The 2nd biggest polluter on the planet?

When we talk about the environmental damage we, as humans, have caused, we think about things like exhaust fumes, deforestation and industrial plants pumping out god knows what into the air. We don’t think that our clothes, blankets and furniture are actually the 2nd biggest polluter on the planet, second only to oil pollution.

What might shock you even more is that when you think by buying an organic cotton t shirt, you are making an environmentally friendly choice that is also super-soft, you are actually buying one of the worst contributors.

It is crazy to think how damaging a natural fibre like cotton can be to our planet, when we usually think of manmade materials such a polyester to be more polluting, but after watching Stacey Dooleys documentary ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’ and the environmental issues caused by the fashion industry, we thought we would discuss the problems caused by our use of cotton.

It has become apparent to us that there are two main areas where cotton and fashion are damaging the environment: Water Use and Chemical Damage.

Water Use

It can take up to 15,523 litres of water to make one pair of jeans, the average person in the UK uses 150 litres of water a day….so its takes 103 people worth of water to make ONE pair of jeans. This insane use of water to grow cotton is responsible for one of the biggest environmental catastrophes to date – the Arral Sea crisis. The Arral Sea is located between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and was once the fourth largest lake in the world, recent NASA images show that now – it has almost completely dried up due to water diversions for local cotton farms. The once thriving fishing industry surrounding the Arral sea has been entirely wiped out and remaining people living in the area are plagued by dust storms contaminated with pesticides that can cause diseases such as TB and Cancer.

Chemical Damage

Cotton farming uses the most pesticides of any crop in the world and that’s before the cotton reaches the factories where it is dyed, bleached and finished using chemicals such as Formaldehyde and Chlorine Bleach. In the UK there are regulations on which chemicals can be used, where they can be used and how they can be safely disposed of, those rules do not apply in some developing countries which is one of the reasons why a LOT of High Street stores have taken their factories overseas – cheap labour, cheap processing, bigger profit. No benefit to the people or the environment local to these factories though. The Citarum, in Indonesia, is the most polluted river in the world, there are around 2000 factories on its banks, a lot of these are cotton factories and a lot of them dump waste directly into the river. The Citarum is polluted with mercury, cadnium, lead and arsenic among other chemicals – it is believed that there are around 28 million people in direct contact with the water every day and that 5% of the nations rice farms are fed from it.

This is just two of the areas where we can physically see the damage caused so far and it will only get worse unless we become more responsible with our use of cotton, do we really need 3 pairs of the same jeans? Do we need to overhaul our wardrobes every time a new trend comes around? Do we need to refurbish and refurnish our houses every season? Can we be more responsible with how we recycle and reuse or old clothes and furnishings? It just takes a little bit of thought and a little bit of research from every person and we can start to be smarter and begin to fix the damage we are causing.

You can reduce your use of cotton in lots of ways or by choosing different fabrics such as a poly-cotton blend or polyester. Here at Pouf Daddy, we use 1680 denier polyester for all of our beanbags for a number of reasons including its durability. Polyester has a bad rap for being a mass produced manmade product but it has much lower energy and environmental impact overall than cotton and is completely recycable at the end of its life. It has several advantages over traditional fabrics such as cotton for example it does not absorb moisture, but does absorb oil; this quality makes polyester the perfect fabric for the application of water-, soil-, and fire-resistant finishes. Its low absorbency also makes it naturally resistant to stains which suits our outdoor range perfectly. Polyester can also be preshrunk in the finishing process, and thereafter the fabric resists shrinking and will not stretch out of shape which is great for manufacturing our giant beanbags and ensuring you get super comfy every time. 

Of course, there are environmental repurcussions for all manufacturing so we have bean thinking about recycling – our beanbags are extremely durable but nothing lasts forever. Our beanbags are filled with EPS beads which cannot be recycled like normal plastics but can be re-used in many ways such as filler for your garden containers, craft projects or re-used in a bean bag amnesty plan (hint hint keep an eye out in the near future for ours)