Water and soils in sustainability

Making society aware of the importance of water and soils in sustainability is one of the most important challenges, more specifically in sustainable fashion. Sustainable soil and water management is essential for sustainable development, but also for human health. We talk about it in this Evlox blog post.

Soil is a non-renewable resource, as it takes 500 years for 2 cm of fertile topsoil to form naturally. Soil sustainability is key to meeting the demands of a growing world population. Sustainable soil management must ensure the health of soils, which also guarantees the security of the food produced in soil (95% of it), as well as the stability of our ecosystems.

As for water, it is a renewable natural resource that is currently in an emergency situation known as the water crisis, which is due to the combination of several factors: scarcity, waste, overexploitation and contamination of water.

Water and soils in sustainability

Photo: onehundredseventyfive | Unsplash

Benefits of soils

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):

  • Soil absorbs three times as much carbon as the atmosphere and can help us fight climate change and, consequently, the water crisis.
  • Around 815 million people are food insecure and about 2 billion people do not have enough nutritious food. This situation could be solved to a large extent with proper soil management.
  • 33% of the planet’s soils are degraded.
  • 95% of the food we eat comes from the soil.

The water footprint and industrial effluent

Water reserves have decreased by more than 20% in the last two decades, due to population growth and economic development, accentuated by climate change. To improve the water crisis, it is necessary to reduce carbon emissions, for which forests and soils are of vital importance.

Accelerated urbanization, increased agricultural activities, the use of fertilizers and pesticides, soil degradation, high population concentrations and poor waste disposal are mainly responsible for the water crisis.

The water footprint not only measures the impact in terms of volume of water used, but also distinguishes between: rainwater (green water footprint), surface and groundwater (blue water footprint) and polluted water (gray water footprint). The gray water footprint refers to the volume of fresh water needed to assimilate a pollutant load in a body of water.

Industrial effluent is one of the most dangerous types of wastewater for the environment and human health when discharged without being treated properly (via vacuum evaporation, for instance). Textile effluent is one of the most frequent types of industrial effluents.

The impact of the textile industry on soils and water

According to the UN, the textile industry is responsible for 20% of the world’s polluted water. On the other hand, it consumes large volumes of water, approximately 100 liters per kilogram of dyed fabric.

As a result, sustainable textiles would require a 20% reduction in water pollution, which would also mean reducing soil degradation.

To understand the magnitude of this challenge, one must consider that the textile sector is the third largest source of water degradation and land use. In the European Union, it takes an average of approximately nine cubic meters of water, the use of 400 square meters of land and 391 kilograms of raw materials to provide clothing and footwear to each citizen.

In addition, the textile industry is one of the industries that generates most water use and waste worldwide. As it is a scarce resource, it is urgent to raise awareness of the problem, which is not only limited to water use and waste, but also includes pollution.

The contamination of water used in production processes is mainly due to the use of dyes and treatments, of which the “worn-out effect” of jeans is an example. As we can see below, there are ways to meet all these challenges.

Initiatives to minimize the impact on water and soils in sustainability

At Evlox we have taken a giant step towards sustainability by developing our Drystone fabrics. The fabric is dyed with several indigo baths and then goes through a unique process to remove the indigo remaining on the surface, mimicking the washed finish, but without using any chemicals or water. 

In this way, we reduce the impact that the manufacturing of our jeans has on water and soil. Considering that the traditional manufacturing of a pair of jeans requires between 3 and 10 thousand liters of water, this saving represents a huge leap forward.

Another of the measures that Evlox has adopted is to invest in innovative technology in the textile industry to reduce its impact by collaborating with Jeanologia, a Spanish company that has designed a process that reduces water consumption by 71%.

In addition, given that the greatest impact of the manufacturing of jeans is mainly determined by the water footprint of its raw material, cotton, it is vitally important to use regenerative cotton, which we have already talked about in a previous post.

Approximately 2,700 liters of water are needed to convert cotton into a usable fabric. And to obtain one kilogram of cotton, 10,000 liters of water are used.

Ultrasound technology can provide solutions in this regard and reduce water consumption in textile processes.

Other measures can be: increasing water reuse, monitoring and evaluating the water pollution problem, separating spills, replacing toxic raw materials with natural ones, using vacuum evaporation processes… 

Actions that consumers can take

Here are some ideas that each of us can put into practice when it comes to making our fashion consumption more responsible and reducing our water footprint:

  • Go for organic cotton.
  • Invest in low-water-wasting jeans, such as the Drystone range from Evlox.
  • Say no to polyester and toxic fibers and go for natural fibers like hemp
  • Be informed about the origin of the materials: know the traceability of the products you buy. 
  • Practice responsible consumption.
  • Do less laundry.
  • Join the 3 R’s of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle.

SDG 15: Protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

From our position within the textile industry, at Evlox we want to contribute to create an awareness movement about sustainability in fashion… we are counting on you!