Equa Blog - News, Views and Ethical Styling...

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Your Wardrobe's Water Footprint

We hear a lot about our carbon footprint and the need to reduce it, but do you ever think about your water footprint?

On the Water Footprint Network (WFN) website you can calculate your individual water footprint. The links between domestic water use and the size of your footprint are fairly obvious but I found the section on virtual water use particularly thought provoking. The virtual water content of a product refers to the sum of all the fresh water required to produce it. Along its various stages of production one cotton shirt for example requires approximately 2,700 litres of water to produce (See the WFN product gallery for more details). The effects of this consumption are felt most keenly in the areas where the cotton is grown, often in semi arid conditions in developing countries. The consequences of intensive irrigation can be disastrous. In Uzbekistan drawing water for irrigation from rivers that feed the Aral Sea caused it to loose 60% of its area and 80% of its volume between 1960 and 2000 (See The water footprint of cotton consumption).

This highlights to me the importance of choosing less 'thirsty' materials such as hemp and utilising recycled fabrics. Or in the case of cotton going for organic cotton. Organic cotton is preferable to conventionally grown cotton for several reasons. Fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides all require water to dilute them. Moreover the crop rotation system used in organic farming allows the soil to have better water retention due to increased organic matter in the soil. In addition precious water supplies are less likely to become contaminated from run-off of agricultural chemicals used in the cotton fields.

From left to right: Recycled Parachute Dress by Debbie Little, Hemp/Silk Hobo Dress by Julia Smith, Organic Cotton Rennie Jeans by Ruby.

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