With the ever-evolving fashion industry, the need to be updated with the recent trends only results in increasing clothes manufacturing. While the garment factories not only produce the latest trendy clothes, they also pollute the earth. On average, a garment factory, for producing one ton of fabric that is used in the jeans and t-shirts that we wear today, takes about 200 tons of water.
This water is more than enough to fill 200 swimming pools. This amount becomes scarier when you consider the total amount of garment manufacturing factories in the world. This scale of environmental pollution has gone out of control and is only increasing with the increasing demand for fashionable clothes.
This issue was noticed by Linda Greer, who is a senior scientist at NRDC and has been working actively to find new ways to reduce the presence of toxic chemicals in our environment.
The fashion industry shares a bigger portion of the blame as the demand for most of these fashionable clothes is a direct result of the latest trends in the market. A huge number of such industries use a large amount of water in manufacturing their products but with the garment industry, this problem becomes more severe, as manufacturing garments requires additional processes such as dyeing, rinsing, and scouring which increase the number of toxic chemicals in the water significantly.
Above all this, extra chemical agents are used to finish the manufacturing process and make the garments soft and wrinkle-free. These chemicals are often poisonous and harmful to any living thing.
Some of these chemicals can even affect growth and damage the liver and other organs. In countries where there are no strict laws regarding this, the chemicals are directly dumped into the local water channels without treating them first. This contaminates the soil and seeps deep down in the water table which eventually harms the agricultural practices in the surrounding areas.
This issue is not only related to the overuse of poisonous chemicals and destroying the aquatic life but it also has a huge impact on energy consumption. Dyeing and finishing the cloth material requires huge amounts of energy. Just a simple process of fading the color of jeans to create a worn-out look makes use of toxic chemicals.
All these problems are not only harmful to the environment but also cost a huge sum of money for the factories that use them. Linda Greer’s solution to this problem is to help such factories take some real steps towards reducing the chemical footprint that they leave on the environment.
A group of few experts monitored how five typical Chinese garment-dyeing mills which used water, chemicals and other materials to produce garments. Greer, after examining and such practices, developed a best practice manual that includes various measures which help to recycle, reuse and reduce the wastage of materials and significantly decrease the amount of resource wastage.
Some of the best practices mentioned in this manual are capturing heat and recycling the water that comes out of the final rinse cycles. Insulating steam systems and reducing leaks in equipment is also mentioned as one of the few important steps that should be taken.
Tweaks such as this have already been implemented in many factories and have helped to save over 3 million tons of water, 61,000 tons of coal and a total of $15 million in production costs.
These changes were done in factories located in china and it has undoubtedly made a huge impact on the environmental footprint that these factories are leaving behind. NRDC is working to make this initiative to be spread all over the world.
Moreover, fashion designers and apparel retailers are working closely to make more improvements in this system while maintaining a good fashion sense. Apparel retailers and clothing brands can use their influencing power to create a demand for clothes created by such processes and help the industry to heal. Such retailers can force the manufacturers to implement such practices to improve the overall efficiency and lessen the environmental footprint that they leave behind.
This step has been highly beneficial for the fashion industry as it is not only improving the efficiency of the industry but is also reducing the overall effect of the factories on mother earth.