Heavy water use and deforestation are among fashion’s contributions to over-exploitation.
What’s going on?
Fashion is a major industrial user of water.
Water for cotton processing and textile production is highly water-intensive, for example, using an estimated 378 billion litres of water annually. [source]
The impact of this varies markedly by location. As a result of irrigated cotton cultivation in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan over the last 15 years, for example, the surface area of the Aral Sea has decreased by 85%, and 20 out of 24 fish species are now extinct. [source]
The unsustainable harvesting of flora – from plants harvested directly from the wild, such as nettles and raffia – and fauna – such as furs, skins, and leathers of species harvested from the wild – is also a major form of over-exploitation.
Deforestation is also a significant problem.
Around 150 million trees are logged to be turned into cellulosic fabrics such as rayon (a common silk substitute), modal, and lyocell each year.
These fibres are made from wood pulp, which is often sourced from endangered or protected forests. Over and beyond over-exploitation, many fashion businesses make and sell items that incorporate wildlife products – exotic skins, for example – which, if not handled responsibly, can directly impact a species’ survival.
- The greatest quantity of water is used during the growing and production of fibres. It takes 2,700 litres of water to grow the enough cotton to make a single t-shirt. 
Getting nature positive
Inspired by steps fashion companies are already taking, we’ve compiled suggested actions to help you on your journey to getting nature positive.