Do you know that the fashion industry produces 20% of global wastewater? It may sound hard to believe to many but unfortunately, it’s true. Globally just 12% of the materials used for clothing end up being recycled. While most of us read these statistics daily, we hardly do anything about it but when a 16-year-old boy read these numbers, he was in shock.
“The environmental impact of denim and the fast-fashion industry is alarming, yet little is being done about it. When I came to know that each pair of jeans requires up to 10000 litres of water, I decided I had to do something about this,” said a worried Nirvaan.
And there he is, contributing his bit to the environment through Project Jeans. Let’s hear from Nirvaan Somany what he has to say about this project.
Tell us something about yourself. What are you currently doing?
I am a class 11 student of The Shri Ram School, Moulsari (Gurgaon). I am extremely passionate about the environment. I also enjoy music greatly and am the head of the music society in my school. I enjoy playing football and am on the school soccer team.
Through Project Jeans, I collect used denim and repurpose them into sleeping bags for the needy. As per United Nations data, each pair of jeans requires up to 10,000 litres of water to produce. Denim is strong, durable and has great insulation properties. Leveraging these, I aim to redirect them from landfills by extending their utility, to help the environment and the homeless.
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How do you handle your studies and the project together? Do family support play a pivotal role here?
The balancing act of studies and the project is quite challenging. My academics are extremely important to me. In the Grade 10 exams, I was amongst the toppers in my school.
Besides studies, this project is very dear to me. This is why I manage to do both together. This project has grown with the help of many educational institutions, corporates, and NGOs like Robin Hood and others. I believe that since we are working for a good cause with sincerity and dedication, things fall into place.
My family has always supported and encouraged me. It’s the values instilled at home and the school that has made me who I am today. My younger sister has helped design my website and my mother helps answer calls when I am in school.
How many sleeping bags have been made under the Project? Is there any expansion plan too?
We have managed to collect around 6000 pairs of jeans so far and made and distributed around 850 sleeping bags. To increases social awareness about the project, I have conducted workshops and awareness sessions with residential buildings, corporate offices, and several educational institutions across India. Some of these include B.D. Somani School, Ardee School, Shiv Nadar School, Hill Springs School, and Hindu College.
We have also collaborated with and trained local tailors to create sleeping bags that could provide a surface and a cover, were easy to carry around, and simple to clean. 15 of these tailors were women who needed a source of income to support their households and achieve financial independence.
We have been in touch with the embassies of Turkey and Syria in New Delhi to support victims of the recent earthquakes by fundraising and sending sleeping bags to those who lost their homes.
- I would like to involve governments to ensure that nobody has to sleep on the ground. Our sleeping bags are great for migrant populations too and I hope that they can help refugees too.
- I want to train more people in making these sleeping bags so that they can be made and distributed locally all over India.
- I also want to reach out to denim manufacturing corporations to tie up with us so that consumers can be rewarded or encouraged to donate their old jeans through the network of their stores. I want to ensure that not even a single pair of jeans is thrown into a landfill.
How is Project Jeans providing comfort and support to homeless people?
In Delhi, the number of homeless people sleeping on the roadside is disturbingly high. People often donate blankets but these are ineffective in the harsh winter months. We’ve seen a surge in demand during Delhi’s cold winter months. To prepare for next winter, I hope to work all year round, to be prepared for when people need sleeping bags the most.
To keep the enthusiasm and tempo up for the entire year, I would like to build a team of student volunteers and ambassadors all over the country, so everyone is aware of what goes into what they are wearing and where it lands up after use. Few people are aware that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. At this pace, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge by more than 50% by 2030.
Besides Project Jeans, are there any other projects that you are thinking of launching?
I believe that the youth should be aware of environmental issues. I write and publish a monthly newsletter called ‘Environotes’ to spread awareness about environmental issues. I distribute these in government schools in my locality.