Did you know that 50% of the textiles produced and used in the world are cotton? Or that total global cotton production in one year is nearly 60 trillion pounds?! Cotton truly is the fabric of our lives, as the commercials say, and it has many positive attributes which have made it attractive for clothing and other uses for more than 5,000 years. Cotton is soft enough for babies’ diapers, children’s underwear, and most of us sleep on cotton sheets. Cotton is natural, one of the world’s oldest fibers, and naturally hypoallergenic. Cotton also has many performance features– it is stronger when wet than dry and it has superior absorption properties– making it suitable for undergarments as well as cleaning cloths.
However, when cotton is grown, the natural elements are overshadowed by substantial use of fertilizers and pesticides to enhance output. As Nordstrom’s says: “Cotton accounts for only 3% of the world’s agricultural crops, yet it requires more pesticides– 25% of all agrochemicals used on the planet– than any other single crop to grow.” And 10% of the world’s fertilizers are applied to cotton as well. These chemicals cause problems throughout the production process, from contamination of water supplies to health problems for workers, who in many countries are still hand-picking cotton crops, to the residue that is present in the diapers, garments and cleaning products we purchase. In my recent post on sensitive skin, I talked about how some of the chemicals found in clothing from major brands are carcinogenic. So, it’s easy to realize that avoiding them throughout the textile production chain is desirable.
The good news is that organic cotton is an increasingly available option because there has been a surge in production over the last few years. The percent of total production is still only about 1%, but that is a 10-fold increase in fewer than 10 years. This growth will continue as major brands and suppliers recognize the advantages of organic cotton, for environmental factors, sustainability, reduced costs and marketing to consumers.
Organic cotton is produced without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, in fact to be certified organic, a field must be pesticide-free for at least three years. This means that there are benefits throughout the supply chain: reduction in chemical additives into the environment; safer working conditions for farmers and those handling the cotton; and of course safer products for consumers. There have been standards for organic cotton fibers for many years, but the gold standard is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). The advantage of GOTS over other standards is that it covers all fibers, not just cotton, and applies to all aspects of production, not just the raw fiber.
Lucky & Me is doing its part to encourage continued growth of organic textiles with its new Lily Cami and Brief for girls, made with GOTS-certified organic cotton. The Lily collection will soon be available and gives you an opportunity to buy organic for your daughters and contribute to the global growth of organic cotton production. Look for Lily Camis and Briefs soon!
Feature image courtesy of DeviantART.
Liz Smith has worked across the globe for many of the world’s major apparel brands, including Victoria’s Secret, Chico’s, Justice, and Hanes. She has earned thousands of airline points and worn out several suitcases visiting factories in more than 20 countries to ensure that production is of the highest standard. Liz has managed all aspects of garment production, from design through fabric development to sewing and merchandising– so she knows what it takes to make high-quality apparel. Liz is thrilled to share her knowledge about clothes to help discerning customers choose the finest products.