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HML TEXTILE GUIDES

Textiles & Water

Massive amounts of water are diverted from communities to create textiles, the effects of which are especially felt in regions that face water scarcity. The fashion industry consumes 93 billion cubic meters of water annually.1 Interventions are necessary to both reduce water consumption and to address the polluting practice of textile manufacturing.

1 Ellen MacArthur Foundation, A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future, (2017, http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications)

DESIGN STRATEGIES

Reducing Water Consumption

When it comes to the amount of water consumed in textile production, conventional cotton ranks as the most water intensive crop. It is also the most frequently produced. Polyester, another ubiquitous material, uses the second-highest amount of water.

Agents of Contamination

Common watershed contamination issues stem from pesticides that are used to grow conventional natural fibers, and chemicals used in fracking to extract crude oil to create synthetic fibers. Acids, solvents, and heavy metals are also commonly used in the dye and finishing phases of textile production, and further contribute to water contamination.

Address Water Pollution

Each year, half a trillion gallons of freshwater are used in the dyeing process of textiles, amounting to 20% of global industrial water pollution discharged into local watersheds.

“It is not possible to add pesticides to water anywhere without threatening the purity of water everywhere.” -Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Key Product Considerations:

  • Material Origins: Did the processes for growing raw fibers, dyeing, or finishing require large amounts of water?
  • Assess Chemical Outputs: Were toxic chemicals used in any stages of cultivation or production that could enter watersheds and adversely affect human or ecosystem health?
  • Accountability: Were there regulations and audits in place at the site of production to ensure wastewater was properly managed?

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

These are some of many products that are fostering cleaner water practices.

Also In This Series: HEALTH, CLIMATE, CIRCULARITY, WASTE, & SOCIAL EQUITY

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