Category Archives: Environment Conservation

How Fashion Contributes to Water Pollution & Environmental Degradation

Consumers Obsession with Fashion and its Rising Toll on Water Pollution around the Globe

When you buy your favorite jeans, you probably have no clue that massive amounts of water are being wasted and polluted in the production process of those jeans and all other clothing products. In fact, clothing manufacturing is such a polluting process that this was one of the major reasons why over the last three decades many large companies have moved their factories off shore to countries in Asia and Latin America, where they didn’t have to deal with tough environmental laws and government regulations. Importantly, they also no longer had to face public scrutiny and criticism about contamination of the nation’s rivers and lakes, and its negative consequences for the US citizens who lived near by. Conveniently, this issue has been permanently moved out of sight, and therefore out of minds of millions of happy American shoppers. The truth is that now bodies of water are being polluted all over the globe, and we are responsible for a large portion of this damage. Blindly, we continue to the run on the consumer treadmill that the greed of the western clothing manufacturers has put us on, and keeps us on it a the ever increasing the speed, and at the expense of our environment.

Lets press the stop button and look at the hard facts:

Cotton and water pollution

Our love for all things cotton accounts for 8.5 billion pounds of cotton fiber produced in the US each year. That not being enough to satisfy our needs and wants, we import 25 percent of the world’s cotton crop, in the form of lint, thread, fabric or finished products. To obtain the cuddly look and feel of cotton, the cotton fiber has to undergo extensive processing even before it is spun into thread, all of which requires excessive use of water. Procedures such as treating the fiber with caustic sodium hydroxide to remove waxes, bleaching it to allow dying to the desired color, as well as anti-wrinkle treatments with such carcinogenic compounds as formaldehyde, all require large quantities of water. For example, bleaching the cloth for just ONE shirt generates as much as 15 gallons of polluted waste water!

Harmful Effects of textile dyes on water

Dying textiles causes the most water pollution, and is most difficult to hide. Currently, the world textile industry uses 10,000 dyes and pigments to achieve all the spectacular shades of clothing that we enjoy wearing. On the flip side, people in countries like China, India, Mexico, Bangladesh, Indonesia, etc who live next to the dying plants, which are invariably located near bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, and ponds, report that drinking water that flows from their taps can be green one day, and red the next day. Dye effluents can contain such hazardous metals as copper, cobalt, chromium, nickel, zinc, lead, antimony, silver, cadmium or mercury, all of which can pass untouched through the water cleaning facilities.

Clusters of dying plants in these countries can dump around 7 million litters of effluent per day into their own land. Having seeped into the ground, the dye pollutants and salts render local groundwater unsuitable for farming irrigation. Moreover, drinking water in these regions has to be brought into surrounding villages from outside areas that are unaffected by the dye plants. In 2004, tests conducted in Sanganer, North India revealed that textile and dying plants have released so much polluted effluent, that water from the major stream flowing through the city is actually capable of causing genetic mutations. I doubt you would want to drink that water or have your children drink it, would you?

What are the alternatives?

It is obvious that being aware of these facts will not immediately put a stop to our voracious consumption, or halt the big clothing corporations from engaging in environmental and human rights abuses. However, as consumers we can start making more environmentally conscious shopping choices. One way to to do this is to buy Eco-friendly clothing from local designers, artists and small companies that follow green production practices. Also, there are various designers that produce handmade clothing, all together avoiding the negative impact on the environment that big production causes.

Some people may object that clothes made by local designers and sold online, or in boutiques are a lot more expensive than what you can buy at the Gap, and many people simply cannot afford it. While it is true that designers and artists who make the clothes with their own hands charge more, you need to ask yourself difficult question: do you really need those 10 new shirts that you just got on sale at the Gap, in addition to the 30 that are already in your closet? Instead, consider paying more for better quality clothes that do not contribute to environmental pollution, buying less, and wearing what you buy for more than one season. It may actually also save you money in the long run. The bottom line is that if you love to shop, buying something local and handmade allows you to own something unique, while supporting American small businesses, and taking a strong stance against polluting our Earth.

6 ways to Eco-Friendly Backyard

There’s no place near the “normal” American home that doesn’t reek of conspicuous consumption, and our backyards are certainly no exception. As post-WWII suburbs sprawled across the nation, so did the idea that a happy home was one in which the front and back yards were covered in emerald green turf. Not only does keeping a carefully maintained lawn use up an incredible amount of water (and money!), it also keeps rainwater from making its way through the soil to the ground-water, and causes pesticides and fertilizers to flow into nearby streams and rivers. Here are a few tips to green up your backyard and save a little dough in the process.

With no further delay, here are 6 easy ways to make your backyard more Eco-friendly!

1 – Get Rid of the Lawn

What is the alternative to a cushioning green pillow extending from your doorstep to the curb? How about a garden of native shrubs, flowers, and trees? It’ll need to be watered and troubled over much less than a lawn, while allowing water to percolate through the soil, and it will also help attract native wildlife.

2 – Collect Rainwater

Having the sprinklers or the hose running all the time zaps money from your pocket and uses up precious resources. Consider putting barrels in your yard, or under your gutters to catch rainwater to be used for watering your plants, instead.

3 – Mulch Those Plants

Even if you get rid of your water-sucking exotic plants and make the switch to native species, you can still preserve energy by mulching around what you do have. Mulching keeps the sun from sucking up water out of the soil.

4 – Compost

Composting is a low-cost way to generate nutritious soil for your garden and cut down on the amount of household waste you send to a landfill. A tumbler or regular barrel is a great way to start. Check out this Cornell University website for the basics of composting.

5 – Use Earth Friendly Yard Products

Most people maintain their yards to actively enjoy them, by picnicking, letting their kids play outside, etc. But would you really want your kids playing on a lawn that had been cared for with toxic pesticides and fertilizers? Check out organic lawn care options that are safer and easier on mother nature.

6 – Upgrade Your Mower

Some old gas lawnmowers emit an incredible amount of pollution. Switching to a push mower is best, as they use less energy than ride-alongs. If you can’t stand the idea of pushing a mower across your lawn, an electric ride-along is your next best bet.

"no mow" lawn made of native grasses

This Eco-friendly “no mow” lawn made of native grasses and plants is more attractive than any suburban turf I’ve ever seen!

Solar Panels are Not Just for the Sunny States!

In-spite all the rage amongst Eco-friendly architects, solar panels have become increasingly more popular with the average homeowner over the last decade. In the past, solar panels have often been used to make a statement of innovation and sustainability for an organization to which it mattered, rather than being a true utilitarian measure employed for obtaining a cost-effective electricity in a clean and sustainable way.

Nowadays, we are witnessing a turn around trend, and with solar panels becoming more affordable, we are starting to see far more companies and individuals investing in solar panels for their private uses. This change is by and large motivated by the actual cost savings that individuals and companies can derive through the use of solar panels that generate electricity.

How do Solar Panels work?

The solar panels can often be mounted on top of the roof of a building, where they are angled towards the sun so that they can get the maximum exposure to collect solar UV rays and transform the solar energy into electricity. Here is how the process works; Solar energy gets collected by the Solar panels that generate electricity, which passes through the inverter after which it can be used to power home appliances, and supply electricity for the building. The excess electricity can be stored in the accumulator type batteries, or it can be sold back to the Electric grid for electric credits.

Solar Panels mounted on a Roof


Why are solar panels considered sustainable and green form of energy?

Solar panels generate electricity from solar energy, which constitutes a sustainable energy source, one that is carbon and emissions free. Thus, electricity derived through harnessing of solar energy is considered green and environmentally friendly.

Do solar panels require direct sunlight?

One common misconception of solar panels – that you need direct sunlight, and lots of it, to collect enough energy to make the investment worth it. The simple answer: absolutely not. Solar panels are not just for the sunny states, and work almost anywhere in the United States, even in the typically windy, gloomy cities of the Midwest. Solar energy involves UV rays much more than actual sunlight, and these rays are transmitted and captured even on cloudy days. With further technological advancements, solar panels should have no problem collecting solar UV rays and generating electricity even when it is cloudy, rainy, or cold.

Homeowners in the Midwest and North East need not cite a lack of sunlight outside of summer as a reason not to invest in solar panels. Another reason to consider investing in solar panels is the fact that they are rapidly becoming much more cost effective, and worth a long-term investment due to rapidly improving technology.

In the 1980s, the cost of capturing energy from the Sun was about $100 per watt, or literally one hundred times more expensive than the going rate of electricity. By the 1999, technology had reduced that figure to $4 per watt, and it has been declining steadily since, at an average rate of 5% a year.

Using solar panel derived electricity, can help reduce your regular electricity bill. In order for solar panels to pay for themselves, they need to be in operation for some 10-15 years, while solar hot water panels require some 8 to 12 of operation to cover the initial cost of investment. Thus solar panels are a long-term investment, which can be a great opportunity for the homeowners not looking to change their place of residence anytime soon. Over time, solar panels can really prove to be a solid investment in your home, and a cool one too.


Warranty

Most solar panels come with a 20-25 year warranty, so you will see a return on your investment before they needs to be replaced again.

Solar Incentives and State rebates

Many states, especially California, are investing heavily in solar energy and see it as a means to harness sustainable, and affordable energy. Currently, some 35 US states offer rebates for home and small business owners who invest in solar panels, which helps make them even more cost effective. The government also provides tax breaks and other benefits for those who want to use solar energy and other types of alternative energy sources for their home or business.

Solar energy is the way of the future, but it can also be an affordable and solid investment today. You do not have to live in a sunny state to reap the benefits of solar energy. Solar UV rays can be harvested in gloomier states, and still provide a significant benefit to the environment, and to your utility bill.