Sustainability School: Organic Cotton

Posted by Katia Hagen on

Organic Cotton vs Cotton

If you didn't already know, on instagram @lights.of.all, I do informative little episodes of Sustainability school which is saved in our highlight reel. I decided to transcribe some of them onto our blog for those who would rather read than listen.

So here is the one discussing Organic cotton versus Cotton.

I was personally getting upset because I see a lot of 'vegan and eco friendly' companies who use conventional cotton instead of Organic Cotton. This ignited this fire in me to help educate consumers to know the difference between organic cotton and conventional cotton. The truth is that there are huge differences between the two from environmental impact to fair labor practices.

A lot of companies have eco and vegan slogans on t-shirts made from cotton and polyester. THIS MAKES NO SENSE. If you have a slogan that says 'earth first' and it's printed on cotton that is accountable for water waste, soil exploitation, overuse of bleach, slave labor and is printed with toxic chemical dyes, there is a huge disconnect between intention and action. Needless to say there is detrimental effects to the planet, the people who produce the fabric and clothing and the person who ends up wearing the clothing.

There are a lot of great articles and studies out there showing you what the difference is and why organic cotton is the better option for the planet. However they are really long, so I wanted to create an easier to read, bullet point version.

Conventional Cotton:
-Ridiculous amounts of water are used
-Use of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers
-Continuous growth on soil (no resting time for soil to regenerated) - which in turn necessitates the overuse of water, pesticides, etc.
-Unregulated use of bleaches, dyes and toxic chemicals.
-The people who are processing the cotton plants to make them into fabric are then subject to working conditions wherein they are inhaling, touching these toxic chemicals.

Organic Cotton:

No use of herbicides, insecticides, etc. Instead that 'employ' natural predators to keep away pests. *
Crop rotation encourages the soil to regenerate and retain moisture so, uses less water when growing the cotton. *
Because they do not use harmful chemicals, the working conditions for employees is much safer. 

*Information taken from Eco-Chic; The Fashion Paradox by Sandy Black

The Organic Cotton we use at LOA is certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). There are other standards that exist, but it just so happens that the supplier I work with uses this certification. 

Basic toxicity levels must be met on all dyes, auxiliaries, etc. Must be biodegradable
Only oxygen based bleaches (no chlorine)
No use of pesticides or herbicides
Must submit full report on all water usage, treatment, energy, dyes and waste.
Must meet minimum waste discharge.

Materials are tested for effects on the wearer of the garment as well, such as perspiration, sunlight effect, shrinkage. This is to make sure the best quality and health for the final wearers of the fabric.

Social criterias
No child labor
Working conditions safe and sanitary
No discrimination laws
Weekly wages
Minimum wages
Weekly rest 
AND much more.

Read all about the criteria here 

GET THE GIST
Organic Cotton is more than just being organic. They have laws about the environmental impact of growing the cotton, but it doesn't stop there. When a fabric is certified organic cotton it also means that the people processing and making the fabrics are protected by standards to ensure their safety, workers rights, health (in the short and long term). They also consider how the fabric will effect your (the wearer's) health - that there are no chemical dyes that will leak into your skin, that the fabric is high quality, etc.

These are all the reasons why here at Lights of All, we only buy organic cotton and will never buy conventional cotton. 

Good to know, The GOTS covers more than just Cotton, it is a standard for all organic textiles! So when you see their logos for other fibres too, you can rest assured you are getting the best option for the environment, people and yourself!

Want to learn more? I found this website that has a great easy to read format about Organic Cotton.

Photo by Anna Costa

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