When your items are scanned at a clothing store, you are voting for local or not, organic or not. Companies make the decision to buy certain products based on customer preference. Individual consumers can make big changes, simply by making informed purchases.
We put a lot of importance into the shape, style and fit of the clothes we buy but we often overlook the process and materials used to make the clothing. Cotton can be one of the most environmentally damaging crops. Of the world’s cropland, 2.4% is planted with cotton but accounts for 24% and 11% of the global sale of insecticides and pesticides.
Organic Cottons crops are not treated with pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and Genetically Modified Organisms, which is better for the environment, wildlife, farmers, workers and consumers.
Source: Huffington Post
Growing non-organic cotton requires huge amounts of water and chemicals. The chemical run off from these crops ends up in our lakes, rivers, oceans and other waterways. It creates a harmful circle of effects as we drink that water, animals that we eat drink it as well as plants. Pesticides have been found in our food, farm animals and even breast milk, which can cause neurodevelopment effects on children.
THE EFFECTS ON FABRICS
The chemical residue can also be found on fabrics. This can cause irritation to the skin, rashes and even headaches and dizziness. Less than 1% of all cotton is grown organically. The good news is that we can change this and reduce these harmful effects by purchasing certified organic cottons.
Source: Study by LCA funded
*Nutrients leaching from soil erosion
**Water withdrawn from groundwater or surface water bodies via irrigation
THE REQUIREMENTS OF ORGANIC COTTONS
It’s important to note that not all organic cottons are made the same. At Sitka, we use Global Organic Textile Standard Cottons (GOTS). We chose this particular certification due to its international standards, reliability and credibility. Companies seeking this certification have to meet a number of different requirements for criteria covering “production, processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, exportation, importation and distribution of all natural fibre products”.
SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS OF GOTS COTTON
- Material must be at least 95% organic, as certified by recognized international or national standards
- Materials 70% organic can be labeled “made with organic”
- Materials need to be processed separately from conventionally-grown fiber
- Inputs like dyes and oils need to be biodegradable and free of harsh chemicals like phthalates, PVC, synthetic sizing agents, and chlorine bleach.
- They must keep a full record of any chemical inputs to their manufacturing process
- The waste water from all wet processing units must be treated in a functional waste water treatment plant
- The fiber cannot come from a genetically modified organism
- Facilities must maintain minimum fair labor practices from the Internal Labor Organization
- Fabric and products must meet high standards for residue testing
- Packaging material must not contain PVC. Paper or cardboard used in packaging material, hang tags, swing tags etc must be recycled or certified according to FSC or PEFC
Choosing the right fabrics is essential to supporting a better environment. Make informed decisions about clothing you are buying by researching the company and fabrics.