We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: it’s extremely difficult to create anything sustainable at scale. That being said, we’re committed to improving our business whenever and wherever possible, from our packaging to how we design our clothes and everything in between.
One thing we’re always re-evaluating is our materials, and over the last year, we’ve made big strides in one area in particular: making the switch from conventional cotton to organic cotton.
What We Love About Cotton
Cotton is hands-down one of our favorite materials to work with. It’s incredibly versatile — depending on how you weave it or finish it, it can be used for everything from soft sweaters to water-resistant outerwear.
It’s also natural, biodegradable, breathable, easy to care for, comfortable, soft, and pretty darn strong. Nearly half of the fiber used in the textile industry is cotton...which is where things start to get problematic.
The Problem(s) with Conventionally Grown Cotton
First up, it requires a crazy amount of water to grow — producing the cotton for one regular old white tee requires over 700 gallons of water.
- Why does it matter?
- Our planet may be 70% water, but only 3% of that is freshwater — what we need to drink, bathe, and farm with. Furthermore, two-thirds of that 3% isn’t actually accessible. Access to clean water is a huge global issue, and when we use up or pollute natural water systems, we stress an already stressed system.
Conventionally grown cotton is estimated to be the culprit behind 25% of the world’s insecticide use, and 10% of pesticide use — more than any other crop in the world.
- Why does it matter?
- Pesticides can destroy local ecosystems, hurt animals, are costly for farmers, and can harm nearby communities, too, affecting local food and water supplies and even causing disease.
Plus, conventional cotton may be picked in conditions that are inhumane and unsafe for workers. So what can be done?
Why We REALLY Love Organic Cotton
Organic cotton isn’t perfect, but it improves on a few key things over conventionally grown cotton:
- It’s grown without the use of any chemicals — that means no pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, or fungicides polluting the land or harming communities.
- It’s grown from non-GMO seeds, for improved biodiversity.
- It requires 91% less water to grow than conventional cotton.
- It keeps the soil healthier, meaning farmers can grow on the same land for longer.
- It produces 46% less CO2 than conventional cotton.
...And it’s hypoallergenic, too! All this and more are why we’re focusing on making the shift across our products to organic cotton whenever possible.
Of course, there are two sides to every coin. One of the arguments against organic cotton is that it yields less per acre than conventional cotton does, implying that ultimately it may actually require more water to grow; and it’s still grown at scale and requires transportation, with all the environmental ramifications that entails. That being said, we think the pros here outweigh the cons.
There are also loads of different kinds of cotton, even within the organic spectrum — keep an eye out for the following whenever you're making any shopping decisions:
- Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) Cotton: Farmers promote water stewardship and responsible land use to protect workers and the environment.
Organic Content Standard (OCS) Cotton: Traceable from the field to the customer, and is grown from non-GMO seeds without chemicals.
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Cotton: The gold standard! Covers everything OCS does and goes further to ensure a humane and environmentally safe process, from fiber to textile distribution.
All of which is to say: cotton that’s certified both Fairtrade and Organic would be the best of both worlds — but other options do exist.
Our goal for 2021 is to continue expanding the number of our styles made with organic cotton, and to ensure they're all certified by one verifying body.