Cotton is one of the most ancient natural fibers still in use today. Rumor has it that the ancient Egyptians living along the Nile river (around 3000 BC) made and wore cotton daily.
But is cotton a sustainable fabric?
Unfortunately, much of the cotton used in fast fashion brands today is unsustainably grown and unethically manufactured, creating both a negative social and environmental impact.
A few quick facts:
Pesticides: According to Elizabeth Cline, author of “The Conscious Closet,” commercial cotton uses an estimated 6% of all pesticides, more than any other major crop. In fact, each year, approximately 22,000 tons of pesticides are used.
These pesticides, which are highly toxic, are harmful both to human health and to the environment (air, water, soil, etc.).
Water: It takes approximately 2,700 liters to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt. Not to mention that every time you wash your cotton t-shirt you’re using about 40 gallons of water. @wwf
Forced Labor: According to UNICEF, “the cotton in our clothes, sheets, and towels, is considered the worst offender when it comes to child trafficking.” In Uzbekistan, for instance, the leading exporter of cotton, the government FORCES approximately 1 million people to work in the country’s cotton fields. 1
What can you do?
– Buy organic and fair-trade cotton whenever possible. FYI, organic cotton is grown and harvested without harmful pesticides.
– Look for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) label. GOTS is recognized as the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibers.
– Look for brands that have partnered with “Cotton Made in Africa,” an initiative whose goal is to sustainably improve the living conditions of cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
– Take care of the cotton clothes you currently own.
Do you have a favorite sustainable/ethical organic cotton brand?
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