Water: Fashion’s Dirty Secret

Today is World Water Day.  Cotton is one of the world’s dirtiest crops.

When you pick up a cotton T-shirt on the High Street, and only wear it a couple of times, do you ever stop to think about the impact which the water used for that garment has had on the local environnment? Probably not. Your average cotton T-Shirt has comsumed a staggering 2700 litres of water on its journey from the cotton field to the shop where you bought it.

“The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, causing human misery, enormous cost of life and gigantic environmental devastation” Katharine Hamnett

The World Bank estimates that around 20% of industrial water pollution in the world comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles. The textile industry is second only to agriculture as the biggest global polluter of clean water.

The water needed to grow cotton threatens precious water resources for local people. The Aral Sea was once the fourth largest lake in the world, home to millions of fish and surrounded by fishing communities. Now covers only 10% of its former surface area and holds less than 10% of the volume of water it held in the 1970s. Why? Demand for cotton.

Six months ago, NASA made the shock announcement that a large area of the Aral Sea had completely dried up. Beyond the loss of fresh water and their livelihoods, local communities are also suffering from carcinogenic dust from the lake bed being blown into their villages.  As we are talking about water, I won’t even start on the forced labour of thousands of people sent to work to pick cotton every harvest by the Uzbeki authorities.

Source: USGS/NASA

Source: USGS/NASA

According to Frances Corner in her book Why Fashion Matters, if we all extended the lifecycle of our cotton garments by 9 months, this could reduce the water footprint of our clothing by 30%. Surely 9 months isn’t too much to ask?

This week, Greenpeace released a new Detox Catwalk video. At the same time, they released new rankings to show which companies really are detoxing their supply chains and which ones are greenwashing or taking no responsibility for their toxic trail. See the rankings here

 

On Thursday, the Oceana Junior Ocean Council Fashions for the Future event took place at Phillips Auction House in Berkeley Square, London. Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Since 2001 Oceana has protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean, including innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. Find out more about Oceana here


Oceana finale

 

CEO of Oceana, Andrew Sharpless, said:

“If you care about biodiversity, save the oceans.
If you care about climate change, save the oceans.
If you care about jobs for coastal communities, save the oceans.
If you care about human health, save the oceans.
This is the single thing we can do to make a difference for the future”

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