We all need to understand, appreciate and accept the fact that industrial way of production is not sustainable by design. As a matter of fact, the industrial revolution, which started in the eighteenth century, resulted in the transition from hand-based production methods, which was the sustainable model, to machine-based production, which is the non-sustainable model, and forever changed the way energy is generated and used. We have reached a situation where most of us do not even have an inkling of an idea about the "environmental unity" which implies that a change in one system will lead to, or cause, changes in other related systems. The inevitable exhaustion of fossil fuels will ultimately force the world to identify alternatives, and in all probability these will be sustainable and from renewable sources. So, there is hope.
Looking at "denim" in the normal way - made out of cotton, dyed with indigo, washed with chemicals, and so on - actually make it almost impossible for denim to be green. And if someone asks why, the reasons are no secret. Cotton requires enormous amounts of pesticides and water, indigo dyeing consumes a lot of energy (fuel), indigo by virtue of its chemical structure is insoluble in water and its disposal is a big hassle, denim apparel needs to be washed with chemicals (to make it look good and wearable) which are harmful for the environment, and, techniques like sand blasting result in life threatening disease, et cetera.
There can be no doubt in the fact that the concept of green is catching up. Industry has been making a lot of efforts to reduce the consumption of water, making the processes more energy efficient, experimenting with environment friendly chemicals for washing, developing alternative techniques and equipment, for delivering the same wash-down effects, with lesser use of water, and which are safe for the workers and environment. However, many of these solutions, like organic cotton, recycled raw material, eco-friendly chemicals, etc., result in higher costs as compared to the conventional methods, which implies that only the high-end customers can opt for the eco-friendly range of products, thereby limiting the scope for industry-wide adoption of the better techniques and processes. The bulk will always be driven by the price tag, making it imperative for manufacturers to continue with low-cost methods and processes which harm the environment and the workers. Even then, we can be sure that green is there to stay.
We might never see a day when majority of jeans on the retail counters would be the "claimed-to-be-green" category or "genuinely green" category, but the share of green-denim will definitely increase. The co-existence of using green as a “selling strategy” and genuinely green products in an inevitable reality, but at least some part of the whole will be green. It is a very positive sign that Indian consumers are getting in sync with the global consumer when it comes to environmentally sustainable products and an increasing awareness can be witnessed among Indian consumers on environmentally friendly practices. Hopefully, the same kind of eagerness to adopt sustainable practices will be shown by business owners as well.
The initiative not only provides employment for a large number of traditional craftsmen and their families, it also helps to sustain and preserve their traditional artisanry, environment and family-oriented way of life.
The handloom denim offered by DCI is, in addition to being a true khadi fabric, is free of all chemicals that are generally used in the process of manufacturing industrial denim. The dye used for coloring the warp threads is extracted from natural sources like the fallen leaves of an eucalyptus tree and the pomegranate rind. The extraction of color and dyeing of yarn are carried out at normal temperature.
The handloom denim initiative by DCI is an attempt to try and give a boost to sustainable fashion. The handloom fabric in general, and handloom denim in particular, appeals to the sensibilities of the consumers who are conscious of the benefits of environmentally friendly and sustainable practices.