When you first start diving into the world of “sustainable and ethical fashion” you instantly become overwhelmed. There are so many factors that go into being a sustainable and ethical product and come to find out it’s almost impossible to find something that has the whole package. When it comes to shopping more ethically I’ve had to evaluate what parts of ethical fashion I find the most important. For example, an item can be sustainably made (with organic cotton and dyes) but not be made ethically (fair wages and normal work hours). The five most common factors in sustainable and ethical fashion are ethical production, transparency in the company, made with natural fibers/earth-friendly dyes, gives back to a cause, and local manufacturing. I happen to care about these factors in the order in which they are listed. What do you think is most important?
With that said, let’s dive into the reasoning why it matters to have natural, organic fibers such as cotton.
Although cotton takes up less than 2.5 percent of global cropland, 10% of all pesticides are used.
Remember learning about organic food in high school and how bad GMOs were for your body? Come to find out that we’re all wearing something that is way worse than consuming GMOs. Your skin is your largest organ yet we allow a plethora of chemicals lay on our skin… well unless you’re a hippy and don’t wear clothes. The constant contact of pesticides can cause you to have irritated skin, rashes, and even can cause headaches and dizziness. Umm… no, thank you!
These chemicals are up and personal with your goods every day and night. Ever forget to wash your jeans before you wear them and end up with blue/black hands from the dye? I’m super guilty of this and have plenty of blue/black hands before. Although pesticides aren’t as visible as the dye rubbing off on your hands, the same amount gets stuck onto your skin and rubs against sensitive areas. So if you don’t buy organic cotton make sure you wash your item before you wear it so that it removes some of the pesticides before you wear it.
The Cotton Industry is notorious for human rights violations in India, the world’s largest cotton producer.
The problem with cotton that as soon as you start to treat it with pesticides it only needs more and more pesticides. As soon as the farmers start to use the pesticides, they need more and more in order to keep up with the crop. This causes them to be in tremendous debt and sell some of their land to the people who sold them the pesticides, Monsanto. All while these transactions are going on, local communities near the farms are born with birth defects and mentally deficient as a result of the extreme pesticide exposure. When pesticides are sprayed they can actually travel two miles from the air and waterways. If that wasn’t worse enough, the same people who are selling the pesticides, taking the land, and allowing neighboring towns to get sick are also selling the medication to help with the illnesses. It is one big money scheme.
This isn’t only happening in India. The Environmental Protection Agency considers 7 of the 15 pesticides used on conventional cotton as possible or known carcinogenic (cancer-causing) agents. Farmers in the United States are also suffering from the harsh pesticides and are dying from cancer.
What are the requirements to be considered organic cotton?
- No pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals are used when growing organic cotton
- To be certified organic the soil must be free from chemicals for at least 3 years
- The land, and soil, benefits from crop rotation
- Organic cotton gets a GOTS certification (Global Organic Textile Standard) to make sure that it is organic.
So how can I help this issue?
Cotton is in so much that we consume even away from our clothes. Our bedding, towels, money, tampons, make up wipes, q-tips, and so much more. So how can you help the cotton industry? By buying organic! So many companies are coming out with organic lines each and every day. Keep your skin and the environment happy by choosing to buy organic cotton. Here are just six of the many companies that have an adorable line of organic items:
- Pact (Basics)
- Patagonia (Organic cotton line)
- Thought (Timeless Pieces)
- Synergy (Currently eyeing everything at this store)
- Groceries Apparel (USA Made)
- Noctu (Cute loungewear)
You can even find some organic cotton in the sea of clothes at TJMaxx and Marshalls! I found these perfect casual t-shirts at Marshalls. They have been my go-to when I’m rushing to get out the door in the morning.
Do you own anything that is made out of organic cotton? Did you know that cotton was such a demanding crop? Let me know in the comments down below.