Today,  7.8 billion people on earth are using more of its resources than earth can provide.

“Humans have made and worn textiles since prehistoric times. Developments in agriculture contributed to the advancement of the textile industry and Ancient Egyptian scrolls and pyramid murals depict the growing, harvesting, and weaving of flax into linen. It was used to make clothes, rope, and death shrouds.”


  • 5000 B.C. – Cotton fibre and cloth fragments found in Mexico date from this period.
  • 3000 B.C. – Cotton first cultivated as a fabric in the Indus River Valley (present-day Pakistan).
  • 2500 B.C. – Chinese, Egyptian and South American civilisations begin weaving cotton fabrics.
  • 2500 B.C. – Early farming societies in South and North America domesticate and breed two local species of cotton: Gossypium hirsutum and Gossypium barbadense.
  • 300 B.C. – Alexander the Great’s army brings cotton goods into Europe following the conquest of the Persian Empire. However, cotton cloth remains expensive and its use is limited.

“Arab merchants brought cotton cloth to Europe about 800 A.D. When Columbus discovered America in 1492, he found cotton growing in the Bahama Islands. By 1500, cotton was known generally throughout the world. Cotton seed are believed to have been planted in Florida in 1556 and in Virginia in 1607.”

100 A.D. to 1400s

  • 100 A.D. – Arab traders bring two cotton fabrics, muslin and calico, to Italy and Spain.
  • 800s – The Moors introduce cotton cultivation to Spain.
  • 1492 – Christopher Columbus finds the modern world’s most popular current cotton variety, Gossypium hirsutum, in the Bahamas.


  • 1500s – Denim fabric is initially produced in Nimes, France. Denim derives its name from ‘serge de Nimes’ (‘fabric of Nimes’).
  • 1500s – Sailors from the Italian port city Genoa begin to wear denim trousers. The word ‘jeans’ is derived from ‘Genes’, the French name for Genoa.
  • 1530s – Naturally-coloured cotton fabrics are among the first items collected from the Americas and more technically sophisticated than fabric woven by European looms at the time.

port of Genoa at sunset, Liguria, Italy


  • 1600s – The East India Company brings rare cotton fabrics to Europe from India.
  • 1621 – Cotton first produced in parts of present-day USA.
  • 1641 – First cotton spinning factory opens in Manchester, UK, marking the true beginning of Europe’s cotton industry.

 1700s – 1800s

  • 1700s – The world cotton industry develops dramatically as Britain acquires colonies suitable for cotton growing, whilst at the same time textile machinery improvements allow stronger yarn to be spun.
  • 1700s – Cotton replaces flax and wool as Europeans’ most popular fabric.
  • 1760s – Britain overtakes India as the world’s largest cotton processor as a result of the Industrial Revolution.


“The inventions of the Spinning Jenny (1764) and the Spinning Mule (1775) which allowed one worker to operate 1,000 spindles at one time, yarn-making moved from being a cottage industry into the mills. “


“John Kay’s invention of the flying shuttle in 1733, which allowed the weaver to send the shuttle across the width of the loom automatically, was the first step in mechanization of weaving. Edmund Cartwright developed the steam-powered loom and in 1788, with James Watt, built the first steam-driven textile mill in England.”

This freed the mills from their dependence on water-driven machinery and allowed them to be constructed anywhere. Another significant development was the punch-card system, developed in France in 1801 by Joseph Marie Jacquard; this allowed automated weaving of patterns. The earlier power looms made of wood were gradually replaced by looms made of steel and other metals. Since then, technological changes have focused on making them larger, faster and more highly automated.

  • 1793 – American Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin, separating cotton 50-times faster than traditional hand methods. As a result of this, and the advent of cheaper industrial dyes, Gossypium hirsutum, a white cotton species, replaces coloured varieties as the most popular cotton variety.
  • Early 1800s – Southern states of the USA become the world’s largest exporter of cotton to thriving British textile mills.


  • 1920s – The USA accounts for more than half of the world’s cotton fibre.
  • 1939–45 – During WWII, naturally green and brown cottons are again produced commercially to counter the lack of dyes available.

The history of fully synthetic fibers covers only ∼70 years and yet today production of synthetic fibers is in billions of kilograms per year. (nylon 1935, polyester 1941, orlon 1950)
The development of these fibers depended upon advances and discoveries in polymer synthesis, new spinning methods and, in some cases, new polymer solvents.


“Annual fiber consumption is increased nearlly 7 times/ x7 in last 60 years. Annual fiber consumption came from 16 million tons – 1960 – to 110 million tons – today 2020 – and man-made fibers increased marketshare to %63, while cotton (%25) and celulosic manmade fibers together get %32. “

  • 1940s – Denim’s popularity becomes more widespread as its image shifts from durable clothing for blue-collar workers towards everyday apparel for the general public, and youth in particular.
  • 1950/51 – World cotton demand and production levels each reach seven-million tonnes.
  • Early 1980s – Most native, coloured cotton varieties grown in Africa, Asia, Central and South America are replaced by all-white, commercial varieties.
  • 1996 – Transgenic cotton varieties are first introduced, and are widely adopted by the world cotton industry.


The history of fully synthetic fibers covers only ∼70 years -polyamide( known as nylon) 1935, polyester 1941, orlon( known as acrylic ) 1950- and yet today market-share of synthetic fibers is  %68.
The development of these fibers depended upon advances and discoveries in polymer synthesis, new spinning methods and, in some cases, new polymer solvents.


  • 2003 – The first transgenic cotton varieties to have two independently-acting Bt genes are successfully introduced in Australia and the USA.
  • 2004/05 – World cotton demand and production reach record highs of 23-million tonnes and 26-million tonnes respectively.
  • 2006/07 – World cotton average yields reach a record 747 kilograms per hectare, due in large part to increased use of biotechnology.
  • 2008 – Structure of world trade changing, due to the Global Financial Crisis, volatility in the futures market and reduced demand.
  • 2009 – The Better Cotton Initiative is established as an independent organisation bringing together farmers, ginners, traders, spinners, mills, manufacturers, retailers, brands and grassroots organisations in a unique global community committed to developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity.
  • 2011 – World cotton prices peak at their highest recorded levels. The Bremen CFI Index, one of the three most important price indices for cotton trade, stood at 246.15 cents/lb on 8th March.
  • 2013/14 – The global 20-year average (1993/94 to 2013/14) planted area reaches 33-million hectares of cotton.

World Fiber Consumption in 2014.

  • 2014 – Cotton Australia signs an agreement with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) on behalf of Australia’s cotton industry to help secure access to future growth markets, as Australian cotton growers contend with competition from synthetic fibres. The agreement transfers a BCI licence to Australian cotton produced under myBMP certification.
  • 2014/15 – China, the world’s largest cotton importer and is also the biggest producer, produces an estimated 33 million bales.
  • 2015 – China’s global cotton market share declines, and the rest of Asia increases imports and consumption.
  • 2015 – Growth in world cotton consumption slows.

Aras Lake from Google Earth in 2020.

  • 2015 – Price and functionality are the primary drivers of consumer demand of cotton products, but sustainability steadily grows in importance for buyers.
  • 2015 – The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, further driving the sustainable development agenda. Many large global companies set ambitious sustainability targets for their businesses.
  • 2016/17 – The world cotton area falls to be the smallest amount grown since 2009/10. Increased production in the USA, Pakistan and Brazil offsets losses in China.
  • 2016 – New pests bring new challenges to cotton production. The cultivation of biotech cotton had changed the pest complex in many countries, so changes in pest control methods were required.
  • 2018 – World cotton production for 2018/19 was down due to a reduction in planted area, water availability, and limited improvements in yields. Consumption growth slowed during the period.
  • 2019 – Trade tensions and higher stocks add uncertainty to the cotton market. The US-China trade war escalates, with increasing retaliatory tariffs on both sides


Distribution of textile fibers.

  • Annual growth 4% p.a.
  • 32 M Tons of cotton will be needed by 2030 (equalevent to 134.000 km2 of field, 320 B Tons of clean water)
  • 70 M Tons of Polyester will be needed by 2030     ( equalevent to 105 M Tons of crude oil from underground sources)


A scene from Tirupur ( known as textile capital of India), India. 


  •  Less than 1% of global water resources is available as fresh water for people
  • But water consumption is rising due to population growth and changing consumption habits


  • Arable land is decreasing due to erosion and urbanization
  • With a growing global population, this intensifies the competition for farm land


  • If we look at atmospheric concentrations , we see that levels were fairly stable at 270-285 parts per million (ppm) until the 18th century.
  • Since the Industrial Revolution, global CO2 concentrations have been increasing rapidly.




The anticipated total fashion waste in 2030 anticipated to reach148 million tons

A landfill scene from USA.

  • In the United States alone, more than 15 million tons of textile waste is generated annualy, with the average American tossing out approximately 80 pounds of clothing.
  • This amount of waste has detrimental effects on our environment. While some clothing is donated and recycled, the majority of textile waste heads to our landfills where they release greenhouse gases and leach toxins and dyes into the surrounding soil and water



Textile industry producing 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalents every year (“The price of fast fashion”, Nature Climate Change, Vol 8, Jan 201)

  • 10.75 kg CO2 and other greenhouse gases – that is the Product Carbon Footprint of a white long-shirt made of 100 % cotton and a net weight of 220 grams. The Carbon Footprint is 50 times higher than the net weight of the long-shirt. In other words, it is equivalent to a 40 kilometer drive by car.

9 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean every year (National Geographic)

A scene from Atlantic Ocean.

  • Scientists first began reporting on plastic pollution in oceans 50 years ago, which was only two decades after plastic products like water bottles, plastic wrap and food packaging became commercially available.
  • In 2016, plastic production for that year reached an all-time high at 335 million metric tonnes; 322 million tonnes were produced in 2015, an increase of 13 million tonnes. To put it in perspective, a blue whale (the largest mammal on earth) can weigh up to 200 tonnes.
  • The amount of plastic we produced in 2015 is equal to the weight of 1,675,000 full-sized blue whales! Just doing this calculation blew my mind.

July 29: Earth Overshoot Day 2019 is the Earliest Ever

  • Humanity is currently using nature 1.75 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. This is akin to using 1.75 Earths.
  • Overshoot is possible because we are depleting our natural capital – which compromises humanity’s future resource security. The costs of this global ecological overspending are becoming increasingly evident in the forms of deforestation, soil erosion, biodiversity loss, and the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • Humanity will eventually have to operate within the means of Earth’s ecological resources, whether that balance is restored by disaster or by design.
    (Global Footprint Network)