Fashion’s role in the time of a global drought: how to decrease water consumption.

Water is the beginning of everything. Water gives life to the lifeless and home to the homeless. Water is the eternal foundation of nature. And the time to spread awareness and unlock this issue as the world is facing major global droughts, is now. As precious as water is, we still believe that somehow there will always be enough of it, enough for us to consume, enough for factories to produce and enough for nature to survive.

The fashion industry relies heavily on water for its survival. Beginning from the irrigation of cotton crops to domestic laundry washing. When fashion runs fast, it quickly becomes a thirsty business.

Let’s look at some facts describing the amount of water used within the fashion industry.

“The fashion industry is the third largest user of water globally (after oil and paper). In a world in which around 2 billion people are already living in water-stressed areas, there’s an important role for fashion.” – The Common Objective

Chinese Uighur workers pick cotton in a field in Alar (Alaer), northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, 16 October 2015.

Generally, it is estimated that the fashion industry currently uses around 9 billion cubic metres of water per year, which is 2 per cent of all freshwater extraction globally, and represents more than one tenth of the water used by all different types of industries. On current trends, this amount is set to double by 2030.

Water usage flows through every step of the textile production process. Let’s demonstrate this with an example – the cotton tee has been a longtime number one fashion trend since forever. Yet, many of us remain unaware about the actual amount of water that is needed in order to produce it. Firstly, it takes on average 10,000 litres of water to cultivate just one kilogram of raw cotton. However, cotton tees come in all colours and sizes in order to fit the high demand and therefore…

conventional textile dyeing and processing the raw fibre is both a thirsty and polluting business. It’s estimated that processing (including spinning, dyeing, finishing) a kilogram of fibre requires 100 to 150 litres of water.

So what can you do to take action and reduce the footprint of fast fashion corporations:

  • Purchase sustainably produced cotton that is certified with international standards, such as Fairtrade or Better Cotton Initiative. Sourcing from sustainably certified suppliers can actually make a massive impact on the reduction of water usage in the fashion industry. In Pakistan, local farmers working with the Better Cotton Initiative were able to reduce water and pesticide usage by 32 percent, also increasing their profitability. 
  • Sourcing from recycled and reused water when it comes to larger industries and corporations. Saying no to dyeing, stone washing or finishing processes.
  • Motivate others to stop wasting water in their everyday routines.

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