Don’t wash your jeans often, fight climate change

By Joydeep Gupta, IANS,

New Delhi : Want to do your bit to combat climate change? Wear your jeans at least thrice before washing them and then do so in cold water, don’t use the dryer and not the iron either, says the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

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By following these practices, people can consume up to five times less energy, according to a 30-second TV spot prepared by the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (UNEP DTIE).

The spot features a couple dancing Tecktonic – a famous new dance in France – as the message is beamed across to the tune of “Am I wrong” by Etienne de Crécy.

“We wanted to find a way to make our environmental messages more accessible to young people. Hence our decision to present something positive and engaging that will hopefully prompt young people to take action rather than leaving them feeling helpless,” Robert Bisset, head of communications at UNEP DTIE, told IANS in an email interview.

The fashion industry has one of the biggest carbon footprints in the world, Bisset said. “Toxic chemicals and petrochemicals are used widely in cotton agriculture and in many manufacturing stages such as pre-treatment, dyeing and printing.

“Waste volumes from the sector are high and growing with the advent of fast fashion. Water consumption – especially the extensive use of water in cotton crop cultivation – can also be a major environmental issue.”

Bisset points out that the environmental impact of clothing is in many cases dominated by the phase when it is actually being used.

“A garment has to be maintained, including cleaning, drying and pressing, but the owner can choose how to do this.

“The number of wash cycles drives environmental impacts and the application of smart technology that halves the number of washes in the life cycle of the product is beneficial.”

For the user, the effect of reducing the number of washes will be to reduce the need for electricity, water and detergent, the UNEP official says. “The choice of the detergent itself is also important. Washing at a lower temperature reduces environmental impacts.

“Moreover, elimination of tumble drying, which uses around 60 percent of the use phase energy, and ironing, in combination with the lower wash temperature, leads to around 50 percent reduction in global climate change impact of the product.”

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at [email protected])