How to reduce the water footprint of the fashion industry?
In the last century, technology and development have driven up demand for water, speeding it up more than twice as fast as the population growth rate. More worryingly, water use is predicted to increase by 50 % between 2007 and 2025 in developing countries and 18% in developed ones. Climate change is expected to bring about more extreme weather conditions more frequently, including temperature rises and droughts as well as devastating floods and unpredictability in precipitation patterns. These are likely to hit poorer countries and precarious livelihoods first and harder.
This calls for urgent reprioritization of resources to address water-related challenges caused by climate change, population growth and development. To resolve the tension between the need for water for development and its scarcity, water is central to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Water use within fashion, the second-largest most water-intensive industry after agriculture, is set to rise by 50% by 2030. Textile production in general has such a large water footprint due to highly “thirsty” crops, such as cotton.
Next to water sources depletion, water pollution with toxic chemicals and textile waste – the environmental impact of the textile and fashion industry on water resources worldwide runs deep. It is estimated that the fashion industry causes 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution, with textile dyeing amongst the most severe causes of freshwater pollution worldwide. Microfiber textiles have non-biodegradable microscopic plastic components that get shed during washing and end up polluting the oceans, endangering marine life first, and then the earth’s entire life-cycle.
The scale of the problem is being underlined by the stewardship and commitment from the fashion world, in a bid to involve players in the industry in sustainability efforts. What is needed is a systemic change in the way clothing is produced and used, moving beyond the praise-worthy textile recycling and up-cycling initiatives, which several brands have launched.
Because of its special communicative abilities and persuasive capacities, the fashion industry is uniquely positioned to shift the current consumption paradigm and establish itself as an influent ambassador for sustainability. What does it take, for producers and consumers, to bring to the fore water-conscious fashion?
Embassy Lab Water Conscious Fashion addresses these interconnected issues, creating an interdisciplinary framework for crossover exchange between Dutch, German and international experts and creative professionals. The Embassy Lab’s focus on water is especially compelling for the Netherlands, for whose existence water is crucial. Thanks to its expertise in water-related issues, the Netherlands is playing a prominent, groundbreaking role in the transition towards ever more sustainable water use across the industry and is thus uniquely positioned to contribute to these topical debates.
Alexis Morgan, Global Water Stewardship Lead at WWF
Prof. Dr. Randolf Rausch, Hydrogeologist, TU Darmstadt and University of Applied Forest Sciences Rottenburg on “Fashion-Water Nexus: The impact of cotton on water”
Natalia Finogenova, Research Associate, Chair of Sustainable Engineering, TU Berlin, on “InoCottonGRoW”, a project which aims at reducing the water footprint of the cotton-textile value chain in Pakistan
Sameer Safaya, CEO of Safaya Consulting, Amsterdam/Hong Kong, Expert at Water Footprint Implementation with a talk informed by the study: “Toward Sustainable Use in the Cotton Supply Chain”
Shane Kleyhorst, Program Manager of the collaborative network organization “Energy & Raw Materials Factory”, fostering a wider societal transition to a circular economy, Dutch Water Authorities
Bert van Son, CEO, MUD Jeans, a sustainable and fair-trade denim brand based in The Netherlands
Laura Luchtman, Designer, “Living Colour: biodyeing with bacteria” project, Rotterdam
Tjeerd Veenhoven, Product Designer, Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven and Wishful Doing Foundation, Groningen
Dr. Lucie Huiskens, Co-founder and Program Coordinator of the Dutch innovation network of the fashion sector CLICKNL|NextFashion and Consultant to the Centre of Expertise Future Makers (FM) at ArtEZ University of the Arts
Ellen Köhrer, Journalist focused on sustainable fashion and sustainability in the textile industryand author of the book “Fashion Made Fair”, Prestel
Hanieh Sabokbar, Fashion Designer and Lecturer AMD Akademie Mode & Design Berlin and Hamburg, focussing on holistic and sustainable design concepts for the fashion industry, Collaborator UPNOVATION Innovationsforum Upcycling
Heike Selmer, Professor for Conceptual and Artistic Fashion Design, co-Founder of “greenlab – laboratory for sustainable design strategies” and of “local international – international exchange/sustainable fashion design”, Weißensee Art Academy Berlin
Friederike von Wedel-Parlow, Director at Beneficial Design Institute, Berlin
Prof. Frans Vogelaar, Hybrid Space Lab
Can water-conscious fashion be an ambassador for sustainable development?
Embassy Lab Water Conscious Fashion takes place from 4:30pm to 6:15pm on Wednesday, January 16th 2019 in the context of the NEONYT Fashion Fair at Kraftwerk Berlin, Köpenicker Straße 70, 10179 Berlin. The afternoon program is comprised of a series of short lectures and discussions.