|HOW THIRSTY IS YOUR TSHIRT?|
|Written by Helen Willard - Thursday, 25 June 2009|
Water and fashion often strike images of breezy vacations at the beach, swimsuits, delicate sandals, and airy dresses. Water, though, takes on a very different meaning for those who grow the cotton that clothe our summers.
The fashion industry has a huge, tangible impact on the world’s water supply. Growing cotton accounts for 2.6% of the world’s yearly water usage. One t-shirt made from conventional cotton represents 2700 liters of water, and a third of a pound of chemicals, which often contaminate water supplies. The famous look and feel of cotton can come at a high price for regions that grow it, but can the fashion industry be its own savior?
Various companies support efforts to improve the water supply, both for drinking water and as a habitat. British company Rapanui, makers of casual clothing and founded by ocean-loving surfers, has a particular focus on keeping waters clean. Rapanui hooked up with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and sponsored a beach sweep on the Isle of Wight , hauling in an amazing amount of waste, recycling what could be usable and giving the rest to a waste to power plant. That is a real, hands-on effort that connects the company back to its aqua inspiration, bringing along locals and positive press for the ride. Today, the label continues to work with MCS, helping to raise awareness for the creation of marine reserves, which work similarly to land reserves as areas free of fishing or commercial activity, in order for critically damaged ecosystems to heal in the United Kingdom.
Conventional cotton is chemically dependant, hooked on pesticides and fertilizers to grow, accounting for 10% of all agricultural chemicals, and 25% of all pesticides used worldwide every year. Currently, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods are being introduced to cotton growing regions to end the trail of drinking water contamination and other ill effects, including damaging entire ecosystems.
The Pesticide Action Network of the United Kingdom (PAN-UK) offers a compendium of organic retailers and more information on the issue. When purchasing, look for certified organic labels with high organic cotton content, and catch up with organic standards at the Organic Clothing blog from Lotus Organics.
Organic cotton is already a star in the ethical products world, ubiquitous in ethical fashion brands, and its appeal has extended beyond – brands like Patagonia use only organic cotton, and trendy organic cotton tees have graced stores from Wal-mart to Saks Fifth Avenue. Target showcases organic cotton yearly – this year with the power brand Loomstate. The organics industry has boomed recently and the sales of organic non-food items grew by 39.4% in 2008, much of that from organic cotton.
There is one hiccup, though. Keeping pesticides out is, of course, great, but there are some drawbacks. Currently, organic cotton seems even thirstier than conventional cotton. And the goal is to use less resources, not more. However, there is evidence that once fields are transitioned to organic, the need for water is lessened, and organic cotton could become a rain-fed crop in some areas.
Alternative crops like soy, bamboo, and hemp generally require less irrigation, but the processing of each fiber varies. Bamboo, for example, is often processed chemically, leaving the potential for pollutants to reach the water supply. It’s clear that there is a bigger picture that should be looked at, and cotton may be king yet.
An additional part of that bigger picture is the colors and prints used. The dyes that make the perfect pair of dark jeans can also seep into waterways. To circumvent this, eco-brands have developed the manufacture of un-dyed clothing, or used clay, natural vegetal, or low-impact fiber-reactive dyes. A previous article from EFW documents these beautiful options.
But here’s the really good news: this is the area of fashion where you, the consumer, can make the biggest difference! Individuals can have a huge impact on the water consumption impact of clothes even after the purchase. Once you buy your clothes, you will wear them and eventually clean them many times. A whopping 75 to 80 percent of your garment’s lifecycle impact [the sum of environmental impacts caused by a product’s existence] comes from washing and drying. Greening your laundry habits can enormously multiply the effects of your smart shopping.
Clean and Green tips include:
1. Wear it again.
Duh – wash less and you will use less. Wearing clothes a few times before washing saves energy and water. To remove the smoky club smell, try freezing jeans over night. But don’t try the wear it again method with your organic cotton socks or unmentionables, please!
2. Use a smart machine.
It may be time to trade up. The average household washes 400 loads a year using 13,500 gallons of water. Switching to an Energy-Star rated washer can save as much as 7,000 gallons a year, or a lifetime of drinking water for six people.
3. Use a Green laundry detergent
Look for plant-based detergents that are phosphate-free, as phosphates can lead to algal blooms that damage marine eco-systems. White vinegar in the rinse cycle can sub as a fabric softener. The acid vinegar also neutralizes the basic detergents, helping to get the soap out of the clothes, leaving fluffy goodness behind.
4. Or make a DIY laundry soap.
The ingredients can be found in a grocery store, it’s cheap, and after a quick mix on your stovetop, you can have a custom blend of laundry detergent with your own bouquet of beautiful smelling essential oils. A blogger favorite, there are tons of how-to guides on the web, and a list of recipes can be found at TipNut.
5. Maximize efficiency.
Wash on the cold cycle—the clothes will still get clean, we promise—and only wash full loads. If you must wash a partial load now, remember to use all the knobs on the machine, and select a smaller size load. Consider hanging out at a Laundromat as the machines are generally more energy and resource efficient – and you never know who you might meet. There’s even a solar powered Laundromat in Chicago. And finally, air dry clothes if possible.
Non sense ! Organic cotton uses MUCH less water than "conventional" !!
written by Paul Boyer, July 09, 2009
written by Manuel, August 13, 2009
More than Cotton, Hemp or Bamboo to Choose From
written by Robin Bertelsen, September 09, 2009
|< Prev||Next >|
Green Hosting by MyGreenHosting.com