by Crystal Mendoza.
The Conversation on Conservation
A few years ago, Cape Town, South Africa was in the midst of a water crisis counting down to “Day Zero” — the day when the water taps would be shut off to conserve and ration water. The direness of the situation resulted in collective efforts, including nighttime irrigation, recycling shower water, and reducing the frequency of toilet flushes. The swift changes of Cape Town prevented “Day Zero” from occurring, but if demand continues to outpace supply, we can expect to see more water shortages around the world.
The fashion industry plays a large role in water pollution and overconsumption. Two major examples include textile dyes (the second largest water polluter in the world) and cotton production (713 gallons are used to produce one cotton T-shirt). But if Cape Town taught us anything, it’s that we can make a difference if we are willing to put in the effort.
Below are 8 sustainable fashion brands that are challenging their water usage practices and are changing the conversation on water conservation, without sacrificing on style, of course.
Price Range: $49 – $279
Why We Love Them: sustainable, non-toxic, ethical, cruelty-tree, GOTS Certified, Global Recycle Standard (GRS)
DL1961 is a premium denim brand dedicated to creating garments that are a “fusion of fit, fabric, function and sustainable manufacturing.” In 2019 alone, they have saved an estimated 892.5 million gallons of water. How? By recycling factory water, removing dyes from wastewater, imprinting designs using lasers, and washing jeans with Jeanologia’s ozone technology (the machines literally pull water from the air!). With all these efforts combined, only 10 gallons of water are used on each pair of jeans. Compare that to the industry average of 1000 gallons (3781 liters) per jean!
Price Range: $17 – $50
Why We Love Them: ethical, sustainable, non-toxic, non-GMO
Allmade is a sustainable T-shirt brand addressing the economic and environmental challenges experienced by garment workers in Haiti. The brand’s online calculator helps customers understand the environmental benefit of choosing Allmade’s tri-blend shirts compared to other fabrics. For example, 100 Allmade shirts use 32,000 less gallons of water than the same amount of cotton shirts! The secret lies in the raw materials: 50% recycled polyester, 25% Tencel modal, and 25% organic cotton — these eco-friendly fabrics require significantly less water to produce.
Price Range: $35 – $195
Why We Love Them: sustainable, non-toxic, ethical, cruelty-rree, vegan, sustainable packaging, GOTS Certified, BLUESIGN, Cradle to Cradle Certified, OEKO-TEX certified
Ética is a denim company “rooted in the ideals of fair labor, environmentally conscious manufacturing and social responsibility.” They utilize multiple water conservation practices, including e-flow technology, alternative fibers, and low-impact chemicals. High-efficiency hanging dryers are used to collect and recycle steam from clothing. Lastly, factory water is purified and repurposed for farmlands near Puebla, Mexico. With all their efforts combined,Ética consumes 90% less water compared to the industry average.
Price Range: £150 – £1,200
Why We Love Them: sustainable, non-toxic, ethical, sustainable packaging, women-owned
E.L.V. is a London-based denim brand with meticulous zero-waste practices (even their final scraps are donated to art projects). They reduce water consumption by sourcing vintage denim that is destined for the landfill. However, the denim cannot be sold to consumers without being washed first. E.L.V. utilizes the services of a local launderer that uses only 2 gallons of water to wash each pair of jeans. All efforts combined results in a 98% reduction in water waste, compared to the UN estimate of 1000 gallons needed to make one new pair of jeans.
Price Range: $45 – $1,000
Why We Love Them: sustainable, non-toxic, ethical, cruelty-free, vegan, sustainable packaging, women-owned
Pangaia is a global collective of scientists, technologists, and designers that use multiple eco-friendly fabrics to create sustainable clothing. Their C-fiber, for example, is a fabric made from eucalyptus pulp and seaweed powder. This regenerative resource uses oceans or rainwater to grow (instead of groundwater or aquifers) and are biodegradable, resulting in a circularity process that starts and ends in nature. Additionally, Pangaia applies PPRMINT oil treatments to their clothing for its antibacterial properties, therefore reducing the number of times the clothing needs to be washed by the consumer.
Amour Vert is a women’s clothing company focused on the entire lifecycle of their products. In collaboration with American Forests, Amour Vert plants a tree for every shirt purchased, and has planted over 333,000 trees since first opening. But how does this relate to water conservation? Through a process known as “groundwater recharging,” the roots of the trees help replenish groundwater by reducing runoff and soil evaporation. Amour Vert’s tree planting initiative has replenished 12 billion gallons back into groundwater sources.
Started by a group of scientists, Waterlust is a swimwear company focused on funding research and educating the world about environmental conservation. Each swimwear design is aligned with a specific cause in mind. For example, 10% of profits from the Floridian Aquifer collection are donated to the Alachua Conservation Trust. This advocate group helps protect and restore the aquifer that provides drinking water for 92% of Floridians. Additionally, the design of the swimwear matches the cause you support!
Price Range: $35 – $139
Why We Love Them: sustainable, ethical, GOTS Certified
Indigo Luna is an ethical yoga, swimwear, and linen brand with a focus in organic blends and earthy colors. To combat against textile dye pollution, Indigo Luna uses the ancient practice of plant-based dye baths, using mango, indigo, and secang wood for a natural color palette. This process is admittedly costly and time-consuming, but the result of this extra work ensures that all runoff water is completely organic and non-toxic.
These 8 brands prove that fashion and water conservation are not mutually exclusive. Water pollution and overconsumption no longer have to be a necessary evil within the industry. If fashion brands choose to integrate water conservation into their practices — such as using eco-friendly fabrics, recycling water, washing efficiently, and using non-toxic dyes — we will have a sustainably stylish future ahead of us!
Want to learn more about sustainable fashion? Download the GoodHuman app to find products and brands that align with the topics you care about most.
If you’re also interested in discovering sustaianble brands planting trees to aid in reforestation, you can check out our roundup here. And if it’s sustainable alternatives for your undergarments you’re looking for, you can find some of those here.