If you're an eco-conscious fashionista, you've probably heard of organic cotton. But what exactly is it, and why should you care?
First off, let's define our terms. Organic cotton is grown without toxic pesticides and herbicides, which means it's better for the environment and the farmers who grow it. On the other hand, conventional cotton (the kind you'll find in most stores) is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world, which can negatively impact the environment and the people who work with it.
So, here are a few of the main reasons why we only use organic cotton in our XWASTED t-shirts and hoodies.
It's better for the environment
Conventional cotton production is a dirty business. It's one of the most chemically-dependent crops in the world, with farmers using vast amounts of pesticides and herbicides to keep the bugs at bay. These chemicals not only harm the environment but can also negatively impact the health of farmers and their families.
On the other hand, organic cotton is grown without toxic chemicals, which means less water pollution, soil degradation, and overall harm to the environment. Plus, it just feels good to know you're not contributing to the chemical crapstorm that is conventional cotton production.
To get a bit technical, our t-shirts and hoodies comply to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). These standards prohibit some pretty nasty chemicals:
- Chlorine bleaching
- Toxic heavy metals
- Genetically modified organisms
- Azo dyes
- Aromatic solvents
- Functional nano particles
It's good for the farmers
By supporting organic cotton, you're supporting small-scale farmers and local economies. That's a win-win in our book. The demand for organic cotton is growing and with good reason. By choosing organic cotton, you're making a good choice for the environment and supporting a growing industry.
Cotton in Benin, West Africa
Let's check out an example from the soil associations' cotton and food security briefing.
Benin is the fourth largest cotton producer in Africa. Cotton is mostly grown by small-scale farmers on an average farm size of 2.5 hectares and is usually harvested by hand.
Both organic and non-organic farmers often grow cotton as a cash crop in rotation with food crops for their own consumption. However, due to the increasing costs of synthetic inputs, many conventional farmers have been planting a higher proportion of cotton relative to food crops in an attempt to make up for the expenses of using chemical fertilisers and pesticides. This shift has led to a decrease in local food availability in areas where conventional cotton is grown, forcing families to travel further to buy food.
The Benin Organisation for the Promotion of Organic Farming (OPEPAB), in partnership with the Pesticide Action Network UK support over 6,000 farmers in growing organic cotton. As of June 2022, organic cotton farmers earned more than triple the net income of conventional cotton farmers in the last season. They are also doing better on non-cotton crops – profits from soya and maize are up 50% on comparison to conventional cotton farmers.Of the 6,000 supported farmers, over 1,800 are women. This female representation is three times higher than in conventional cotton farming.
Image source: Pesticide Action Network
It's softer and more durable
You might think that all cotton is created equal, but that's not the case. Organic cotton fibres are longer and stronger than conventional cotton, which means they're less prone to tearing. Plus, they're super soft to the touch.
Let's take a closer look at the process for conventional cotton manufacturing:
1. Field to Gin
Organic cotton farming uses less mechanised farming practices and often includes handpicking the cotton. While this is labour intensive, there is less damage to the cotton and the plant; closed cotton bolls with weaker fibres are left in the ground until they are ready to harvest.
2. Spinner to Loom
Fibres are separated into loose strands, where they are then combed and blended. Finally, the spun cotton gets knitted into a rough, greyish fabric on a loom.
As there is often less damage to the organic cotton, the strands are often longer, providing a more robust fabric on the loom.
3. Wet processing
During the final stages of fabric production, heat and chemicals are applied to give the fabric its desired appearance, which involves bleaching and dyeing.
As you expect, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) have pretty intense checks and inspections during this process, and the previous section lists some of the banned chemicals that would be used at this stage. Other synthetic inputs are banned here, including anti-microbial, coating, filling, stiffening, matting and weighting. Additional finishing methods like sandblasting, considered harmful to workers, are banned.
If you have sensitive skin, organic cotton might be an excellent choice. Because it's grown without chemicals, it's hypoallergenic and less likely to irritate.
Clothing with the XWASTED label meets the class I criteria for textile items for babies and toddlers up to three years, the highest of the four certification classes. Although, as much as we like advertising our brand, there are probably better clothes suited for your new born.
So, there you have it. It's better for the environment, softer and more durable, and supports small-scale farmers. What's more, our hoodies and T-shirts only include recycled organic cotton 🤯