by Rogier Ducloo March 28, 2018
Water plays an important role in the production of t-shirts, as well as the upkeep of the garment. The amount of water used really depends on the type of practices that are being used to produce the garment as well as the ways and how often it is being washed.
In the US, 500-700 gallons of water are used to create GMO/chemical cotton t-shirts. In India, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan, the amount of water used is far greater. When it comes to creating organic t-shirts, farmers work with nature rather than against it. Organic farming focuses on preventing problems before they occur. By managing rather than eliminating weeds and insects, organic farming maintains ecological balance and protects the environment. In support of this, organic farmers are relying more and more on no-till farming, The combination of mulching crop rotation and not tilling the soil builds up the humus layer of the soil, which retains moisture far better, which means less need for irrigation, and therefore less water usage. Here at Allmade, we choose to use less water by having the cotton in our tri-blend t-shirts be 100% organic.
Most of the time when we talk about how much water it takes to make a cotton t-shirt we consider only the amount of water that's needed to cultivate the crop and to produce the garment. When you look at the entire life of a t-shirt, the greatest amount of water use actually occurs during the use phase of the garment. The use phase is considered the time from purchase to disposal. The amount of water used to launder is enormous when considered over the life of the shirt.
You can greatly reduce the amount of water that it takes to upkeep your shirts by being mindful of how you wash them. One of the biggest things you can do is to wash your clothing less. We all tend to wash our clothes a lot more than it really necessary. It is also important to only use your washing machine when it is full. Choose an energy star water and energy efficient model. front loading washing machines use a lot less water than top-loaders. An indirect way to save water is by drying your clothes on a drying rack or clothes line instead of throwing them in the dryer. When you save energy, you also save water because power plants use a lot of water to produce electricity. For the same reason you should wash your clothes in cold water. Most detergents these days are optimized for washing in cold water.
There is no doubt that the production of t-shirts is damaging the environment and reducing the earth’s clean fresh water supply. But, you can help change that! Choose t-shirts that are produced organically and with less water. Make it a point to reduce the amount of water you use while maintaining these shirts as well. Combined, we can all make a big difference.
We would love to hear your thoughts on how we can all save more water as both working in the apparel industry as well as being apparel consumers. Please drop your comments below!