BLUE: LESS WATER.
For some people, the worry of not having clean water to drink has never entered their heads, sadly this is not the case for everyone. Some people around the world still do not have access to clean water, and yet, trillions of litres of water is used every year to make our clothing. This doesn’t make sense does it? We are on a mission to minimise our water usage, whilst doing good on our way.
We do this by:
Working with cotton farms who manage their water usage and recycle the water they do use.
Use fabrics which have already been made to cut out the extra water usage completely.
Use less water finishing processes cutting the water usage down by over 50%
Working on new ways to create ways of working which cuts our water usage even further.
Work closely with our water treatment centres to continually learn with them.
Support water charities.
WE HAVE PARTNERED UP WITH AN INCREDIBLE CHARITY CALLED FRANK WATER.
EACH YEAR, WE WORK OUT OUR DONATION TO FRANK WATER BASED ON THE WATER WE DON’T USE COMPARED TO NORMAL DENIM PRODUCTION. FOR EVERY LITRE OF WATER WE DONATE A LITRE.
SHOP LESS WATER.
One of the main issues is dirty water - 1.3 trillion gallons of water is used each year to dye clothing and 85% of this isn’t cleaned before being returned back. Water pollution is a huge and growing global issue. Water that becomes contaminated with chemicals, whether it’s chemicals from production or incorrectly disposed of waste, kills water and land life. In poor countries, where water purification is rare and expensive, contaminated water can lead to life-threatening diseases and infant mortality. Amazing organisations and charities such as Frank Water provide the means and educate people in poorer communities to clean the water themselves.
According to our dye house in Turkey, the average pair of jeans uses 45 litres of water in the finishing process. Meanwhile, 2.2 billion people around the world lack access to clean water. Here’s a statement taken from the United Nations’ website;
“One of the most important recent milestones has been the recognition in July 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly of the human right to water and sanitation. The Assembly recognized the right of every human being to have access to enough water for personal and domestic uses, meaning between 50 and 100 litres of water per person per day.....”
An average order from a fast fashion retailer is about 20,000 pcs of denim, so takes an average of 900,000 litres of water which otherwise could provide for over 450,000 people. To make this even more shocking, the water is more often than not coming from developing countries where clean water is scarce. We are prioritising producing clothing over people’s health.
20 PERCENT – IS THE AVERAGE AMOUNT OF GLOBAL INDUSTRIAL WATER POLLUTION THAT CAN BE TIED TO GARMENT MANUFACTURING.
715 GALLONS – HOW MUCH WATER IT TAKES TO PRODUCE THE COTTON NEEDED FOR ONE T-SHIRT – THAT IS ALMOST THREE YEARS’ WORTH OF DRINKING WATER.
There are a lot of different ways to cut our water consumption when it comes to making clothing, especially denim. A few people have asked why other brands can’t make things in a different way. Our answer is simply that these less water ways of working can make the design and production processes harder. We have to think outside the box on how to achieve certain colours and finishes, and in some cases we can’t achieve the end look desired. For a brand like us this is annoying, but we head back to the drawing board. For larger brands who demand big numbers, re-making best-sellers from last season is key to their bottom line, even if it means costing the earth.
Everything at TOBEFRANK is made in the best way we can. If we cant achieve what we want then we simply don’t make it. We have outlined a few of our key areas of focus when it comes to less water solutions below:
Ozone technology harnesses the natural bleaching capabilities of ozone gas to give a range of overall and specialty bleach effects with substantially reduced environmental impact. Ozone does not eliminate water use in jeans finishing. However, it substantially reduces consumption of water as well as energy, chemicals, enzymes and stones. Ozone offers important advantages over traditional wet finishing - oxygen (O2) is converted to ozone gas (O3), jeans are dampened, exposed to the ozone and rinsed, the ozone is reconverted to ordinary oxygen and then released into the environment. While chemical bleaching or stone-washing uses six to seven washes and rinses, ozone finishing requires two to three. Mehmet, our production manager in Turkey, reports more than 50% reductions in water and chemicals consumption when using ozone finishing.
When a denim looks worn this has been done by hand. Rows of workers fold the denim and then scrape it with something very similar to a sanding block. It’s bad for the environment, but mainly it’s bad for people. I have visited denim finishing units all over the world and some of them are harrowing - I coughed up blue after spending one day on the factory floor with the workers. Laser finishing is brilliant. We still need people to run the machines, but they are safe. Computer-driven laser technology can replicate localised wear and whiskers without water, chemicals or stones. Laser is precise - bleaching based on a design from a computer which can be repeated en masse. However, equipment is costly, each garment must be individually positioned for treatment, and only one side can be treated at a time so lead-times of production are longer.
RESPONSIBLY RECYCLING WATER.
If a factory is approved by an auditing company it will need to have a functioning water treatment process facility. This is normally an area on site which takes the water somewhere else and holds it until its full. Very rarely (I’m told they do but I’m yet to see it) do the auditors go to the off site water centre to check the water cleaning process.
Normally a lot of chemicals are used, so these need to be cleaned from the water, which then goes through a rigorous cleaning process. The methods used include physical processes such as filtration, sedimentation, and distillation; biological processes such as slow sand filters or biologically active carbon; chemical processes such as flocculation and chlorination; and the use of electromagnetic radiation such as ultraviolet light. Every water plantation is different and depends mainly on the type of water they are cleaning and for what purpose, such as drinking or industrial use. One of the main issues with cleaning water is what happens to the dirt that is taken out. On average 60% of the dirt will naturally biodegradable but the 40% left over will say forever. We don’t use any chemicals in our production and we re-use our water over 4 times before it’s taken to the treatment centre.
BETTER SOURCED FABRICS.
Looking at water usage at the finishing stage is great, but we at TBF believe it’s also key to focus on the fabric production stage too. Cotton growth uses thousands of litres of water. Organic cotton and Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) cotton still uses water, but the amount is monitored and water is re-used responsibly. At TBF we never use conventional cotton because there’s no traceability on the water or chemicals used or the soil treatment.
We try to split the brand into recycled fabrics (using no water) and organic or naturally grown fabrics finished with water management systems. We do this split so we can understand how our choices as a manufacturer can impact on the supply chain. Cancelling all new cottons and only using recycled cotton would impact the farmers, and using only new cottons would increase the fabric waste going to landfill. Also, the softness we can achieve from organic cotton cannot be achieved from recycled fibres without using extra finishing processes. We hope this split will prevent negative impacts in all areas - we know we are currently small, but we hope this way of thinking continues to be part of our DNA.