Brands use tech to save water

Companies have employed measures such as laser tech, ozone treatment and AI technology

Runa Ray's hand-embroidered botanical garden with chlorophyll printed leaves on banana cotton.

It is a known fact that the fashion industry is one of the greatest impacters of the environment when it comes to resources. With water scarcity becoming a rising concern, many fashion brands are doing their bit to address this issue. 

Denim brand Numero Uno uses the ‘One Glass Water Technology’, that is used during the washing and finishing process of jeans, to minimise high consumption of water as well as the harmful chemicals.

The technology involves laser technology, ozone treatment with minimal water and chemical usage to achieve the desired final output. 

Ashish Anand, category manager (denims), Numero Uno, says, “We use laser technology, which replaces the hand scraping and sand blasting processes. The G2 technology, which is an ecological machine, uses the ozone and oxygen from the atmosphere. This technology saves about 60 per cent of water and energy, and 80 per cent of chemical. The denim has less chemical usage that way.”

Traditionally, about 60 to 80 litres of water was used to wash a pair of jeans but now with the combination of laser technique and G2 wash process, only a single glass of water is used. 

There are many other ways in which the consumption of water can be cut down. Ashish says rainwater harvesting, solar heaters to heat the water during laundry, use of energy-efficient lighting and a green cover can help cut down the use of natural resources.

“Since we discharge a lot of dirty water into the environment in the process of garment manufacturing, we should have a zero-liquid discharge treatment plant for cleaning the water and make it an eco-conscious product,” he says, adding, “There is a rise in consciousness because it is not just the brands but now even the mills are making sustainable fabrics and playing a huge role in taking care of the environment.” 

Bengaluru-based designer, Runa Ray, works primarily with natural fibres. She makes sure that they are certified and comes from farms that regulate the amount of water they use.

“There are certain certifications given to these industries which are recognised internationally who regulates the amount of water usage. When you have a mathematical record, we automatically don’t waste any water. Making a conscious effort to not waste any fabric while cutting it helps me reduce wastage to a large extent — by doing so, solving the issue of wastage as well as reducing the use of water,” she says.

She advocates the use of natural dyes in place of chemical ones. These natural dyes can be derived from plant roots, sugar molasses and turmeric. “Though we do need a small amount of fixing chemical, it is not too dangerous like the ones used in chemical dyes. One can also use chlorophyll from plants for dying,” says Runa.

Other ways are to adopt zero-waste methods of production like origami, which utilises the entire fabric. Fabrics like jute and hemp, that are pesticide-friendly and sustainable also consume less water, using them can be a small step towards solving this problem, she says. 

Nitin Kapoor, co-founder and CEO, Indian Beautiful Art (IBA), an e-commerce platform, recently developed the concept of ‘TexTech’ also called ‘Just In Time’. This textile technology aims to produce what is demanded by the consumer, thus controlling the utilisation of natural resources with no wastage of water and no dumping of waste fabric or garment.

“We have eliminated mass production from our business and we make a garment after we receive an order. Here, instead of getting prints of the photo shoot, images on the clothes are tested using AI technology. This way, we create a single prototype for various patterns of the same garment. This way we don’t have to make the garment again and again,” he says.  

The technology from Japan, Korea and China, the manufacturing starts right from the printing of the garment to cutting, stitching and dispatching the garment in 48 hours.

“We are not creating a garment in anticipation that it will get sold. We have eliminated a warehouse from our business model. It is a demand-driven manufacturing system, thus creating zero-wastage while being in par with the latest fashion trends,” says Nitin.  

Don’t feed the monster of consumerism

While some designers and brands are waking up to the fact the fashion industry is one of the biggest guzzlers of resources, most consumers either remain unaware or prefer to look the other way when the talk gets too uncomfortable. 

This is especially true when it comes to ‘fast fashion’; buying and discarding clothes mindlessly. The reasons may be many — “it was on sale”, “there was a ‘buy one, get one’ offer”, “it looked good in the catalogue or on the mannequin”, “I thought I will wear it later” and so on — but let’s face it, buying things you don’t need only depletes your money, storage space and peace of mind.

Keep in mind that when the online shopping giants use words like ‘last chance’, ‘fast running out’ and ‘now or never’, they are scaring you into buying things you don’t need. The sales never end; you will get those discounts again. 

When you buy pretty dresses thinking that you will fit into them later, the negative impact on your mind is tremendous. Guilt combines with self-loathing but you don’t do anything about it and end up gifting or donating it to someone else.

Also, these clothes aren’t made to last. And since we are told that we can always ‘refurbish’ our wardrobe for a small amount, out goes the garment into the garbage, ultimately finding its way into the landfill. More than 60 per cent of fabric fibres are now synthetics, derived from fossil fuels, so if and when our clothing ends up in a landfill, it will not decay. 

You know what to do: curtail your browsing, remember that not every sale has to be checked out, curate your social media feeds to avoid distraction, ask yourself the golden question “Do I need this?”, stop hoarding and donate whatever you don’t wear.

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