For large businesses, the most cost effective way to produce their garments is to contract manufacturers across the world to dye, weave, trim package, and ship their clothes. Although cheap for multimillion dollar enterprises, the textile factories that are involved in this production are second only to agriculture in the amount of pollution created (smallbusiness.chron.com). Chemicals used to size, dye, and bleach fabric are cancer-causing agents such as lead and mercury. As these pollutants go untreated, wastewater can taint waterways and groundwater sources. Textile factories also release large quantities of carbon monoxide, chlorine dioxide, and formaldehyde into the air. Toxic to the atmosphere, these pollutants remain suspended in the air while spreading to other areas (http://smallbusiness.chron.com/). Production often involves an incredibly water intensive process. According to ecowatch.com, “organic cotton can still take more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans.”
The Environmental Protection Agency strictly regulates all textile companies within the United States. This would be great if similar standards were held for foreign nations. More than 60 percent of world clothing is manufactured in developing countries. Production and labor costs are least expensive in countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Pakistan (ecowatch.com). Raw materials are transported worldwide in about 9,0000 container ships with “a single ship [producing] as much cancer and asthma-causing pollutants as 50 millions cars in just one year” (http://www.ecowatch.com/).
Although efforts to be more environmentally sound have increased these past couple years, significant change in the clothing industry will only occur if leading brands sell sustainable clothes. At Pacific Peak, we hope to help this cause one step at a time. Stay tuned for our new, eco-friendly shirts and athletic apparel these coming months!