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Is water neutrality a fresh term you will start hearing about?

Is water neutrality a fresh term you will start hearing about?
By Renoon

In the most recent years, carbon-neutrality has become one of the main targets that many fashion brands have decided to tackle on their journey to become more sustainable. And even though, decarbonising the industry is still one of the main checkpoints in their to-do list, there seems to be a new addition to the list: water-neutrality.

But, what is it exactly water-neutrality? In short: reducing the water footprint as much as possible.

In the most recent years, carbon-neutrality has become one of the main targets that many fashion brands have decided to tackle on their journey to become more sustainable. And even though, decarbonizing the industry is still one of the main checkpoints in their to-do list, there seems to be a new addition to the list: water-neutrality.

Why is water neutrality important?

First things first: fashion is very thirsty!

According to a report by the World Wild Life Organization, 2/3 of the planet will not have access to fresh water by 2025. And one of the top industries behind this is the fashion industry – i.e. it is the second most water-thirsty industry in the world, consuming almost 80 billion cubic meters of water yearly (T. Mogavero, 2020).

What is water neutrality in the fashion industry
Comparison between water use of one cotton t-shirt vs. the water supply of humans

Many of the pieces that fashion brands sell are made out of cotton, which needs around 7,000 to 29,000 liters of water for just one kilogram of raw cotton to be produced. Just to put it in perspective: one t-shirt needs around 2,700 liters of water. With this much water, you could drink the recommended amount of liters for 900 days straight!

These numbers have caught the eye of some brands in the industry, leading them to opt for water neutrality.

What is water neutrality?

It is all about reducing the water footprint as much as possible.
It means stopping any waste of even the tiniest drop of water and/or compensating for the water that cannot be used again. 

Like with carbon neutrality, also for water is both about offsetting/compensating by donating to restorative causes, but most importantly reducing the amount of water!

There are different ways that brands are trying to achieve this goal. For example, brands like Magi The Label, use better alternatives to cotton, such as hemp, in order to create underwear – fun fact: not only is hemp less thirsty than cotton, it is also more breathable and stretchier. Or companies like Ksenia Schnaider, who upcycle materials that would otherwise go to waste. This makes better use of resources like deadstock fabrics, – e.i. leftovers from big production that are saved by re-using them – and it also avoids the use of water during the production of these items.

Less than 1% of clothes can be recycled into new apparel

What is water neutrality in the fashion industry
Images via Ksenia Schnaider

Even though upcycling and recycling materials are great ways to begin the process of water neutrality, it is also important to address the elephant in the room: these methods are not enough.

According to Francois Souchet, Head of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular program, “The fashion industry should design clothes with the end of use in mind by integrating recyclable materials, such as lyocell, a fiber made from biodegradable wood pulp,” he stated. “The products are not designed to be turned into new [items] or refreshed in style…the materials that are used mean you cannot economically recycle clothes.”

The rise of the clothes we buy has to lead to an increase in the production of these pieces, which are unfortunately made out of water-thirsty, short-lasting materials.

How to be water-neutral?

What is water neutrality in the fashion industry
Image via “One Field, One T-shirt” by Takahiro Hasegawa shows the process of making just one T-shirt from one flax field. The artist harvested his first flax two years ago (left) and Magi The Label (right)
  • Be more conscious about your shopping habits. Like we said, a big reason why the fashion industry is one of the main giants behind water shortage, is due to the high consumption of clothes. 
  • Try out second-hand shopping! There’s less water use involved in it since you are buying an item that already exists

  • If you are buying new clothes, opt for brands that use sustainably produced cotton: look for certifications like 100% organic cotton, GOTS Certified Organic or recycled. You can also support brands that save water as one of their main priorities. Ps: According to the Soil Association, organic cotton can be grown using 91% less water than its non-organic counterpart!
  • You can also explore “Save Water” as a topic inside of Renoon’s app
  • Along the same lines of option 2, donate/sell your old clothes. This way you will be giving the items that you don’t love as much anymore, a second life!
  • Renting is always an option, especially if we are talking about clothes that are not meant for everyday wear
  • Repurpose your old clothes & be conscious about how you wash them: here is how to care for them to make them last longer

At the end of the day, the obligation to demand a better fashion industry relies on us, consumers. If we continue buying clothes from companies that prioritize money over the environment, we will continue going downhill, and the water shortage will continue to increase.

Let’s be more mindful about where and how much we shop. Let’s continue educating ourselves about what we are shopping, and spread the word. 

Inside of Renoon you can add “Save Water” to your values. 

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