It seems the day of realisation has dawned. As a society we are increasingly questioning the provenance of the materials in the products we buy. It started with our food and has spread into what we wear. In our modern-day of pollution, contamination and overconsumption the surest way to reduce our impact on the planet is to buy less and buy better. For this theory to uphold, products have to be designed to last. We’re having to invest in durable fabrics and quality workmanship.
Cotton is tried and tested. There is evidence to suggest that cotton was spun into fabric way back in the 5th millennium BC. While the notion of cotton leads you to thoughts of white fields and clean fabric, the truth of its tale is much dirtier than that. The problem with cotton arose when the industrial revolution took a grasp on society. As machinery was introduced to the manufacturing process, greater quantities of cotton were developed and as a result, the demand rocketed. In an effort to meet this supply, pesticides were introduced to secure cotton yields. As we know, pesticides have terrible consequences and lead to widespread contamination of the water used for cooking and cleaning as a result of the run-off from the land. Local communities suffered from diseases, illness and birth defects.
The pressure to meet the demand for cotton was so great that farmers began to grow it in lands totally un-fit and inherently unsuitable. Cotton is the thirstiest crop in the world. It requires huge quantities of water to grow successfully. This means irrigation is essential. In Uzbekistan, the rivers that fed the Aral Sea were diverted for irrigation and as a result, 25,000 miles of sea bed now sits exposed. This has had a wealth of environmental impacts on the surrounding communities too significant to mention in brief here, it is a discussion entirely of its own.
Credit: Nasa Earth Observatory
Organic cotton is the light at the end of this dark tunnel, it is a refined and sustainable alternative. Growing organic cotton is so important. No pesticides mean a less significant environmental impact and the health of the workers and the land can flourish. When organic cotton is coupled with, and championed, by organisations such as GOTS and OCS it can enhance peoples lives. Communities can enjoy clean water and healthy crops and on the social front they are paid a fair wage, with health care and a right to education.
Now, the term organic can be persuasive but without the recognised certifications its hard to know just how harsh the chemicals used are and to what extent the workers are cared for and listened to. As consumers we have to identify those that are there to greenwash and seperate them from those just being green. It has to be more than just a marketing strategy.