We all know that water is in crisis. Water scarcity impacts over 2.8 billion people around the world, with 1.2 billion lacking access to clean drinking water. Growing contamination concerns threaten us all.
When we think about what makes drinking water dangerous, we often reach for the big, dramatic examples the news media and Hollywood have put forward. Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich, revealing the crimes of PG&E, fracking films starring Matt Damon, the stock image of the factory sitting on the edge of a lake, spewing toxic sludge into the town’s drinking supply.
If we broaden our question about what pollutes our water, we may conjure up images of the Exxon Valdez tragically sinking into the Prince William Sound, disrupting the delicate balance of the single largest biome on earth.
The truth is, these things greatly contribute to the pollution facing our water systems, but they’re not the whole picture. In the 21st century, we are well aware of the fact that the pollution of one commons leads to the pollution of another commons, as Sherri Mason explains in this TIME article.
What might surprise you is that you are probably wearing, sitting or standing on one of the biggest threats to our water supply: fabrics comprised of microscopic plastic fibers. Everything — from your cozy blanket to your shag rug to your favorite outfit — is shedding minuscule fibers too small to be filtered out in the water treatment process.
These toxic fibers come from synthetic textiles — specifically polyester, nylon and acrylic — the “ubiquitous three”. In the past five years, synthetic fabrics have begun to exceed cotton and other natural fabrics in consumer demand, so even if you upcycled your most adorable patchwork dress, you’ve likely used a patch here and a patch there that contain harmful contaminants.
Microfibers are showing up in the guts of marine life in food markets. A recent study by the University of Minnesota estimates that as much as 94% of U.S. tap water is contaminated by microfibers. Bottled water is similarly affected. And at this point, experts have no idea how this pollution will impact human health.
So what can we do to halt this problem in its tracks? Here are a few solutions:
- Wash differently. “Lower, shorter, colder” is your new mantra when it comes to washing and drying your synthetic fabrics. Wash your spandex pants as infrequently as you can. If you’re able to customize the wash, wash synthetics for the shortest time possible. Switch to liquid laundry soap since the grains in powder soaps tend to be more exfoliating, stripping the clothing of more fibers during the wash cycle. Use a colder wash setting. And whatever you do, don’t wash lint down the drain. Throw it away.
- Spread the word. Speak up about microfiber pollution. It can be difficult to build awareness around eco issues, especially when it means your aunt Sally might not be able to buy a new pair of her favorite yoga pants in good conscience. Talk to your friends and family in ways that invite them into the action. Sign petitions. The more people we mobilize, the better.
- Buy different fabrics. This is more of the long-game approach, but it’s worth it. In a society run by capitalism, where we put our money matters. It doesn’t make sense to say you’re going to throw out every fabric shedding microfibers currently in your house. You’d probably be left with a bare house. But it’s a goal to aim for in the moving target of keeping our earth safe and habitable. Whenever you can moving forward, buy products made from natural fibers — cotton, linen, and wool, etc.
Like most environmental crises, cleaning up our water is going to be a tough task. One that will take grassroots awareness efforts, growing commitment and a change in the attitudes of consumers. But our environment is worth fighting for, worth changing for…one favorite outfit at a time.
About the author
Stuart Berman is a style and fashion industry vet, designing and launching successful men’s fashion brands that have been sold in the catalogues of Saks Fifth Avenue, Harrods of London, and on MTV. After going through an organic awakening with his wife and wanting a better future for his family, Stuart turned to natural fabrics, and is launching his new clothing line, Blue Zipper, in the fall of 2017.
Ethical Consumer have partnered with campaign group Fashion Revolution to publish the first edition of a new Fashion Transparency Index.
The index includes 40 of the biggest global fashion brands and ranks them according to the level of transparency in their supply chain.
They feel that more transparency equals greater consumer and regulatory accountability in the supply chain of fashion companies.
This Index represents the start of a process whereby we can answer the question ‘who made my clothes'.
Its launch co-incides with the 3rd anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster where 1,134 people were killed in a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh. The factories operating in that building made clothes for over a dozen well-known international fashion brands, some of whom are included in this Index.
- Levi Strauss & Co, H&M, Inditex (Zara, Pull & Bear, Bershka, etc.), Adidas and Primark are the most transparent global fashion companies compared to the rest of the brands surveyed.
- The average score for the 40 brands we surveyed is 42%, with Levi Strauss & Co coming top of the class with 77%.
- Chanel came bottom with just 10%, closely followed by Forever 21, Claire’s Accessories, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Prada, sending a strong signal that luxury brands in particular have much more work to do.
Ethical Consumer have created an action page where you can easily contact the worst companies (either via their websites or on Twitter).
Support Fashion Revolution with an Ethical Consumer subscription
As part of the campaign they are also offering readers a special subscription offer.
For every subscription they sell as part of the campaign we are giving £10 to Fashion Revolution.
Subscribe now to take advantage of this opportunity.
We hope that you find the report interesting and useful.
This January, Ethical Consumer want to promote slow fashion, the opposite to the mainstream fast fashion narrative. They suggest boycotting the frantic seasonal sales and instead learning to love the clothes you're in.
To spread this message they have put together some simple tips on extending the life of your clothes.
And, as part of this drive for a more ethical approach to fashion, the Ethical Consumer team have been sharing images of their long loved and pre-loved clothes.
They will be taking to Twitter from 10:00am until 5:00pm today(5th Jan.) to share more of their images and would love you to share yours with them too.
Simply take a photo of yourself in your favourite second-hand or old piece of clothing and share it with them on Twitter using #fightfastfashion and #ethicalfashion.
They will also be live blogging throughout the day and posting the best images on the Ethical Consumer site.
It's a great way help spread the word about ethical fashion and they hope you'll join them in the twittersphere.
Whenever we talk about our footprint, we always take into account things such as the amount of fuel we use to travel to and from work, the length of time we leave our heating on at home and how much electricity we use on a daily basis; but if we all look a little closer – not to home, but to ourselves – its clear that so much more can be done to reduce our environmental footprint on the planet; in a very literal sense.
Eco Friendly lifestyle
There’s much to be said for eco-friendly alternatives to the things we use in everyday life such as cleaning products, sanitary products and even food that we eat; but it’s the things that we wear that can have a huge impact on our carbon footprint over the years and one area that has seen significant growth in recent times. With issues such as sustainability, chemical use in clothing production and ethical product methods, more and more people are becoming aware of exactly what it takes to make disposable and poor quality high street fashion. Despite a cheaper end cost, it’s not enough to offer a discounted item of clothing or a product and call it ‘organic’ or any other label to attract an eco-conscious crowd as consumers demand to know more about where their clothing has come from and what the effects are on the environment.
Organic cotton and natural dyes are just some of the buzzwords you’ll find flying around the fashion industry but to be sure that they are being used, it doesn’t take much to do a little research into the clothing you’re going to buy. Most brands websites are very good at providing information on where and how their products and ingredients are sourced, as well as the ways in which they are produced. Furthermore, these brands are proud of their achievements and will happily explain their methods of manufacturing for all to see and to set an example to others. But of course, it’s not just clothing that’s altering the footprint of the fashion industry, its shoes themselves too. Footwear is amongst the most unethically produced items on the fashion scene thanks to their use of leather, suede and rubber and the methods in which they are reared and retrieved; but many household names are making a big impact with their vegan friendly alternatives which make the most of synthetic alternatives. While aimed at the vegan market these shoes are becoming a popular choice because more people are aware of them and want to ensure that their footprint isn’t as damaging as it perhaps once was. Brands such as Merrell and Macbeth, are making it possible to enjoy a cleaner footprint whatever kind of activity you’re planning on doing, with sports and adventure footwear, walking shoes and boots, sandals and even casual trainers all available without the guilt of bad manufacturing hanging over your head.
Opting for a greener way of living doesn’t always have to involve major cut back in areas of your life that sometimes can’t be helped. After all, heating a house in winter is essential and avoiding it isn’t always possible. But sensible and simple choices in the products that we buy can make a world of difference
Soft cotton shirts with plaid prints, dresses adorned with stripes, floral and psychedelic neon prints, jeans splashed with camouflage and animal prints – all sorts of prints can be seen everywhere these days. From runways to ready-to-wear racks, prints have become one of fashion’s greatest pillars. Nowadays it takes just one great print to set off a worldwide fashion trend, which is why designers and textile printers are focussing more on prints than ever before.
But it takes more than just a pretty print to sell a garment. As a designer or textile printer, you must have the right materials and methods to produce high quality prints that not only look good and on-trend, but are also comfortable to wear and produced in sustainable ways. And this is where water-based inks truly shine.
Not Just About Fashion
For many designers and textile printers, working with water-based inks may be a distant second to working with plastisol inks for several reasons. Plastisol ink is versatile and easy to use, doesn’t harden and clog printing screens, and has great opacity. But there are also downsides to using plastisol ink – for one, prints are thicker and less breathable, which mean some discomfort for the wearer. Plastisol ink also bunches up at the seams, and since it’s essentially made of plastic, it can feel sticky and even melt when exposed to heat.
Water-based inks are not as easy to manipulate as plastisol inks; they can be time consuming to work with and can clog printing screens if left there too long. But unlike plastisol inks that simply sit on top of fabric, water-based inks are absorbed by the fabric so the colour sinks deep, maintaining the texture of the fabric. The result is breathable and comfortable clothes with vibrant colours that move with the fabric.
Prints for Preservation
Water-based inks not only offer wearers of printed clothing both comfort and style, they offer much more to the world. Because they are made with water as their primary solvent, water-based inks contain no harmful substances such as PVC, phthalates, CFCs or other volatile solvents – chemicals which harm health and the environment and are most often found in plastisol inks. The manufacture and disposal of water-based inks also have a far lesser negative impact on the environment compared to that of plastisol inks. This means that clothing printed with water-based inks are far safer and healthier, and in the long run, help preserve our environment better.
So whether you’re a designer, a textile printer or simply someone who loves to wear printed and patterned clothing, remember: clothing isn’t just about fashion. The liveliest, most extravagant of designs may keep you ahead in fashion trends but without comfort, clothing just wouldn’t be the same and wouldn’t be as wearable. And in a world where resources are slowly depleting, it’s important to take part in environmental preservation through sustainable means, and that means choosing more eco-friendly printing options.
Why work with water-based inks? The better question is, why not? With its ability to combine comfort, style, creativity and eco-friendliness, water-based inks are truly the best textile printing option for today’s world.
By Debra Wright
Debra Wright is a Marketing specialist, cupcake enthusiast and online author trying to make a mark in the web in not less than 500 words. Her motto: keep to your side of the bed. Follow her on twitter @debrawrites
Making her Christmas special can be a tough job for anyone, but making it green can be all you need to ensure she is made up with her gifts! Eco friendly gifts can show a lot of thought, effort and attention, which all women love when it comes to opening their presents! If you want to make her Christmas special and eco-friendly, then check out these top gift ideas.
It is very true that women love clothes, even more so when they are eco-friendly. There are various stores that offer environmentally friendly and fair trade clothing that the woman in your life will be more than happy to wear. You can find items such as recycled yarn socks, fair trade scarves and even whole outfits made with the environment in mind. Green clothes doesn't mean that your mother, daughter, sister or partner has to dress up like an elf this Christmas, it just means that they are made using recycled materials, fair trade workers or other eco-friendly methods. There are whole stores and websites dedicated to ethical and environmentally friendly clothes, so take a look through and make sure you know her size!
Environmentally friendly jewellery
The next thing on any women's gift list has got to be jewellery, this is a must-have for grown ups and little ladies alike. Many people understand that a lot of jewellery on the market is not exactly ethical, with the constant news about mines and poor working conditions. If you want to get your loved one jewellery, but don't want it to cost the earth, then there are some eco-friendly and fair trade options too. Look for metals that are recycled, or even leather or rope instead of silver and gold. Rope and leather bracelets are extremely popular at the moment and mean that the lady in your life can adorn them with their favourite charms and accessories. Make sure that whatever you pick is something truly special, or even get it personalised to achieve that ‘wow' factor when it is opened on Christmas day!
A lady can never have enough cosmetics or smellies in their bathroom, which is why they make the perfect Christmas gift. Those who would prefer to stick to high street shopping should take a peek into the wonderful world of Body Shop and Lush for a whole range of eco-friendly options when it comes to bath time and even make-up! If you would prefer to order online then there are websites dedicated to selling environmentally friendly cosmetics. All of the ingredients should be natural and not tested on animals for them to even warrant being ‘green'. If you are unsure what the woman in your life might like then take a sneaky look through her bathroom cupboards when she's not looking. You'll find out her favourite smelling shower gel and perhaps even the shade of her foundation. If you're still stuck for ideas then try asking around members of the family or friends. Making sure you get the right type of cosmetics will make all the difference when it comes to your gift being used or re-wrapped and given to someone else!
Buying gifts for her doesn't have to be hard, as long as a little thought goes into them. You can have an eco-friendly gift personalised for something a bit more special, or find out her favourite fragrance and find the ‘green' option that she is bound to love!
Debbie Manhis is has been living proud and green for over a decade and loves to share her tips with everyone. She writes on behalf of http://www.boutiquetoyou.co.uk
The fashion industry creates a surprisingly high carbon footprint due to the production, dying and distribution of clothes and textiles that involves large quantities of water, fertilizer, pesticide and fuel. The cheap costs of clothing have created a culture where products are considered disposable and are thrown away when they are no longer wanted.
The struggling economy has had no effect on the buying habits of consumers in Europe. In fact, clothing sales continue to increase while less than half of used clothing is recycled or donated. Great Britain has seen an increase of 60 percent in the last 10 years resulting in around 1.1 million tons of discarded fabric every year.
Recycling just 1 pound of clothing can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 4 pounds. The main problem is sorting textiles manually on a large scale is unfeasible due to the high costs this incurs. The newest idea comes from a consortium in Northern Europe who wants to develop a machine which would be able to sort clothing by fabric type in order for it to be recycled. For fashion lovers, this would mean reusing the materials from out of date clothing for the latest trends.
An infrared light is what this machine uses to determine the type of fabric in a piece of clothing and then places it into the corresponding receptacle. Clothing is sorted into the six categories of pure wool, cotton, polyester, acrylic and two common cotton compounds. After sorting, the clothing is shredded into fibers that can be spun into new textiles.
A similar process is already used by the charity KICI based in the Netherlands. The charity has around 1,100 collection points around the country from which they collect around 30 percent of the total of the nation's discarded clothes. The workers separate clothing into items that can still be worn and fabrics that will be turned into low grade stuffing or a moldable material resembling plastic. As the process is carried out entirely by contractors, it cannot be nearly as efficient as a clothes sorting machine.
Green living has an effect on all aspects of life for which everyone can play a role of responsibility. Many fashion designers and clothing manufacturers who transport their products have already opted to use a greener system with the gas being used for their fleets. We as individuals though can help by being more careful about how we dispose of clothing by seeking eco-friendly alternatives. Reducing the carbon footprint of the fashion industry could be a tremendous feat as many people have converted to greener living with just about everything, besides their clothes.
Mercedes Potter loves fashion, but also wants to support green living. She discusses new resources that may make reducing the carbon footprint of the fashion industry, possible. Follow her @CedesPotter to read other interesting blog posts.