changes by the end of 2020.
  • By doubling the wear duration of clothing from one year to two years can reduce greenhouse gas emissions 24% in a year.
  • It takes around half an acre of land to cultivate Tencel, a natural fiber. Whereas cotton needs about 2.5 acres to cultivate the same amount.

7. Top 3 Controversies related to sustainable fashion

  • Greenwashing is creating a false impression or offering misleading information about how a clothing company's apparels are more environmentally beneficial. Greenwashing is used to deceive consumers into believing that a company offers sustainable fashion.
  • Although organic cotton is promoted as a more sustainable choice of fabric, as fewer pesticides and chemical fertilizers are used in its cultivation, it is estimated to be less than 1% of the worldwide cotton production. The expenses of hand labour, reduced yields when compared to normal cotton, and the increased water usage is often hidden from consumers.
  • Selling second hand clothing imported from the USA in places like Tanzania hurts the economy of the country. It leads to less demand from local production companies and thereby lower employment opportunities for workers.

8. How sustainable fashion is addressing water wastage?

Sustainable fashion makes use of natural and PET fibers. The processing of these fibers makes use of lesser water. Fewer chemical components are used and the water can be treated and reused for further productions. There are less hazardous chemicals contaminating the water after production when compared to conventional practices. Many sustainable fashion companies make use of recycled water in their manufacturing plants.

9. How sustainable fashion is reducing the environmental impacts of plastic wastes?

Around 60 million water bottles are used every day. This means that around 18,834,000,000 plastic bottles are dumped in landfills every year. Each plastic bottle takes up to 700 years to fully decompose. The sustainable fashion industry recycles plastic into renewable fibers to make eco-friendly green clothing. This reduces the negative impact of plastics in the environment as it prevents plastic bottles from ending up in landfills.

10. What are the seven forms of sustainable fashion?

  1. Custom made clothes
  2. Green clothing- made from sustainable practices
  3. High quality, all-season wear
  4. Fair and ethical (made by workers employed in fair conditions)
  5. Upcycled clothing (textile recycling)
  6. Rented clothing and swapped apparels
  7. Vintage and second hand clothing

11. What is Fair fashion?

Clothing that is manufactured by workers with access to non-exploitative working conditions and fair wages is called fair fashion.

12. What is vegan fashion?

Vegan fashion products are described by PETA as apparel, shoes, and accessories that do not consist of leather, fur, wool, skin, exotic animal skins, or any other animal-derived products or fabrics.

13. What is organic cotton?

Organic cotton is the cultivation of cotton from non-genetically-modified seeds. The cotton is grown using no agricultural chemical products like pesticides, insecticides, and chemical fertilizer. Organic cotton is beneficial to the environment because it does not contaminate the land with pollutants from pesticides and fertilizer.

14. How can local production of clothing conserve the environment?

When clothes are produced manually, there is no need to ship the clothes very far. Fossil fuels and transportation costs are saved. Conservation of fossil fuels is crucial for the welfare of the environment.

15. What is minimalist fashion?

Minimalist fashion can be defined by one major principle: keep it simple! Simple shapes, a few shades of colours, and keeping a minimal number of clothing articles in your closet is minimalist fashion. This trend has simplicity as its foundation.

16. What is clothing swap?

Clothing swap parties are a fun social activity to host/attend. Guests bring clothes that they no longer want to wear or those which no longer fit and they can exchange them with other guests for clothing that they like from their collection.

17. What is reformation colour washing?

Most of the energy wastage in clothes occurs during washing. Along with air drying your apparel, you can also wash only when dirty or stained and not after every use in cold water. This not only improves the life span of your clothes but is also eco-friendly.

18. Who are the famous sustainable fashion designers?

  • Stella McCartney has been revolutionizing fashion since the launch of her first collection. She is a pioneer of alternative sustainable materials and innovative manufacturing technologies.
  • Eileen Fisher is skilled in recycling and giving new life to old textiles and discarded garments and creating luxe sustainable womenswear with a focus on inclusive sizing.

19. What does Cultural Intellectual Property Law have to do with Sustainable Fashion?

This initiative is designed to be a global movement that supports the recognition of cultural IP rights for craftsmen and women who are the creators and propagators of traditional garments, traditional designs, and sustainable manufacturing techniques. This initiative can protect the interests of businesses that focus on sustainability and the artisans and employees who are part of it.

20. Top 3 Indian sustainable fashion brands

  1. Ecoline Clothing
  2. FabIndia
  3. Good Earth

11. Latest News related to sustainable fashion

1. Conde Nast’s sustainable fashion index

Source: greenqueen

Mass media company Condé Nast, whose publications include Vogue, Vanity Fair and Tatler, the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) in London, and sustainability researchers around the world have put together The Sustainable Fashion Glossary. This is a new index of the important sustainability terms and topics that have come up in the world of fashion. The Glossary consists of over 250 terms and keywords that are currently being used in the sustainable fashion industry. The compilation ranges from raw materials to production, consumer habits, and clothing care. The glossary follows four main themes, climate emergency, the environmental footprint caused by the fashion industry, the social, cultural, and economic impacts of clothing manufacture, and the key aspects of sustainable fashion.

The Glossary is free to use and will be updated regularly as new terms are added to it.

This isn’t the first time for Condé Nast to speak out about sustainability, in January, Vogue Italia used illustrated covers instead of traditional photos covers in their monthly issue to highlight the environmental effects of photoshoots.

2. Covid-19 and Sustainable Fashion

Source: Pexels

The COVID-19 pandemic has woken up the desire to lead a life that is meaningful and has made people act more responsibly. The crisis period could be the push that makes the fashion industry modify the way it designs, manufactures, and ships its products. For consumers, purchasing is a way of expressing a commitment and implying their values, brands now have a motive to modify their processes in preparation for the future, by adopting a more eco-responsible, fair and transparent methodology. These factors were obvious before the pandemic hit but now they must answer to consumers who want a more responsible and eco-friendly clothing option. The era of the consumer activist that was long delayed is now becoming a reality. Brands must rethink their approach.

3. Vidya Balan advocates for sustainable fashion

Source: Times of India

Vidya Balan is quite busy e-promoting Shakuntala Devi and can be seen wearing a wide variety of outfits usually ethnic and fusion during the promotions. And her latest looks stand out because her insistence to promote local and sustainable fashion was highlighted in all her outfits. In an ensemble by the label, Maati, she emphasized that The Ganai family of Bengal has woven the handloom cotton. The fabric is hand block printed and dyed using natural dyes. The leftover fabrics were not discarded and were used to create potlis. The material, if disposed of, can decompose in soil easily. In another look consisting of a sari in a lovely printed pink saree crafted by the label, Rouka was created using the every inch fabric innovation that makes use of all the fabric from their manufacturing to create embroideries, patterns, and textures. The contrasting blouse, the minimal and neat look works wonders and gives a complete look.

4. Biodegradable menstrual pads

Source: Pexels 

The usage of biodegradable pads can save up to 90,000 gallons of water and the wastage of 4200 kg of plastics and other non-biodegradable materials. Students from Sree Ayappa College, Kerala, have come up with the concept of manufacturing biodegradable sanitary napkins from natural raw materials. They also decided to train local village women to create a livelihood by producing and selling them. These biodegradable pads do not contain any gels, chemicals, or synthetic fibers that can cause rashes, irritation, and diseases. Biodegradability is a major aspect of natural pads. They do not lie in landfills for long periods of time as they decompose within 2 years when exposed to microorganisms present in the soil and air. These napkins also last for 5-7 hours just like commercial sanitary napkins but they do not harm the environment in any way. However, commercial pads discarded in landfills can last for over 450 years without any sign of decomposition. Biodegradable sanitary napkins are manufactured from naturally occurring raw materials such as water hyacinth. The material is a readily available natural resource and can be easily produced into a sanitary napkin that is both affordable and eco-friendly. These biodegradable pads also provide employment opportunities for the women of these villages. Thus promoting sustainable livelihoods among rural women. The team from Ayappa College also conducted informative seminars on environmentally sustainable menstrual products in five villages. They trained more than 500 women in creating their own eco-friendly menstrual products.