It is not common knowledge to know which materials have a negative effect on our planet, and although many materials are hard to avoid, it is important to know what we are placing on our body.
Cotton is one of the most popular fibres used in the textile industry, but it is definitely not sustainable. To create one kilogram of cotton, over thirty thousand litres of water is needed. One would never believe that the t-shirt they are wearing could have only been made with the aid of two thousand, seven hundred litres of water. Cotton does not only require a lot of water but a strong relationship with insecticides and pesticides to produce the vital fibres. These chemicals pollute the environment and are extremely harmful to the health of workers who farm the cotton.
Nevertheless we have Organic Cotton! This fair-trade alternative to cotton is biodegradable, sustainable and renewable and is actually beneficial to our planet. No hazardous chemicals are used neither toxic dyes which are harmful to your skin.
The more synthetic clothing you wear, the more risk you place on toxic chemicals touching your body. Polyester is made from petroleum and is a non-biodegradable fabric. The base of polyester is actually plastic which can also be harmful to your body. When created it uses large amounts of water and lubricants in a very aggressive way. However, the life process of polyester is not as damaging as other fabrics and is completely recyclable at the end of it’s life.
The most common form of material dying is synthetic, and although it creates the brightest colours it is highly toxic. Natural dyes on the other hand, are not as bright, and also need to rely on sufficient land to grow the ingredients required.
The most unsustainable and unethical element of dying clothes is the amount of water that is used. Millions of litres of water is wasted on various dying techniques in which the fabric has to be dipped, washed or sealed. Therefore, hundreds of factories across the world are left with continuous large amounts of water that can not be cleaned. This is called dye effluent. It is cheaper for the factories to dump this water than to clean it and re-use it. Consequently leaving the untreated waste water to be dumped back into rivers and lakes. Moreover, the contaminated water affects the habitat in which fishes and other species live in, and are often killed due to the chemicals from the dye seriously affecting them.
Nevertheless there is a process in which factories can treat the dye effluent. In most countries it is now against the law to discard of the water without treating it correctly first. When the water is treated, the dye separates from the clean water and leaves a colourful sludge. We are then left with the problem of how to dispose the sludge.
On the other hand, there are natural dyes available. These can be from tea, coffee, indigo, turmeric and even beetroot. The colours are not as bright, and the ingredients need land adequate to grow on, but it is a method that is kinder to our world. Natural dyes will struggle with mass production, since there are many laborious steps into making a sustainable garment therefore should be considered a luxury.