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World Water Day: Environmental Impact of the Fashion Industry on this Resource

Fashion Sustainability

World Water Day: Environmental Impact of the Fashion Industry on this Resource

By March, 2023No Comments
World Water Day

Today, March 22nd is World Water Day. Although water covers 70% of the planet’s surface, only 3% is fresh. Nearly 69% of this fresh water is found in the polar ice caps and 30% in the underground water tables. Only 1% of fresh water is easily accessible and consumable. It is therefore important to take care of this scarce resource.

Fashion is an industry that uses a considerable amount of water throughout its production process.

From the cultivation of raw materials such as cotton or linen, to the dyeing of fabrics, through printing and finishing, water is used in large quantities.

According to the United Nations, the production of a single cotton t-shirt requires an average of 2,700 liters of water. This includes the water needed to irrigate the cotton and the manufacturing process of the t-shirt.

This non-reasoned use of water resources reduces the resources available for human consumption, for less profitable food crops and leads, in the most serious situations, to desertification.

The impact of this intensive use of water resources is also felt in the quality of the water, which is polluted by the chemicals used in the dyeing and finishing processes, impacting the fauna, flora and local communities.

Chemical discharges from the textile industry into a river

Chemical discharges from the textile industry into a river

Nevertheless, the fashion industry is starting to become aware of this problem and is seeking to reduce its impact on this rare commodity, fresh water.

Some brands have already started to use low or zero water consumption dyeing methods, such as:

    • Air dyeing: This technology uses a dry, powder-based dye that is applied to the fabric with compressed air. The dye adheres to the fabric without the need for water and the excess powder can be recovered and reused.
    • Digital printing: This technique prints patterns directly onto the fabric using inkjet technology. Unlike traditional printing methods, digital printing does not require water or chemicals and can produce highly detailed, full-color designs.
    • Dry dyeing: The process involves placing a transfer paper, containing a dye or pigment, on the fabric, then applying heat and pressure to transfer the color to the fabric. This process can be used on a variety of fabrics, including cotton, polyester and nylon, and results in vivid and accurate colors. Dry dyeing has several advantages over traditional dyeing methods. It requires much less water, as no water is used in the dyeing process itself. It also reduces the amount of chemicals needed to dye the fabric.

Some textile mills have begun to recycle the water used in their production processes to reduce their overall consumption.

As consumers, we can also take action to reduce the impact of fashion on water, and the environment more broadly, by purchasing sustainable, quality clothing.

We can choose brands that implement sustainable practices to reduce their impact on the environment.

The fashion industry has a significant impact on water, but progress is being made to reduce this footprint.

We all have a role to play and need to be aware of this to help preserve water resources for future generations.

This is why the IFA Paris fashion school trains today’s and tomorrow’s professionals in more sustainable techniques and organizations, making them aware of these issues which can be a real source of creativity.

Interested in learning more about sustainable fashion? Check out our Short Course Upcycling Fashion and our Bachelor in Fashion Sustainability.