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Care What You Wear

The Next Textile Wave: Low-Waste, Recycled Cotton

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Cloths fora Change page, and our Organic Transitions page.

If you want to be "green," you may have to change your clothes. And your sheets.

The environmental impact of the global textile industry is hard to overstate. One-third of the water used worldwide is spent fashioning fabrics. For every ton of cloth produced, 200 tons of water is polluted with chemicals and heavy metals. An estimated 1 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity powers the factories that card and comb, spin and weave, and cut and stitch materials into everything from T-shirts to towels, leaving behind mountains of solid waste and a massive carbon footprint.

"Where the industry is today is not really sustainable for the long term," says Shreyaskar Chaudhary, chief executive of Pratibha Syntex, a textile manufacturer based outside Indore, India. The company, which specializes in ready-to-wear clothing, makes garments for Nike, Hanes, Wal-Mart, and Ralph Lauren.

With something of an "if you build it, they will come" attitude, Mr. Chaudhary has steered Pratibha toward the leading edge of eco-friendly textile production.

Under his direction, Pratibha began making clothes with organic cotton in 1999. Initially, the company couldn't find enough organic farms growing cotton in central India to supply its factories.