What’s In the Water

“Water is the driving force of all nature.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Water provides life in so many ways. We literally could not live or survive without it and it affects how our planet works in enormous ways that we often take for granted.

Today is World Water Day, so we wanted to discuss just how important our water bodies are. For us at SUI, the oceans always inspire us to create in their image. We are constantly in awe of its vast strength and beauty, which is why we wanted to take the opportunity to spotlight some key ways we, as human, affect the health of our water bodies and how we can do better.

The facts

Our water bodies, from seas to rivers and lakes, are integral to our planet’s ecosystem. They regulate our climate, the planet’s temperature, and an estimated 20% of all animal species live in water. But, despite how much it does for us, we have treated them quite poorly for far too long.

So, let’s put it in perspective and get back to basics.

Over the past few decades, due to worldwide industrialisation, our global temperature has risen because of large rates of carbon emissions being produced each day - notably, a large increase began in 1900 and, in 1970 onwards, it increased by 90%, “with emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributing about 78% of the total greenhouse gas emissions increase from 1970 to 2011. Agriculture, deforestation, and other land-use changes have been the second-largest contributors.” 

Why is this a problem? Well, these carbon emissions contribute to trapping heat in our Earth’s atmosphere, raising its overall temperature meaning our water bodies, particularly oceans, are also affected in the same way. Warmer oceans means more extreme weather patterns; the melting of glaciers and ice caps that will raise sea levels, possibly submerging smaller islands; and makes marine environments inhabitable for many species. Moreover, about a third of all CO2 emissions are absorbed by our oceans which increases its acidification, changing the balance of minerals that can make “it more difficult for organisms like oysters and corals to build shells.”

One other increasing issue related to water that we should all be aware of is water scarcity, which is “the lack of fresh water resources to meet the standard water demand.” As mentioned, our water bodies have been enormously affected by our emissions, but we have also compromised its cleanliness due to conventional industry waste practices. And so, although about 70% of Earth’s surface is covered in water, less than 1% of it is unpolluted and can be consumed. As the human population grows, so does urbanisation and water usage, meaning demand is only ever rising for clean water - and because of this, water scarcity currently affects around 1 in 3 people across the planet, a statistic that the fashion industry contributes a lot to.

How fashion plays a part

When it comes to how fashion affects our water bodies, there’s certainly a few ways many conventional practices are harmful, especially due to how much the industry (fast fashion, particularly) creates on a daily basis - it’s estimated that “more than 100 billion items of clothing [is] produced each year” with 20% going unsold too, indicating just how much goes to waste too!

These are some key ways our water bodies are particularly affected: 

  • The (micro)plastic problem…
  • Approximately 60% of clothing is made from synthetic fibres, those being fabrics like polyester and nylon. These fibres are cheap to produce and are very versatile so, they have been the industry norm for many years. However, as we know, plastic can be incredibly harmful to our environment due to the fact that it’s not biodegradable and can harm animals that may find themselves entrapped in plastic or swallow it. When it comes to how it affects our water bodies, micro plastics pose a big problem. With every wash, synthetic fabrics leach out hundreds of tiny micro plastic fibres that are defined as being “less than 5 millimeters in length, with diameters measured in micrometers (one-thousandth of a millimeter)”, which “eventually reach the ocean.” This pollution accumulates and primarily effects the food chain as it gets ingested by all sorts of marine life, even humans, affecting the health of us all.

  • The production problem…
  • Did you know that it takes 2,641 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans? When it comes to production, a staggering amount of water is used daily just to aid in creating singular garments and, with the growing global issue of water scarcity, this already affects many around the world who are not able to access clean water. For example, if we were to look at cotton production particularly, the fibre and fabric is one of the most commonly created and used but it requires high levels of water and pesticides that often causes issues in developing countries who aren’t able to invest in the practice - although demand is high - and is further problematic if they are at risk of droughts.

  • The waste problem…
  • Related closely to our production point, waterwaste is also a large issue for fashion. With all the water that is used to make garments, it is then disposed of in our natural water bodies, with 80-90% of it not being properly treated so that it contains toxins harmful to many ecosystems. The process when using textile or synthetic dyes particularly releases wastewater that goes one to effect nature in a number of ways such as: “impair photosynthesis, inhibit plant growth, enter the food chain, provide recalcitrance and bioaccumulation, and may promote toxicity, mutagenicity and carcinogenicity.” The industry is currently responsible for 20% of the world’s wastewater, and what’s also scary  is that this amount is estimated to increase by 50% by 2030.

    It’s quite a lot to take in. It may seem overwhelming but just knowing and being aware of these facts are the most important step to understanding what changes are needed and how you can help!

    How you can take green steps

    There are always small, everyday ways we can do our part in staying conscious of the environment. From brushing your teeth, doing laundry, switching on a light, or driving your car, there are so many ways you use water (a lot of it unknowingly).

    So, to help you in taking those greener steps, here are a few tips to help you reduce your water use in your own way:

    • About 10 gallons of water per day is lost to leaks so be sure to check your plumbing and repair anything that needs to be fixed to avoid them. Installing water efficient fixtures for your toilets or showers would also be a greta help!
    • Opt to shower rather than fill a bathtub, which is often more water-efficient, especially if you keep them between 5 to 10 minutes (or under).
    • Around 22% of home water use comes from doing laundry so, make sure to check your setting are appropriate for you load size, or hand wash whenever possible to avoid excess water waste.
    • Meat and dairy production consumes a lot of water. One option is to cut them out of your diet completely but, if that’s much too big a step, reducing whenever possible also helps - moreover, choose grass-fed rather than grain-fed if you can as it takes a lot more water to grow corn to be fed to animals.
    • Depending on where you live and what sort of energy sources are used for your transportation, opting to use public transportation is more water efficient as conventional methods of creating energy use a lot of water.
    • When it comes to clothes, don’t throw out but donate, give secondhand to friends or family, or simply repair/upcycle your clothing. This will decrease the need for you and others to shop as much so, hopefully and eventually, fewer pieces of clothing are made (i.e. less water is used in its production).

    If you want to find out just how much water you’re using on a daily basis, you can find out your water footprint here: Water Calculator

    We hope this helps you on your green journey and you understand just how important it is to be mindful of water, how much you use and how you treat it!

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