Water and the textile industry: change is urgently needed
The relationship between water and the textile industry has existed since we started making fabrics for clothing and home, hundreds of years ago. We are sometimes unaware that water not only allows us to survive, but that it is essential for growing cotton, the most common material used to make fabrics of all kinds. But it doesn't stop there, water is also essential for obtaining other fibres that make up a wide variety of garments and accessories, as well as for carrying out the manufacturing processes of a garment: spinning, weaving, dyeing, finishing, manufacturing, transporting and distributing.
In short: water literally saves our lives. That is why, taking advantage of this month's World Water Day (22 March), we would like to highlight the importance of protecting this essential resource and review what actions we can take in our daily lives to reduce the environmental impact of textiles.
Why is the relationship between water and the textile industry a cause for concern?
According to the United Nations, it takes about 3,000 litres of water to produce a T-shirt, without taking into account the amount we use to clean the garment over its lifetime. The problem is that, with the advent of fast fashion, the consumption of clothing and accessories has increased fivefold compared to what it was in the early 1990s, resulting in garments of lower quality and a use that, in most cases, does not exceed two or three years. Much of this excessive growth is due to the decentralisation of textile factories of major brands in countries with very lax labour and environmental policies, which allows for huge cost reductions and production at a rate that is unsustainable for the planet.
Double problem: over-consumption and water pollution
This global panorama places us in front a scenario of great water shortage caused by two main factors: on the one hand, water consumption in the textile industry is increasing at an alarming rate and, on the other hand, the pollution left behind by waste in the different manufacturing phases means that the natural process of recycling and purifying water is much slower than the rate of production. This is how the textile industry becomes the second largest polluter of the planet's water, only behind agriculture.
In the absence of sustainable policies and control mechanisms in many countries, the waste resulting from these processes ends up in rivers and oceans around the world, choking local populations and wildlife.
What can we do to encourage a shift towards more sustainable production and consumption of textiles?
To a greater or lesser extent, we are all consumers of textile products, whether for clothing or home linen, so it is up to us to contribute to the shift towards a more sustainable model.
1. Prioritise quality vs. quantity:
Investing in pieces made to last, with quality materials and finishes, is not only a sustainable bet, but also allows us to appreciate and become aware of the objects around us. Moreover, the feel and look of blankets made from recycled materials or recycled rugs has nothing to do with the sensations aroused by the accessories we find in fast fashion circles.
2. Taking good care of our garments:
It is time to read the labels and take an interest in the care of our garments in order to extend their useful life in the best possible conditions.
3. Conscious washing:
In line with the previous point, washing only when necessary, using eco programmes or washing by hand are some actions that contribute to saving water. Let's make a more sustainable life at home.
4. Choose products made from recycled fibres:
5. Repair, recycle and create:
With a little imagination and willpower we can extend the use of garments and accessories and even give a new look to our wardrobe or room. Have you heard of upcycling? This technique consists of mixing different fabrics and prints from old garments to design new pieces of clothing or ethnic decor accessories.
As well as being a very inspiring activity, browsing vintage shops allows you to extend the life of products of all kinds and slow down unsustainable production rates.
8. Choose ethical brands:
In a world with so many possibilities, your consumption and lifestyle choices can make a difference and make your home a sustainable home. Choosing responsible brands is a way to contribute to the growth of projects with a positive impact on people and/or the environment.
At Blankets Of The World we create boho decor accessories made in Spain and Italy with 100% recycled materials and wrapped in plastic-free packaging. In addition, we collaborate with reforestation projects to offset the CO2 we generate with our activity and contribute to improving the living conditions of local communities. And you? Are you joining the change?