The other day Jez said to me “Do you know how much water it takes to make a pair of jeans?”…
Actually I didn’t, I hadn’t really given it much thought to be honest. I had thought about the pesticides and fertilisers used for growing the cotton and the conditions for workers in maufacturers’ factories but I hadn’t considered the water. The number that Jez told me was absolutely astonishing – was that right? I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Doing a bit of research online I found that the figures quoted on different websites varied between 2000 and 6000 litres of water for just one pair of jeans. I also read that to stonewash a pair of jeans takes an additional 20 – 750 litres! Just to put this in perspective the UN recommends that people need a minimum of 50 litres of water per day for the most basic needs such as drinking, cooking and sanitation. Millions don’t even have that.
I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t, at some point, owned at least one pair of jeans. So of course I’m thinking ‘by how many billions are we multiplying this water use to see the REAL figure?’. A gargantuan figure and growing of course.
Water conservation is an issue for every country in the world and with Climate Change this will only get worse. But for two of the main cotton producing countries, China and India and increasingly more countries in Africa, water shortage is a big problem. On top of this water supplies are poisoned by toxins from the cotton growing itself and, later, other chemical processes such as ‘distressing’ the jeans.
Aside from the obvious effects of drought, lack of water has also lead in some areas to conflict over this precious resource. Do we really need to make the problems worse?
So, what’s the solution?
As we all know by now, there are pros and cons in all your eco decision-making but first things first; Stop and think. Our Jeans are the staple of our wardrobe, I know, but consider your buying carefully. Jeans are great because they’re tough and long lasting so why rush this decision? Here are some things to consider:
- Organic cotton still needs a lot of water and so this is one of the times that organic isn’t necessarily the answer – although organic and Fairtrade cotton is definitely better than not!
- Check out where your cotton is grown and how the water is managed there. Some cotton farmers in Australia are not able to access water for the cotton crops until the needs of the local towns and environment have been met first.
- Hemp crops require much less water (as well as being higher yield and more pest resistant than cotton) so how about Hemp Jeans? It’s illegal to grow Hemp in the UK and US though so there may be air miles involved.
- Don’t shy away from pre-loved and recycled jeans. I’m a big fan of vintage and second hand though to some the thought of this is horrifying. But, really, think about the water! Jeeez!
If you liked that post, then try these...
Simple: Shoes for a happy planet by Vicky on January 17th, 2010
A Whole Lotta Love for GGG Tees by Vicky on September 3rd, 2009
The Green Girls Global and Green Guys Global tees are all about projecting ideas for global sustainability.
The Green Model Search is On by Vicky on August 16th, 2009
US green fashion retailer Greenloop is asking "Are you the next green girl?".