If you live somewhere with access to clean water, you might not think twice about how integral it is to your daily routine. From the moment you step out of bed, you’re likely using water — whether brushing your teeth, taking a shower, or drinking it.
Water is critical to our health and our planet’s health. As climate change worsens, freshwater resources are drying up and causing water scarcity. The fashion industry is the second most water-intensive industry, using a whopping 79 billion cubic meters of water per year to produce textiles.
With water scarcity on the rise, the fashion industry must take steps to minimize its usage so that our most important resource can be left for those who need it.
While these statistics may seem scary, fashion companies have started to reduce their water footprint in the past several years.
In particular, Global Citizen partner American Eagle has successfully reduced its water usage through its Real Good products and Water Leadership program, which produces and sources clothing with less environmental impact. For example, AE’s Real Good jeans require far less water to make and are just as fashionable (and here at Global Citizen, we think any sustainable clothing is in vogue).
“American Eagle is thrilled to partner with Global Citizen to rally around a shared commitment to defend our planet against climate change," said Jennifer Foyle, president and chief creative officer, AE and Aerie. "We’re proud of the measures we’ve taken to create a more sustainable future with our Real Good styles, and we are excited to celebrate AE’s progress in saving more than 1 billion gallons of water in our jeans’ production since 2017.”
Below, we’ve compiled five facts that show why the fashion industry needs to reduce its water footprint, and how American Eagle is tackling the issue.
1. It takes 3,781 liters of water to make a pair of jeans.
According to the United Nations Environment Program, it takes 3,781 liters of water to make a pair of jeans. That’s enough drinking water for nearly 2000 days, or 5.5 years!
At American Eagle, over 1 billion gallons of water have been saved in the production of AE jeans since the beginning of the Water Leadership Program in 2017.
2. Globally, 2 billion people lack access to quality water.
More than 2 billion people don’t have safe, readily available water at home. As the world continues to report hotter temperatures as a result of climate change, water scarcity is striking parts of the world that are more vulnerable to droughts.
By taking action to reduce its water footprint, the fashion industry can help this most vital resource be more ample for those who need it. As a step forward, all eligible American Eagle jeans factories have started recycling their water, with 44% of water in laundries recycled back into production.
3. Women are responsible for 72% of the water collected in sub-Saharan Africa.
Globally, women are largely responsible for providing their communities with water. In Africa alone, women spend 40 billion hours a year walking to collect water.
With direct access to clean water, these women would gain so much of their lives back and be able to dedicate more time to work, education, and other opportunities that would help reduce poverty in their communities.
4. The average cotton t-shirt takes 2,700 liters of water to produce.
If one liter of water is 4.2 cups, that means 2700 liters is 11,340 cups of water. That’s enough water to drink eight cups daily for 1,417 days, or nearly four years.
In 2021 alone, an estimated 5 billion gallons of water were saved thanks to American Eagle’s sourcing of Better Cotton.
5. Water = Life
Most importantly, drinking water is vital to all life! We’ve all heard that it’s important to drink eight glasses a day — that’s because the human body relies on water for most bodily functions.
It’s also key to health and sanitation that people are able to wash their hands. But 2.3 billion people lack access to basic hygiene, like soap and water, at home. According to the World Health Organization, access to clean water and proper sanitation could save nearly 2 million lives per year.
Quite literally, access to clean water is what keeps us all alive — and the fashion industry must do its part in conserving this crucial resource.
To find clothing on the American Eagle website that is sustainably made, look for the Real Good icon and learn more about our partnership here!