The fashion industry contributes to 20% of industrial water pollution. This is a result of the textile treatments and dyes that get dumped into streams or rivers. In developing countries, where many of our fashion garments are produced, 90% of wastewaters are discharged into rivers without treatment. This wastewater contains many toxic substances such as lead, mercury, and arsenic, which are detrimental for aquatic life and the health of the people living in those areas. For example, it has been shown that these people face higher rates of diseases.
Fertilizers used for cotton to make our clothing also contribute to water contamination. These polluted waters have a large negative impact, especially since contamination spreads around the globe to other bodies of water. The water pollution spreading often makes it difficult for people in countries near these bodies of water to have access to clean drinking water. Desalination, the process that creates fresh drinking water, can unfortunately be too expensive for some countries, leaving them without clean drinking water.
Another way fashion pollutes our waters is by releasing microfibers. Whenever we wash a synthetic garment, such as polyester, microfibers detach from the material and get released into the ocean. Scientists have found that tiny aquatic organisms consume these microfibers, which are eventually eaten by fish. So not only do these microfibers pollute the water, but they enter our food chain. In order to help the problems that fashion causes for our bodies of water, fashion factories would need to find ways to reduce pollution. Even though it is important for companies and factories to produce products responsibly and try to protect the environment, as a consumer, we can still play our part. Any small action makes a difference.
So, what can you do to help?
•Buy less clothing – Try to only buy clothing when you need. Rather than focusing on what is trending, focus on your own style and high-quality pieces that will last. Buying less clothing will lead to a lower demand for clothes and reduce the need for production, which will decrease negative impacts that come with it.
•Discard clothing responsibly - Donate, recycle or pass unwanted clothes on to a sibling or friend. You can also resell clothes on sites like Poshmark or to a consignment store, such as thredUP. When a garment is prevented from ending up in a landfill, it can continue to be used, which also leads to a lower demand for new clothing.
•Wash clothing in a bigger load - This gives microfibers less room to separate from your clothes.
•Support businesses like c.HAIR.i.TEE – Buy from responsible businesses that are making an impact. c.HAIR.i.TEE, for example, prevents fabric from going to waste by using recycled fabrics to make hair accessories. There are also many other companies who are doing great things and are trying to bring awareness to problems that fashion can create. Make sure to support them!