How to Reduce Your Water Footprint

We’ve all been taught to turn the taps off while brushing our teeth and reduce our shower time, but understanding how much water has been used to create our garments has always been a little murky, and puts those household habits into stark perspective.

To give an idea of how much water clothing uses, roughly 20% of all water waste is from the fashion industry. In 2017 alone, it was nearly 79 billion cubic metres; enough to fill 32 million Olympic-size swimming pools. What’s even more worrying is that this figure is projected to keep rising. The Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) anticipate that water use will increase by 50% by 2030. 

Let’s break it down per garment. According to an Institute of Water report, 2,720 litres of water are needed to produce just one cotton t-shirt - as much as you’d drink over three years. And to produce the jeans to go with the t-shirt? Nearly ten times as much as that.

So, how can we take action to reduce the water consumption footprint of our wardrobes? 

Firstly, go organic. Organic cotton uses 91% less ‘blue’ water (from groundwater and freshwater sources) compared to traditional cotton. Organic cotton also removes the use of the synthetic pesticides and fertilizers used in traditional cotton farming which risk feeding into local rivers, lakes and waterways.   

 

 

 

Pointelle Cami Top 100% Organic Cotton
RENUE the Label
£44.00

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Flex Sleeveless Sweat in 100% Organic Cotton
Noelle
£85.00

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Secondly, avoid polyester. Already a really problematic fabric for the environment in many ways, polyester is created using harmful chemicals which enter waterways if not managed properly, plus, upon washing at home it releases millions of plastic microfibres into the water system. 

Next ask, how has your item been dyed? The other thing we must consider alongside water consumption is water contamination.

Azo dyes are widely used to colour garments as they are cheap and give a wide span of colours. However they won’t break down in natural conditions so when water waste from factories is released into the local environment the dyes pollute local water and put local communities at risk of health problems. Looking out for fabrics certified by OEKO-TEX is one way to ensure dyes used are safe and won’t contaminate waterways. 

Next up; does that dress you've just worn really need washing? Another key place we can reduce the water footprint of our clothes is during their usage. Limit how many times you wash your clothes, or plan in advance so you can do just one weekly wash as opposed to more frequent small washes. 

Where we choose to place our wallets and how we take care of the clothes we own are tangible ways that we, as individuals, can preserve the planet we live on.