Water conservation in the garment industry

Water Consumption: A Global Issue?

Water consumption has been a hot topic in the environmental community for some time. Large quantities of water is required when manufacturing clothing. It has been reported that it takes about 500-1800 gallons of water to produce a single cotton shirt where water is used in many stages of production from growing the cotton seeds to washing, bleaching and dying fabrics, which means there is tremendous amounts of energy that goes into creating the beautiful garments we see on the racks in our favorite stores.

Image credit: PACT

Despite this knowledge we still forget to consider the implications of our own footprint when shopping for clothing. Within the Garment and textile industry it is no different. We often look to larger companies to take charge in making sure the manufacturing of our garments produce a low carbon footprint.

Manufacturers in Bangladesh take charge

Bangladesh boasts the second largest garment/textile industry (China being number one.) It is no wonder that the leaders of industry within Bangladesh see the importance of sustainability in their sector  when looking towards long term goals.

Abdus Sobhan the managing director of Oeko Tex Group (which stands for Confidence in Textiles) says of the garment industry in Bangladesh, “as a responsible garments manufacturer we are always looking for cleaner and greener production.  We have reduced our water consumption almost 50% with the help of PACT (Partnership for Cleaner Textile) we have gotten more details on how to save more energy and more water.

PACT or Partnership for Cleaner Textile is a joint initiative working towards water and resource efficiency in textile factories, by implementing Cleaner Production (CP) measures. Image credit: PACT

High Street fashion label H&M  has also joined on with PACT at their sites in Bangladesh.

Jenny Fagerlin the sustainability manager of the Bangladesh/Pakistan H&M and the Global Social Sustainability Manager of Hong Kong explains

“One of our most important focus area is water throughout the whole value chain of Bangladesh and for production that means that we look into our water usage inside our factories. We have two important commitments: one is towards our global partnership to WWF and the second, is to our local multi-stakeholder platform and program PACT.

The spotlight on Bangladesh shows that globally companies are seeing the value of cutting down water and energy consumption within the industry.

This then brings the burden of responsibility to us as consumers.

At the 2015 Ted Talk in Gothenburg, Sweden Fredrik Wikholm, who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur spoke on the topic of: “The Ability to Question Norms and Set Standards within the Industry.” Wikholm introduced his recycling bag that he hoped the government would fund. He explained to the audience, “By recycling clothing; breaking them down, creating new fibers that will be woven into new fabrics. Stitched together into new garments, allows ethics, environment, and finance to be buddies. Rarely has this happened in our history before…20% of our business is based on recycled fibers, our numbers are going to continue to grow over the coming years.”

Wikholm had many good points within his message and the most important I think was the message of weighing our own contribution to the issue of water consumption.  Things like donating unwanted clothing items and also supporting local brands is a good way to start. Bag2school is an organization that operates here in Canada and also in the UK, America, Scotland, and a few other places. The purpose of the bag2school program is to provide free fund raising for schools. This involves getting students involved in collecting old clothes, hats, ect, placing them in a bag provided to each student by the school, and gets students rallied in trying to raise money for the school while learning about the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle). Schools are paid $200 per tons of clothing collected.

Bag2school is a great organization to support and it also helps children in need, is local, and can be fun for the whole family.

Personally I struggle with trying to decide how much is too much. I try to wash my clothes once a week ensuring that I’m always washing a full load. I also have been getting into learning how to sew. I’m not Ralf Lauren, but knowing how to re-stitch my favorite jean has come in handy many a times. This also helps in me not having to buy an extra pair and I’d like to think that this is my small contribution.

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About the Author

Felecia Bhangu is a 23 year old living in Toronto, Canada. She is currently pursuing a degree in political science at the University of Toronto. She hopes to incite thought and conversation through the pieces she shares on social media and strives to live her life as an example of what clean living, an active lifestyle, and simple gestures of kindness can accomplish. She is passionate about writing and has been involved in various leadership programs provided through the university. She receives inspiration from travelling and meeting new people in order to understand a different way of life.

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