Why Organic Cotton?
There are three reasons why our GOTS certified, organic combed cotton is a preferred choice over conventional cotton: it benefits the planet, the people, and you.
Benefits to you
Why combed cotton?
Combed cotton is an extremely soft version of cotton made by specially treating the cotton fibres before they are spun into yarn.
After harvesting the raw cotton, the dirt and seeds are cleaned away. To produce the threads, cotton fibres are separated and lined up next to each other in the same direction in a process called carding. Although time-consuming, this special process improves the strength, durability, and overall quality of the cotton fibres. After alignment the fibres are combed with fine brushes in order to leave behind only the longest, strongest, and straightest fibres. All short and prickling fibres are removed giving the combed cotton greater durability and making it less prone to fraying and tearing.
At the structural level, combed cotton is softer and stronger than your regular cotton. It's the source of that 'quality feel' on our skin.
The fabric is also biodegradable just like regular cotton.
Why organic cotton?
Our GOTS certified organic cotton is made without the use of toxic, synthetic chemical fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides, ensuring that there are no allergenic, carcinogenic or toxic chemical residues in the finished product unlike conventionally grown and manufactured cotton.
This makes it an excellent choice for any of us with skin sensitivities or allergies caused by the residue of toxic chemicals in conventional cotton.
On top of affecting our skin, these toxic chemicals have serious implications on our environment too.
Benefits to the planet
The fashion industry is the second-most polluting industry in the world (second only to oil).
- 25% of chemicals produced worldwide are used for textiles.
- 20% of freshwater pollution worldwide are due to textile treatment and dyeing.
- These chemicals pollute rivers and groundwater stores, upsetting fragile ecosystems and posing a toxic risk to wildlife.
- Conventional cotton uses 20,000 - 29,000 litres of water/1kg of cotton.
- Most conventional cotton is irrigated, draining groundwater, lakes and rivers, threatening water availability for ecosystems, wildlife, and other humans needs.
But instead of listing all the environmental negativities of conventional cotton production, let's look at the bright side of the argument: the textile industry is the third largest industry in the world, which means that by simply switching to organic cotton where we can, we can harness the enormous potential in our society to make a positive impact on our planet and its environment: the only home we've ever known.
So how exactly does organic cotton help? Together with the GOTS certification, organic cotton ensures that:
- Inputs in processing such as dyes and inks comply with strict biodegradability and toxicity requirements.
- Factories have functioning waste water treatment plants to protect local ecosystems, biodiversity and water supplies.
- It is rain fed (80% of all organic cotton production) rather than irrigated, preserving important groundwater stores.
- It uses less water (7,000 litres of water/1kg of cotton).
- Core International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions must be met throughout manufacture and a social compliance management system must be set up.
And the last point leads us to the third and final benefit.
Benefits to the people
GOTS certified organisations comply with key labour standards set by ILO (International Labour Organisation)
Including our manufacturers in India, GOTS certified manufactures all strongly strive to achieve positive working conditions set by ILO (International Labour Organisation) and surpass the criteria needed to attain this certification. This is a necessary effort to be socially responsible so that disasters similar to that at Rana Plaza will not be repeated in Bangladesh or at other factories around the world in the fashion industry.
Here is a condensed list of benefits that workers and communities surrounding the manufacturers receive:
- Workers receive rights to join or form unions. They are protected from harsh or inhumane treatments such as forced or excessive labour and discrimination. Child labour is not permitted.
- Working conditions are safe and hygienic. Protective equipment is supplied along with health and safety training, and access to facilities are provided and maintained appropriately.
- Wages meet legal standards or industry benchmark standards (whichever is higher). Workers are ensured clarity on their employment details and payment particulars.
- Social accountability is ensured. Workers are allowed to nominate a representative themselves to make sure these criteria are met.
A full list of benefits can be read in more detail here.
Organic cotton puts choices in the farmer’s hands, not GM (genetically-modified) producers.
Bt cotton (a genetically modified variety of cotton produced by Monsanto which naturally produce chemicals harmful to selective insects) is the only GM crop that has been widely commercialised in developing countries. However, Bt cotton does not guarantee a good harvest or higher yield because:
- It is ineffective against many 'secondary' pests such as plant bugs, stink bugs, and aphids, necessitating the use of pesticides at similar levels to non-Bt cotton.
- It is still susceptible to disease and suffers greater damage due to drought than traditional varieties.
- It is expensive and like other GM seeds, lose vigour after one generation, requiring farmers to buy new stocks every year.
This means for the mainly small-scale farmers in these countries (who are responsible for 75% of global cotton production), Bt cotton is a risky option as they cannot afford to spend more money on pesticides (up to 60% of the costs of cotton production), fertilisers, on top of the higher priced seed it demands each year. All of these factors combined eat into diminishing returns and push farmers into debt and serious depression.
And still, GM company Monsanto controls a staggering 93% of the cotton seed market in India, resulting in less and less availability of non-Bt seed varieties, and giving farmers no choice but to use Bt seeds that come with higher costs and compromising yields.
Organic cotton production counters this by never using Bt or other GM seed. The small-scale farmers who produce the majority of cotton need reliability, not high risks. Organic farming allows farmers to work within their limits and with their environment in a sustainable way. Organic cotton puts choices in the farmer’s hands, not GM producers.
Organic cotton saves farmers from pesticide poisoning
Acute poisoning from pesticides is commonplace in cotton production; deaths from severe poisoning are widespread at up to 77 million cotton workers suffering from pesticides poisoning each year. Suffering is most severe in developing countries, where poverty makes people more vulnerable either due to lack of understanding of the risk, illiteracy or insufficient protective measures.
Our power to choose
We're not going to pretend that these amazing, quality benefits for the planet, the people and you; our customers, don't come with a slightly increased price tag. But if you are hoping to buy less but better quality and longevity, chances are organic combed cotton is just what you have been looking for.
As for us, it's the material of choice that our personal journey have led us to. It's a canvas worthy of throwing all of our creative energies that we can possibly muster. Our aim is to create clothing that can supplement your expressions of life because of what it's made of, how it's made, how it feels and how it looks - and it starts with every garment that gets worn and loved by you.
Thank you for giving organic combed cotton a chance.
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- FAQ. Global Organic Textile Standard.
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- Care What You Wear: Facts on Cotton & Clothing Production. Organic Consumers Association.
- Protecting Our Planet and Protecting Ourselves: The Importance of Organic Cotton. David Dietz, Founder, Modavanti. Huffington Post.
- Fabric: Organic Cotton. Patagonia.
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- Patagonia オーガニック・コットン. 一人一人の行動が持つ大きな意味.
- The International Labour Organization's Fundamental Conventions. International Labour Office.
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Version 4.0. Global Organic Textile Standard International Working Group (IWG).
- Towards a safer garment industry in Bangladesh. International Labour Organisation.
- Poor crop management plagues Bt cotton experiment in India. Nature Biotechnology by NPG.
- India investigates Bt cotton claims. Nature by NPG.
- Seven-year glitch: Cornell warns that Chinese GM cotton farmers are losing money due to 'secondary' pests. Cornell Chronicle.