A chemical pipe pours into the ocean, fast fashion is one of the worst water polluters

Seriously tho’ fast fashion is killing us. Here’s why organic & sustainable matter

A few months ago, we wrote about a topic that is near and dear to our hearts: how microfibres – particularly in performance fashion clothing like yoga wear and work out clothing – are the single biggest polluter of our waterways and oceans. We found out that even if we stop using plastic bags and straws, our addiction to “sweat free” work out clothing is still going to be causing 80% ( !!!!!) of the plastic in our oceans because of microfibres.

But that got us thinking, microfibres aren’t the only issue with fashion and our world’s water supplies.

Fashion is one of the biggest water polluters of our planet

The Global Fashion Agenda for sustainable fashion put out their annual statement for 2018 with worrisome results: while many in the fashion world have started making lip service to sustainability, there was a “high degree of inertia” being seen in the industry overall. The document outlined three top priorities that needed to happen globally: supply train traceability, respectful and secure work environments, and efficient use of water, energy, and chemicals. Why was that in the top three?

  1. Non sustainable crops use up significantly more water to grow, and most non-organic crops use blue water ( clean drinking water) to do it
  2. Non sustainable crops use significantly more pesticides and chemicals to grow profitable harvests, all of which wind up in our waterways through drainage
  3. Dyes and chemicals used to process non sustainable fabrics (and even some sustainable fabrics) are often not used in a closed loop system, meaning those dyes and chemicals end up in our waterways

Let’s look at these three points more closely, and break down exactly why Hemp, ethically processed Bamboo, and Organic Cotton are really the only way towards any kind of future for our planet.

Non sustainable crops use up significantly more water to grow

Cotton is by far the most used fabric on the planet, it represents over 80% of ALL fibres used in the world. Because of this we will use regularly produced cotton as our baseline for comparison.

Let’s start by comparing organic to non organic cotton for a moment to really nail this point home. First of all, cotton is a water-hungry crop to begin with: it takes over 2,700 litres of water to make one conventional cotton t-shirt, and almost 11,000 to make a pair of jeans If you consider that the average person needs three litres of water to survive per day, that’s over ten year’s worth of someone’s clean water to make your jeans.

Let that sink in for a moment. A decade’s worth of clean water…for your Levi’s. Organic gardening practices not only use less “blue water” in their crop growth, (relying more on grey water, and water recycling), but they use significantly less water overall. The 2013-2014 organic production of cotton found a 91% reduction in blue water use, saving the equivalent of nearly 95,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools of fresh water compared to non-organic production according to the Soil Association.

Regular Cotton vs Hemp

And that’s just cotton comparisons, when you look at sustainable crops like hemp and bamboo, the gap widens even more. Cotton needs 50% more water to grow than hemp does (hemp is so prolific and hearty that apparently over half of the cannabis plants uprooted by the Drug Enforcement Administration every year are a wild relative of hemp – weed indeed;), and it does tend to be grown in some of the dryer areas of the world where clean water is already scarce…or I dare say…endangered. When you add processing cotton into fabric, it skyrockets into almost 4x the water use of our namesake hemp. Hemp is still the super star of the fibre world in terms of it’s incredible sustainable properties right down to feeding the soil in which it’s grown. Hemp on it’s own however doesn’t have the soft feel that most modern humans prefer, and tends not to hold colour as well as other fabrics. That’s why it hasn’t taken over the fashion industry all together ( as well as there being a huge misconception that hemp was pot…but that’s another article).

Regular Cotton vs Bamboo

Like hemp, bamboo is basically a weed. It requires no irrigation to grow, and no pesticides and is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet. Bamboo is also soft, light, breathable, and holds colour well. Where bamboo gets controversial is in the chemicals needed to go from bamboo pulp to fabric. Unlike hemp and cotton, bamboo has to be put through a chemical bath to turn it into fibre. How does that affect our water systems? We wrote a whole article on it here, but basically if the company that is supplying the bamboo chooses not to use a closed loop system, then that chemical bath goes down the drain and into our lakes, rivers, and oceans. Eco friendly bamboo production factories ( like the one we use) are also experimenting with chemicals that are non toxic. So it DOES matter where you get your bamboo from, if you want to really support sustainability, just buying bamboo is not enough.

Slow Death by Fast Fashion

You know that your money dictates the shape of the world we live in. We understand it’s hard to give up our addiction to fast fashion…why do you think we had to start a clothing company? But our world is getting hotter, drier, and potable water is a serious issue…especially in these countries where non sustainable fabrics are being created “en masse”. We understand that many of you already know this, so please help spread the word. Share, share share…every person who changes their shopping habits creates a better future for all of us.