From fashion to sustainability: 3 years’ worth of drinking water goes into making of 1 cotton t-shirt!

02:36 PM Dec 24, 2020 | Shivani Kava |

Lets talk about Fashion!


Our clothes play a huge role in our life. What we wear says something about us and moreover, clothes are a form of expression. Note that I write this while I  am wearing my favorite  Star Wars tee-shirt. And what does that say about me?

The question here is when was the last time you bought clothes and pondered upon the making of it? Well, we as the consumers of fast fashion are so obsessed with buying stuff online that we have no time to bother with such questions.

As Hasan Minhaj in an episode of Patriot Act said, Fast Fashion is about making trendy clothes- quick, cheap and disposable.

What are the factors which make these garments available at an affordable price? For example the most basic piece of clothing- a cotton tee shirt. Let’s have a closer look at the supply chain.


Cotton is grown in 80 countries by 25 million farmers who produced around 25.9million tonnes of fibre in 2018-2019, according to Fashion Network.

Conventional cotton farming uses 2.4% of the world’s land and 6% of the world’s pesticides. To grow one tonne of cotton, one and a half Olympic swimming pools of water is utilized which means that one tee shirt requires around 2700 litres of water. That’s a huge amount of water for a tee shirt considering the fact that cotton is grown in places where water is scarce.

The cotton when spun into yarn uses lots of energy. This process is the second highest source of carbon pollution across the tee shirt’s lifecycle. The process of knitting the cotton yarn into the fabric generates an estimated 394 million tonnes of CO2 per year globally.

Next is the dying process which again takes up a lot of energy and freshwater which becomes contaminated with tiny fibres or chemicals, discharged directly into the environment without being treated. Studies state that each year textile companies discharge millions of gallons of chemically infected water into waterways. A single mill is estimated to use 200 tons of freshwater per ton of dyed fabric.

Especially in India and Pakistan dye wastewater is discharged into rivers and lakes without being treated.
According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the amount of water required to create one cotton t-shirt is equal to three years’ worth of drinking water. So what can we as consumers do?

  1. Adopt Slow fashion
  2. Embrace eco-friendly alternatives such as hemp and bamboo
  3. Making a switch to sustainable clothing and invest in good quality clothing.

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