Water Pollution Restricts Access to Clean Water

Access to clean water is a basic human right. Polluted water is a concern across the globe; as it can be a carrier for bacterial, viral, or parasitic infectious diseases. The World Health Organization declares 3.4 million people, mostly children, die each year from water-related diseases; these deaths are preventable through improvements in the basic water supply, sanitation and hygiene. Many modern industrial practices contaminate the water supply, with the industry of fast fashion being one of the biggest contributors. Fast fashion must be put in the spotlight to enact change and improve water quality. 

Water is a limited resource, a fact that is often overlooked. The 2019 UN World Water Development Report predicts that by 2050 half of the world’s population could struggle to find drinking water. As recorded by The Bureau of Reclamation, Water makes up around 71% of the Earth’s surface. 3% is freshwater and only 0.5% of that is available because the rest is locked up in things like glaciers or polar ice caps. Not only is the actual amount of water limited, water contamination reduces the amount of accessible and safe water further. Across all waters, pollutants disrupt wildlife and affect the well-being of humanity.

Sage Lenier is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley from the class of 2020. In her time at the university, she taught a DeCal focusing on zero waste and solutions for a sustainable future. She has a large following across various social media platforms. She reaches her audience by bringing up political and environmental issues. 

When speaking on pollutants, Lenier states, “The fashion industry makes up 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions”. Therefore, it is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply after animal agriculture. She also mentions, “In China, estimates say 90% of the local groundwater is polluted, and according to the World Bank, 72 toxic chemicals in the water supply are from textile dyeing”. In 2018, China accounted for nearly 38% of the world textile exports, making it the world’s largest clothing exporter, which explains the high concentration of toxic chemicals in the water. Fast fashion is notorious for constantly producing large quantities of product with short turnaround, making it a large portion of the textile exports from China. 

Although eco-friendly marketing has been popularized, freshwater sources continue to be jeopardized by companies that are not as green as they claim. For example, Urban Outfitters is constantly called out for sparking controversy. In their Urban Renewal Campaign, they advertise as having a “sustainable design strategy” and the idea of “preservation through reuse” but there isn’t much actual follow-through in the production of their products. Additionally, the price of upcycled products are less affordable than their fast-fashion counterparts, discouraging consumers from buying them.

It’s clear that more strict environmental policies are needed globally in order to hold enterprises accountable so they upgrade industrial infrastructure and modernize their production processes. With this being said, it’s also vital to push for these policies to go through for the sake of going greener and helping save the planet. Everyone must also do their part and think sustainably by reusing and reducing through upcycle clothing, donating, and buying second hand instead of continuing to feed into fast fashion.