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Did you know fashion is the second largest consumer and polluter of water? We all know that the world is facing extreme freshwater scarcity. Sad but true, over a billion people don't have access to safe water. Processing raw materials and manufacturing clothing uses an extreme amount of water. For example, producing one pair of denim jeans uses over 900 gallons of water. This amounts to over 400 billion gallons of water every year just to make the jeans sold in the US. This often polluted water is then sent back to our rivers, lakes and oceans . The World Bank estimates almost 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles. Looking at China alone, the textile industry there pumps out 2.5 billion tons of wastewater every year. That's an unfathomable amount of yuck.
Contrary to what some of those crazies say, we think climate change is real and fashion is not making it better. From growing textile fibers to moving fabrics around the world, making clothes contributes to global climate change. Cotton, leather and other raw materials grown in industrial farming operations require large land and energy footprints. Polyester, nylon, and other petroleum-based materials emit harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrous oxide--a very potent greenhouse gas. According to the American Apparel & Footwear Association, 98% of apparel bought in the US was imported from abroad. A single cotton T-shirt transported from Xinjiang, China to Los Angeles results in over 9,000 "clothing miles" and over 2 pounds of CO2 equivalent emissions. Nearly half of the ready-to-wear products Americans buy are manufactured in China, where the textile industry emits 3 billion tons of soot each year, greatly impacting both human and environmental health.
The fashion industry uses a lot of different chemicals and some of them are just plain toxic. The production of textile fibers uses 20 billion pounds of chemicals a year. 2,000 different chemicals, including formaldehyde, chlorine, lead, and mercury are used in textile processing. Of these, over 1,600 are used in dyeing processes, but only 16 are actually EPA approved. Icky runoff from these dye houses can contain heavy metals, alkali salts, toxic solids, and harmful pigments. For example, about 40% of colorants used globally contain organically bound chlorine, a known carcinogen.
Americans throw away over 14 million tons of textiles a year. Over 99% of the clothing thrown away in the US can be recycled or reused, but sadly more than 85% ends up in landfills. Even in a landfill, these materials don't just go away -- Nylon takes 30-40 years to biodegrade, while Polyester requires more than 200 years. Talk about a hand me down.
We don't think Cotton is awesome. About ⅔ of all apparel is made from cotton, and we believe it has some of the most harmful environmental impacts of all fabric. Conventional cotton consumes 10% of the world's pesticides and 25% of the world's insecticides, despite the fact that cotton only uses 2.4% of total arable land. Terrible ratio if you ask us. Most cotton requires high levels of irrigation, and water-intensive processing. A cotton t-shirt can use up to 700 gallons of water to make. Irrigation systems circulate chemical inputs in groundwater, making cotton production the largest textile contributor to freshwater and soil toxicity in the world. And while organic cotton is a step in the right direction, it is still land and water intensive. Organic cotton needs anywhere from 20% to 50% more land to produce the same amount of conventionally grown fiber.
Did you know most fast fashion is actually made out of oil? We were shocked when we found out, too. Polyester, acrylic, nylon, spandex, and acetate are all made from non renewable fossil-fuels (oil), and require a significant amount of energy to produce. For every ton of polyester, manufacturers emit over five tons of CO2. The manufacturing process emits pollution into the air and waterways further harming environmental and human health. These textiles take anywhere from 30- 200 years to biodegrade and release chemicals like formaldehyde, heavy metals, BPA, and PFCs into the environment while they do it. So basically you wear it twice and it lives in a landfill with its formaldehyde and BPA buddies for 200 years.