Why is water an issue in the fashion industry?
It is well-known that a high number of fashion companies employ thousands of litres of water to produce a handful of t-shirts. Mekonnen and Hoekstra (2011) specify that global freshwater withdrawals have increased close to sevenfold in the past century; it can take 10,000 litres of water to produce one kilo of cotton, which is the equivalent of six t-shirts you can find in typical high-street stores.
Drying up rivers or lakes to irrigate cotton crops not only has negative repercussions on marine life, but it usually leads to impoverishment of those communities which depends on the same sources of water to grow food. For instance, the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan has been dried up by the cotton factories around the area, leading to poverty for those who had been relying on the Sea for their livelihoods. In the documentary “Fashion’s Dirty Secrets”, the presenter shows that the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan has been dried up by the cotton factories around the area – leading to poverty for those relying on the Sea for their livelihoods.
This highlights how much environmental degradation can affect the life of those who live far away and do not participate in conspicuous consumption as we know it.
Another major issue is pollution from the processing carried out by the textile industry. The Citarum River in Indonesia is surrounded by more than 500 textile factories; mainly manufacturing garments for fast fashion brands including companies such as Gap have been called out polluting the Citarum River. However, PT Gistex Group seems to be also linked to Adidas and H&M. They produce fabric containing 100% polyester. https://www.gistexgroup.com/pages/index.php, which dump toxic chemicals from dying processes into the river’s waters. According to the documentary “The World’s Most Polluted River” on YouTube, 3 million people live alongside the Citarum’s banks; they have no choice but to wash their clothes and their food from those chemically filled water sources.
Once again, we can notice how much human rights and environmental rights are firmly connected.
The cotton used by Beatrice Bayliss is sourced by Lebenskleidung and it is GOTS certified. This means our collections only use organic cotton, which is GMO-free and grown without the use of harmful pesticides. Importantly, organic cotton farming enhances biological diversity (Harshitha, Kumar and Jain, 2021) and uses considerably lower amounts of water (it is estimated that a Beatrice Bayliss t-shirt employs 91% less water to be manufactured). Stay tuned on our Instagram account for a fabric spotlight on organic cotton!
You can shop our Face 1 and Face 2 shirt on our website. Both garments are made of 100% certified organic cotton. Your conscious and informed purchase is a significant step towards demanding a fairer fashion system for the environment and its people!
By Chiara Tecchio
BBC News, 2015. Aral Sea: The sea that dried up in 40 years. [online] Youtube.com. Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5N-_69cWyKo> [Accessed 1 September 2022].
DW Documentary, 2020. The World's Most Polluted River. [online] Youtube.com. Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEHOlmcJAEk> [Accessed 1 September 2022].
Harshitha, A., Kumar, S. and Jain, A., 2021. A Review on Organic Cotton: Various Challenges, Issues and Application for Smart Agriculture. 2021 10th International Conference on System Modeling & Advancement in Research Trends (SMART),.
Mekonnen, M. and Hoekstra, A., 2011. The green, blue and grey water footprint of crops and derived crop products. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 15(5), pp.1577-1600.