Today is World Water day. In 2015 the fashion industry consumed 79 billion cubic metres of water- enough to fill 32 million Olympic sized swimming pools. This figure is only set to increase with our estimated usage upping by 50% by 2030.
Why all this water? One of the main ways water is used, and abused within the fashion supply chains is during the dyeing process.
Orsola De Castro famously said “There is a joke in China that you can tell the 'it' color of the season by looking at the color of the rivers."
Areas of high fashion production like China and Bangladesh are impacted the most, with it being estimated that 70% of the rivers and lakes in China are contaminated by wastewater from the textile industry. 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles, with the process of dyeing a t-shirt alone using 16-20 litres of water. 80% of the dye is retained by the fabric and the rest is flushed out into the waterways. The water in these rivers does more than ruin the landscape but causes an increase in cancer and skin issues for local communities and those working in the industry.
We knew there had to be a different way. This is our founder Charlotte drinking our dye water (post-filtration). We dye our fabrics at Shakthi knitting based in Tirupur India. Their filtration system means there is zero waste, all the dye water is made into clean drinking water and the sludge leftover is made into bricks. You can check out more photos from this trip on our Pinterest.
But what can we as consumers do now? We’ve rounded up 3 recommendations for what to do next:
- Watch RiverBlue: Can Fashion Save the Planet to gain a deeper understanding of the impact fast fashion has on our global water supply.
- Invest in a Guppy bag to help fight microplastic pollution. Fibres come off our clothing everytime we wash them, and account for 85% of fibres found on world shorelines. As they aren’t caught in conventional water treatment plans they flow directly into rivers and into our oceans. A Guppybag enables you to wash all your synthetic clothes, catching the microfibres that are released instead of them flowing into the water system and into the ocean- a small step to fight micro plastic pollution of our oceans!
- Buy less! Ultimately the main way to protect our oceans is to buy items like jeans that are good quality and will last you longer so you don’t have to replace them often. Or do your research and buy from brands who dye sustainably.
The fashion industry needs to change, but as consumers we also need to learn and ask questions of them and refuse to support processes and practices that harm people and the planet.