It takes about three years’ worth of drinking water—about 713 gallons—to make your favorite cotton T-shirt according to Kirsten James of Ceres. James recently toured New Fashion Products, a Los Angeles textile supplier, and discovered just how essential water is to the apparel industry’s supply chain—from growing plant fibers like cotton, to textile manufacturing, fabric washing, and dying. You can read her News Deeply article here.
Like other commercial and industrial processes, James found that the fashion industry is making concerted efforts to streamline its water usage and improve its water stewardship, from conducting life-cycle assessments on core products to innovating water-less dye processes, and pledging to use organic cotton, it seems that clothing manufacturers are increasingly focused on sustainability and water efficiency.
According to Bobby Ahn president and CEO at New Fashion Products, the evaluative process alone of performing energy and water audits has helped his team make more informed business decisions and has significantly increased the plant’s operational efficiency. As a result, the New Fashion Products team has explored a variety of ways to reduce water use. It has experimented with enzymes to decrease the number of washing cycles, with using ozone machines that bleach garments without water, and with using machines with formaldehyde-free resins to reduce water pollution.
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But the clothing industry is just one example of the many industries recognizing the need to increase awareness and maintain accountability. Careful monitoring of water quality, auditing of usage, and streamlining of processes is a growing trend among industrial water end-users.
A 2015 report from Global Water Intelligence indicates that industrial plant operators across sectors are becoming ever more concerned with environmental sustainability. From chemical and electronics manufacturers, to food, beverage, and paper producers, and oil and gas refinery corporations, the report indicates that companies today see the value of water conservation for big-picture sustainability as well as for their bottom line.
In the article James explains that apparel industry leaders including Levi Strauss & Co., Eileen Fisher, and Patagonia have begun to transform not only their companies, but the industry as a whole by joining forces to inform water usage policy and architect improved conservation practices. All three companies are members of organizations such as Bluesign and Businesses for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), a coalition that works directly with business community allies to affect legislation involving water issues. These organizations intend to support water conservation efforts from the agricultural field to the factory and the policy table.
Do you think that we will be seeing more industries partner in support of improved water conservation practices and technologies in the coming years? Is this something that your organization has considered? What have your experiences been?