Sustainable Apparel XPRIZE

Throughout the lifecycle of an article of apparel, opportunities exist to reduce the human or environmental health impacts of the process. Because the apparel industry is so large and touches every inch of the globe, addressing any of the major sources of negative human or environmental externalities would be a win for human and environmental health. First, most fibers and fabrics used in apparel manufacturing have some associated negative environmental impacts. For example, nylon and polyester are made from petrochemicals and are non-biodegradable. Second, the manufacturing processes - going from fiber to cloth - also has large environmental impacts from a water and energy use and pollution standpoint. Dyeing alone can account for most of the water used in producing a garment with unfixed dye then often washing out of garments and, if untreated, polluting rivers and streams. Third, the environmental impacts do not stop at the manufacturing plant. Packaging and transportation have negative environmental impacts, as does the long term care of products, and the disposal of used apparel. A study conducted for the American Fiber Manufacturers Association showed that in the lifespan of a woman’s blouse - from production to use to disposal - approximately 80 percent of the total system energy is energy used for laundering the blouses.

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