Updated: Jul 28, 2022
The fashion and textiles industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world.
"Every stage in a garment’s life threatens our planet and its resources. It can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton, equivalent to a single t-shirt and pair of jeans. Up to 8,000 different chemicals are used to turn raw materials into clothes, including a range of dyeing and finishing processes.” The Business of Fashion
To produce cotton fabrics, a lot of water and chemicals are used and this water is not always filtered when it is poured back into the environment. This causes rivers, lakes and land to be flooded with chemicals that can be very harmful to the environment, to animals and to humans. In conventional cotton production, a lot of water is also used together with chemical fertilizers that heavily pollute the soil and groundwater.
What can you do?
A lot, actually. We will name a few steps, that will make a big difference;
Shift from conventional cotton to organic cotton results in lower water use in the growth of the cotton crops. Natural pesticides and fertilizers are used instead of harsh chemicals, and no genetically modified seeds are involved.
If the product allows it, use alternative fibers with an even lower water consumption such as recycled cotton, linen, or preferred manmade cellulosic fibers such as Lenzing Ecovero or Lenzing Tencel.
Source materials that are certified organic by GOTS. With GOTS the entire production process is monitored to live up to environmental and social standards. The material content needs to be at least 70% certified organic and all the manufacturing stages need to live up to the GOTS environmental and social criteria. Note: as a brand you need to be GOTS certified to be able to communicate the GOTS logo on your products.
Check that your supplier only uses chemicals that are in compliance with REACH regulation. This EU regulation lists restricted chemicals that are harmful to both human health and the environment.
A new development in cotton - or rediscovery, as it is based on old agricultural practices - is regenerative cotton. This is considered by many as a new best practice, because the agricultural methods are in balance with nature as they preserve soil health, protect and promote biodiversity and sequester carbon (in stead of emitting carbon as conventional cotton farming does).
These steps can lead to big changes in impact. Sustainability in fashion is about finding the negative impact of a manufacturing process and shifting from a negative impact into a positive one.
Do you have questions about how you can find negative impact and change this to positive impact within your products, organization and supply chain? Feel free to contact us here.