Photo by Ivan Karasev
In honor of World Water Day, recognized annually on March 22, and its 2017 theme of “Wastewater,” it is fitting to talk about one of the largest polluters of water in the world—the fashion industry. Between growing fibers, producing textiles, dyeing, and washing, the fashion industry stands next in line to paper and oil industries for water consumption. This fact is unsettling, but there are several clothing swaps and habits that you can practice to help support and save the planet’s water supply. Doing a little can go a long way.
01 | Buy Clothing With Purpose
Supporting brands that are ethical and have a philanthropic purpose is wonderful, but let’s talk about purpose in your personal life. When you purchase clothing on a whim, most of the time, that item is temporary. It is worn once then sent down a path that lands it back into the earth, where it is usually unable to decompose. The water and energy it took to produce that item has now been discarded to waste. Conscious consumerism leads to water conservation. When you purchase clothing with intention, items are worn regularly and remain in your closet for years to come. Think of all the water that is recycled by wearing clothes weekly or daily. The number of times your garment is worn should meet or exceed the amount of water it took to produce it. For reference, a cotton shirt typically uses 2,700 liters of water throughout production. That’s just one shirt!
02 | Look At Garment Labels
Clothing is made up of natural and synthetic textiles. While natural fibers, such as cotton and wool, use the most water in production, synthetic fibers are produced with chemicals from coal and oil. It’s a battle of two evils. From an environmental standpoint, it is important to note that natural fibers are both biodegradable and easily dyed, while synthetic fibers are not. Organic natural fibers may use more water to produce than synthetics, but at least they are not sending harmful chemicals into our water supply.
03 | Change Your Washing Habits
We wash our clothes weekly, sometimes even daily, to ensure they are clean. Unless you are sweating through your clothes, or you spill on them, you don’t need to wash your clothes as often as you think. Another reason to support natural fabrics is their breathability. Fabrics like hemp and Merino wool are leaders in naturally resisting odor and moisture management, allowing more clean wears out of one wash. They are also very durable and will last many wash cycles. Finally, invest in concentrated detergent. It uses less water in its formula than alternative detergents.
Awareness is the first step towards conserving our water supply, but the action is crucial to reducing our fashion footprint on this precious natural resource. For more information on water conservation, I recommend visiting www.worldwaterday.org. Just remember to buy less and choose well, then wear more and wash less!
FROM THE EDITOR
At Conscious, we are inspired by stories that cause us to think differently and think big-picture, and so we set out to tell stories with the help of leaders and influencers within the social good community. You can read more stories like this when you join as a member.