Green Blue Book Blog: Garments Guzzle Water
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 8 million tons of clothing and footwear enter the waste stream annually, and only a fraction is reused or recycled. That means, on average, you and I each throw away 54 pounds of textiles per year. Out the door with those clothes go tens of thousands of gallons of water.
But were not throwing away as much as were buying. So in addition to piling up perfectly good clothing in landfills, were also stockpiling our wardrobes. Most American women, for example, have more pairs of jeans than there are days of the week! And blue jeans are far from water lean.
Every new pair of jeans costs nearly 3,000 gallons of water to make. Given that 450 million pairs are sold annually in the United States, that comes to nearly 1.4 trillion gallons of waterthe equivalent of half of Californias entire yearly urban water demand.
Why so much water? Well, theres the water to grow the cotton used to make the clothing, the water used to process the raw material in the textile mill, and then all the water needed to flush out the chemicals used in the field and in the factory.
Buying new clothing has less to do with function and fit than it does with self-expression these days. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, clothing is a great way to express a whole lot more than just your fashion senseyou can use it to express your water consciousness, too.
Here's how to choose how much water youre carrying with that shirt on your back.
- Bottom Line:
- Less is more. Shorts, short-sleeved shirts, and ankle socks may expose more skin, but it takes less water to make them. The more material, the more water used. Keep your clothing skimpy.
- Material matters. Egyptian cotton means twice as much water is needed for irrigation as good ol made-in-the-USA cotton, while wool is mostly a matter of shearing. Animal skins (like leather) are never cool as far as water goes: They require the most water.
- Secondhand is suitable. Extending the life of a garment extends the water supply. Selecting vintage keeps more water in the ground and less on your back; theres no need for virgin materials to be manufactured.