You may not have expected traditional fabric dyeing methods to be so horrifically wasteful, but they are.
Although it is no secret that fast fashion companies contribute to devastating and long-lasting environmental harm, it may still be surprising to learn that the traditional process of dyeing textiles alone is responsible for 17-20% of water pollution worldwide.
In fact, it turns out that the most common method of printing onto fabric is ecologically harmful in many aspects. Traditionally, solvent or oil-based inks are used to transfer designs to fabric and give them aesthetic appeal, at the cost of a lot of water.
Fashion’s dyeing industry is exhausting one of our most crucial resources... In order to dye 1 tonne of fabric, 200 tonnes of water is required. To rub salt into the wound, 1 tonne of fabric doesn’t even equate to producing 0.5% of the estimated 80 billion garments the fashion industry manufactures a year. Evidently these dyeing processes are a colossal strain on our waterways. —Euronews
Furthermore, the wastewater from this process is often dumped back into the same ecosystems it was originally taken from with newly-added pollutants from the inks used. These harmful by-products can include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carcinogens, heavy metals, and other impurities that threaten the quality/safety of local water supplies.
Environmentally-conscious fashion brands, such as ourselves at Channel13 Ravewear, seek to deviate from this lame status-quo by adopting closed-loop dyeing methods such as sublimation printing that cut down on water waste and chemical pollution exponentially.
What is sublimation printing, and how is it a safer / more eco-friendly than traditional fabric dyeing?
Dye sublimation is a newer method of transferring dyes into textiles that minimizes waste and maximizes the lifetime quality of each printed design. The only water used in this practice is the water-based dye itself, which is free of harmful emissions and never wasted. The printed image quality is also incredibly high resolution.
Better yet, only 5ml of water within the ink is required to dye an entire 1kg of clothing via the sublimation method. This is because heat is used to vaporize and transfer the water-based dyes into the fabric fibers from specially-printed paper. Because the dye is able to penetrate the fabric fibers so thoroughly, the resulting product can also withstand more washes without fading.
A fair amount of energy is still used by the sublimation dyeing method during the heat transfer process, which is one of the several reasons why Channel13 plants extra trees (in addition to our 1 tree per product guarantee) via Tree-Nation to offset carbon emissions from company operations.
Why does Channel13 still use synthetic materials?
The sublimation method of printing clothing is still not perfect, however, as it is currently only effective on synthetic and synthetically-coated fabrics such as polyester and nylon. Sublimation printing on natural textiles such as cotton has yielded sub-par image quality and durability thus far (cotton isn't eco-friendly anyways), so apparel manufacturers are currently only offering this type of image transfer on synthetic fabrics.
While synthetic fabrics have long been unpopular for their past history of polluting the environment with microplastics and feeling just plain cheap, recent advances in textile science have allowed for the creation of fabrics with surprisingly amazing quality (like the silky & durable polyester used in CH13 drawstring bags). The goal of these scientific advancements is to not only make these fabrics more aesthetically pleasing, but to also make them more resistant to wearing down in the washing machine and releasing microplastic pollution into the wastewater, as defined in a 2020 OECD Workshop on Microplastics from Synthetic Textiles.
In addition, the tradeoff of using high-quality synthetic fabrics instead of natural textiles is a much easier pill to swallow once you realize how much environmental detriment is hiding behind the cute little green tags popularly seen on cotton products.
The American Chemical Society published a report warning the public of how wasteful and polluting the natural textile industry is due to inefficient methods of permanently dyeing such materials. Fabrics like denim require being washed multiple times at high heat in order to set the dye and prevent color from fading quickly, and even then they still only absorb up to 75% of the dye. The remainder of this dye, most of which is synthetic and contains additives such as salt and alkali, becomes part of the wastewater.
Friendly reminder that there is on average 200L of this polluted wastewater generated for every 1kg of cotton/natural fabric treated in the dyeing process alone. This is not even mentioning how much clean water is siphoned away from communities to water these very, very thirsty crops to begin with.
We promise that the apparel rocking synthetic fabrics at Channel13 Ravewear is neither itchy nor cheaply-made. The rest of the decision is up to you.
So is Channel13 Ravewear eco-friendly or not?
Channel13 Ravewear aims to pursue all honest means of minimizing the environmental impact of our brand, which includes being conscious about the source and eventual fate of the synthetic fibers used to produce our products. We plan on doing so in 4 ways:
- By making almost all of our products on a per-order basis and never mass-producing as a brand, Channel13 is dedicated to eliminating literal tons of wasted resources from the equation. These resources include but are not limited to: water, energy, and fabric itself.
- We pledge to use primarily recycled material in at least 50% of our made-to-order clothing and accessories by 2026, especially products made of synthetic fibers like polyester.
- Channel13 values creating apparel that is long-lasting and incredibly unique, so our products can become closet staples that stay far away from the trash can as new trends come and go.
- Last but not least, we are partnered with Tree-Nation to plant trees around the world as a way of giving back to our beautiful Mother Earth. Channel13 is proud to say from day one that we plant more trees than the amount of items we manufacture, as we plant a tree for every product sold and then some! As brand operations continue to grow, we will routinely reassess our carbon footprint and overall energy usage in order to scale our planting accordingly!
Here at Channel13 Ravewear, we understand that there is no such thing as a simple or perfect solution to a global issue as immense as the environmental harm caused by the fashion industry. We do not wish to self-label as entirely sustainable, and we do hope our customers can reach their own informed conclusions based on a combination of the information we provide and more importantly, credible and thoughtfully-written sources about the topic.
We promise to always value company transparency and be an advocate for change by acknowledging that our room for growth never diminishes. Even as a net-zero website & brand from the start, Channel13 will forever strive to improve the amount and quality of green/sustainable products we sell and work towards making an overall positive impact on the environment.
author: Cat Durden (@Cazmie)