Instant Karma Newsletter 9.15.20
  • Not only is the fashion industry one of the top producers of carbon emissions, it is second only to oil in polluting freshwater resources. And it’s stunning how much water it takes to make a t-shirt and jeans. 

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How thirsty are your clothes? The sustainable fashion conversation to date has been all about textile manufacturing — organic cotton, upcycled fabrics, lower-emission factories — and much less about how the industry uses an extraordinarily scarce resource: water. 

“Climate change itself is really a story of water, because the warming of the planet is expressed in changes in the way water behaves,” explained Paula DiPerna, special advisor to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), in an interview with Karma.  “Water vapor going up into the atmosphere when it should stay in the ground creates more clouds, which creates more rain, when then creates more wild storms and warmer oceans.”

The fashion industry, already one of the top producers of carbon emissions, is second only to oil in its pollution of freshwater resources. By one estimate, it takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, beginning with the growth of the fibers used in their textiles. The use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, especially for synthetic fibers like polyester, can permanently dry out and damage the soil, in addition to contaminating local water sources. Cotton production alone accounts for 6% of global pesticide use. 

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