How organic are your cotton clothes? The fashion industry is a main contributor of world pollution. The processes used in textile development are the main cause of pollution.
More and more brands are now trying to make themselves appear more ‘Green’ by claiming to sell organic clothing. But how can you be sure that the clothes you buy are not made from conventional cotton? Here’s a few things you should know.
Conventional vs organic cotton
- It’s impossible for consumers to tell the difference between conventional cotton and organic cotton just by looking at a garment. So any brand can claim to be selling organic clothing, to promote their brand and increase sales.
- The difference is in the production of the cotton. Organic cotton farming has some great advantages over conventionally grown cotton.
- You may not know that organic farming combats climate change. This is because farmers use natural methods to grow cotton, not fossil-fuel based fertilisers. Farmers work with nature to build healthy soils which store carbon and help to combat climate change. In fact there are up to 46% less greenhouse gas than conventional cotton.
- The water savings, as much as 91%, of growing organic cotton are huge, and a significant environmental benefit compared to conventional cotton production. 11,000 litres of water are needed to make one kilogram of conventional cotton. One kilogram is about six T-shirts, and there are billions of cotton T-shirts made every year globally. With cotton being the most popular fibre it makes sense to switch to organic to lower its impact on the planet. The reason for this huge water saving is due to healthy soil created by organic farming, which allows the soil to act as sponge and hold water during floods. Conventional cotton production extracts water from the ground, which can deplete local resources and impact local communities.
- So not only does organic cotton use up far less water. The farming process bans the use of hazardous synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. This results in rivers, lakes and drinking water being cleaner too.
- Another positive is that organic farmers always grow other crops alongside their cotton. This can provide the farmers and their communities with another source of income and a diverse food supply.
- Crop rotation is also used to control pests and diseases. This replaces the need for the hazardous synthetic pesticides used in non-organic farming which can damage ecosystems, poison waterways and endanger workers. In fact, conventional cotton alone is responsible for 16% of all insecticides sold worldwide.
- Organic farming doesn’t permit genetically modified (GM) seeds, instead farmers work with the environment in a long-term, sustainable way.
- With all these controls and environmental benefits in mind, you probably want to be sure that the cotton you buy is actually organic. The only way to be sure is if the clothing has the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) logo in the product. The care label often carries the logo and signifies that the whole cotton supply chain is traceable from the farm to the garment. GOTS is the leading textile processing standard for organic fibres.
- It is so easy to lose sight of the fibres used in the clothing production process. This is why the traceability of organic cotton is so important. Brands and retailers will place orders with suppliers who give those orders to their factories. Once the factory has received a confirmed order, they will then contact their fabric suppliers or mills. This is when things can get a bit clouded. Independently inspected mills are certified by GOTS. But unless the receiving factory, this could be the dye house or the factory that is making the clothes, is also certified by GOTS there will be no verification that the fabric received by the factory is organic.
The fabric rolls may be labelled as organic but there is no way the factory will actually know what it is receiving. If the factory is GOTS certified the mill producing the organic fabric will be able to produce a ‘transaction certificate’ to show how much organic fabric has been produced and delivered to the receiving factory. Where all partners in the supply chain are GOTS certified this transaction process will be visible all the way along the supply chain. You can be certain when you buy a product with a GOTS logo, that it is made with organic cotton.
- How many organic clothes do you have? Do you know how many of them have the GOTS logo? Check when you buy, whether the brand is stating the yarn or fabric is GOTS certified or whether the garment is certified. Some brands will have this information in the product description. Others may broadly state that the cotton they use is GOTS certified.
A garment must have a minimum of 70% organic cotton in order for it to be certified by GOTS. The GOTS logo in a garment indicates that it has been made using environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing. Fertilisers, pesticides and other chemical agents harmful to human health have been avoided and the entire production chain has been controlled.
What Is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound. Greenwashing is an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly. Source: Investopedia
We are proud that over 90% of our clothes to rent are certified by GOTS – the Global Organic Textile Standard.