Your favourite cotton T- shirt has a dirty secret. It used up 2700 liters of freshwater during its production.
This is called the water footprint of the product and is calculated from 3 types of impacts on our freshwater supplies.
- evaporation of infiltrated rainwater for cotton growth (greenwater supply)
- withdrawal of ground or surface water for irrigation or processing (bluewater)
- water pollution during growth and processing
The use of 2700 liters of water itself is a huge weight on our increasingly scarce water supplies but the fact that these affect the areas prone to droughts already makes it even worse like Pakistan, India, China …
We in the Western world are outsourcing the problem. According to a report about 84% of the water consumption in the EU25 region is located outside Europe, majorly impacting countries like India and Uzbekistan.
So while it is important to turn off the tap while brushing your teeth and taking shorter showers, your direct water consumption is only fraction of your total waterfootprint.
More than 70% of global water usage is dedicated to agriculture for producing food and other crops like cotton.
We need to take care of our water better and apply better farming practises.
This need brought to life the Better Cotton Initiative. An organisation who works with farmers to grow cotton with less water. The impact of them is quite amazing. In Pakistan the organisation worked with 75 000 farmers and they managed to reduce the water consumption of cotton farming by 39% while increasing their income by 11%. They also used less pesticides. It’s a win-win.
The Initiative works on a membership basis. Members have to meet a minimum criteria, they have to commit to improvement as well as paying a membership fee. This fee is used to support the work of the Initiative educating farmers.
Members include some high-street names like: ASOS, Ted Baker, M&S, C&A, H&M, Next, Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Inditex Group (Zara, Oysho etc.) Adidas, Nike, Levi Strauss.
The best thing you can do to help is to buy less and be mindful of the resources needed to produce your clothes.
Take better care of what you own. According to WWF skipping ironing and drying your shirts saves a third of its carbon footprint.
I hate ironing anyway so now I at least have an environmentally sound reason for my wrinkly outfit.