veja, people tree, patagonia, organic, cotton, eco fashion

Day 87 / 365

As we continue on our journey towards gettin’ greener this twenty sixteener, I wanted to dedicate a full theme towards the subject of fabrics and the impacts each one, including the ecologically and ethically produced ones, have on the planet.

Cotton is a natural product, meaning that it comes from and can return to the earth sans probleme, which is a beautiful thing. But how cottons comes to be, how much it is tainted in the process, and the impacts it makes during its lifecycle, tells a story we should all come to know.

Approximately 2.4 billion cotton t-shirts are produced every year, they begin their lifecycle as cotton plants which are grown, mostly, half a world away from where they'll be shipped, sold and eventually worn. We as a species consume 24.3 million tonnes of cotton globally per year, and almost half a million of this plant's production is used for t-shirts alone.

One SINGLE t-shirt requires roughly 7.5 bathtubs of water (2000 litres) and if that cotton is non-organic, for every 200 gram piece of fabric, about 150 grams of pesticides will be used. That's nearly as much deadly chemical as there is product, and adds up to about 360,000,00 kilograms of pesticides per year. Which is a shit ton.

That 7.5 bathtubs of water used to produce a SINGLE 200 gram piece of cotton fabric is fresh water and comes from the extremely limited 2.5% of fresh water this planet has to offer us. When cotton is produced with chemicals and pesticides, that 7.5 bathtubs of water PER SHIRT (remember we make 2.4 billion per year!) is tainted with the pesticides turning it into a poisonous offset which plagues the communities said non-organic cotton it is grown in. 

Most cotton is grown in India on land that was not meant to have cotton grown on it, while there are a few eco companies growing organic cotton which is watered by monsoon rain, most use local water sources for their production, organic or otherwise, this unnatural use of their precious resources harms the community.

During the manufacturing process, an additional 5000 litres of water is used per t-shirt sized fabric piece, which is equivalent to 200,000 cups of tea is used and about 1.5kg (a bag and a half of flour) of harmful chemicals is used in production. This is in addition to the pesticides and the 7.5 bathtubs of water used to grow the cotton plant.

75% of the energy associated with t-shirts is used in the laundering process, and an additional 25% of the t-shirts chemical dye will be washed down the drain polluting our eco-systems. This dye gets into our drinking water, as well as the dwelling water of our wildlife because it can’t be removed by our sewage filtration systems.

Every year, from the U.K alone, 1.2 million tonnes of textile waste ends up in the landfill per year. Another 11 million tons of textile waste comes from the USA each year too, which is more than 67,777 blue whales. There aren’t even 67,777 blue whales left on this planet. There are between 10,000 and 25,000. Which means that two of the countries included in the consumerist western world, are producing significantly more waste than there are blue whales in existence. Yearly. According to this infographic, of that amount, only 16% is re-used or recycled. This is 20% less than 5 years ago. In the U.S only 15% of discarded items are sold second hand.

  1. Don’t chuck your stuff. Fix it, reuse it, restyle it, or donate it. 
  2. Support sustainable fashion, its supporting your planet. Buy organic cotton hemp clothing which is produced without the harmful chemicals of their non-organic counterparts.
  3. Host a clothes swapping party, attend an swap event (there's a big EWC sponsored Swap coming up in NYC!), or swap online here.
  4. Buy from a charity shop or second hand online. 
  5. Buy vintage.
  6. Let your clothing air dry (you’ll save about $300 per year on your energy bill … which will cover any additional costs you might have for buying slow fashion, where the planet and people are cared for in the production process!). Plus your clothing will also last longer!

(pesticide and chemical dye free)

veja, people tree, patagonia, organic, cotton, eco fashion

Photos: Shane Woodward (unedited)
* Please Note: this post is not sponsored or gifted by brands, I acquired these pieces as gifts from my family or I bought them myself. I will note here if posts are sponsored. There is one affiliate link included in this post (the patagonia hat) if someone clicks through and buys it, I'll get a couple cents as a commission for the purchase which goes towards the (fairtrade) caffeine infusions required to research these posts ;)