Cotton is the most commonly used fiber on the planet and is the most utilized non-food crop in the world. It is estimated that 250+ million people work in the cotton industry from farming to transportation and fabric production. Cotton is a globally adored textile. It is light, durable and breathable - you probably put something made with cotton on your body everyday. It may be the clothing you wear, or the towels you use or the bedsheets you sleep on.
Because cotton is so widely loved and used, the demand for this fiber is increasing.
Cotton is woven into the fabric of our lives
Unfortunately, a lot of cotton grown today is for fast fashion and the unnecessary over production of clothing and because it is in such high demand, it comes with a bundle of issues including environmental, ethics of production, and safety. Conventional cotton has a pretty terrible sustainability story around its very intensive farming practices. The huge amount of land and water needed plus the quantity of chemicals and pesticides used to grow conventional cotton contributes to the health degradation of the soil it is grown in and the air around the workers who process it. Polluted air and water translates into polluted ecosystems and damage to flora and fauna.
Not only does it damage the soil and air quality but has an impact on the communities around where it is grown. India is currently the world's largest producer of cotton and in these areas, workers' health and the environmental effects from cotton farming is not prioritized at all. There is so much conventional cotton being produced and it is a huge economic player on a global scale but this big scale comes with a massive cost to the environment.
It’s clear that cotton is woven into the fabric of our lives and it is at its “seed” an amazing resource but the entire process needs some improvement. So what can be done?
Advocate for organic cotton!
Think of organic cotton like organic food - less insecticide, less pesticides, free from harmful chemicals in order to grow the crop. Organic cotton cultivation does not tire out the soil in the same way and because it is grown without synthetic fertilizers, and without a plethora of other harmful chemicals, it in fact enhances biodiversity by making the top soil richer, not poorer. Organic soils are known to sequester, or lock away, far more carbon than conventional soils.
The main critique of organic cotton is still the high water usage of this plant but actually a lot of organic cotton is grown in rain fed areas, so this kind of cultivation practice doesn't require much water outside of the input from the natural hydrological cycle. Farming methods of organic cotton were developed as an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional cotton and less chemical input means less impact to the communities growing it, the environment and that the textiles are safer for the workers to handle and ultimately safer for you to wear, as the end buyer.
But of course, these better practices are only valuable if they are true - assessed, and approved. That is where 3rd party certificates can help. Some 3rd party certificates guarantee the traceability of organic cotton from the field to the textile production. This lets you go back through the supply chain and can be very helpful for you as the consumer to understand the impact of your purchase and not be swayed by greenwashing claims or ‘self certification’. (We believe that true transparency means not self certifying.)
Organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of the soil, plant, animal and planet as one. Our organic cotton producer is certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) the global recognized body for auditing and approving organic materials. You may have noticed that although we actually only use GOTS certified organic cotton it is not advertised or promoted on our website and that’s because we aren’t allowed to boost this fact as our small studio isn’t GOTS certified. We aren't self certifying and of course, you are always welcome to come to the studio to see our fair production and happy working environment!
Clothing made from organic cotton, dyed with safe dyes are potentially biodegradable, therefore can also be considered a circular product. Circularity is going to be a hot topic for us this year - you can read more on some exciting updates here.
As you may have concluded, organic cotton is topnotch and we are big fans of this textile. However, quite shockingly, less than one percent of global cotton production is organic! We want to help change this and push past just one percent.
By promoting organic cotton through underwear production we are encouraging people (you!) to make a simple lifestyle tweak, a little change with a big impact. These little changes may accumulate to more frequent and bigger changes and so the movement grows. Organic cotton underwear, socks, t-shirts, towels, bedsheets, the stuff we live with and use everyday should be looked at as resources that have a high value. Matching your values to your lifestyle, could start with undies but when you realize how simple it is to change the quality, brand, and manufacturing practices of your underwear it goes from a lifestyle change to a lifestyle shift.
One percent of global cotton production is organic and that is not enough. We’ve touched on why we <3 organic cotton, and some understanding around the growth and production of these garments and cotton products and we want to open up the conversation about how to consume cotton in a good way.
Together we can Push Past 1%
Invest in reusable goods
Resource intensive materials should not be a one use item so do your best to skip purchasing disposable cotton items and opt for reusable cotton alternatives. The water usage needed to wash and reuse these items is likely significantly less than what it takes to produce a new product.
Avoid buying *new* fast fashion (we have said it before and are saying it again).
Tons of new clothing is pushed out so fast that quality is not a priority and thus the items do not last and are not worth repairing. Once a garment like this is “broken” it becomes a waste. And if it isn’t able to be repaired, recycled or composted then it really is just garbage.
Look for transparency
When you buy cotton products or garments look for brands that are transparent and can back up their claims of sustainability and conscious impact - like Tizz! Shameless plug we know, but companies should be able to tell you where and how the products are made and we are happy to do just that. If the production is not clear, look for 3rd party certifications. GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) for example looks at the products and people involved from farm to factory to ensure fair, safe, and ethical working conditions. Do a little bit of investigating before releasing your purchasing power!
Don’t over consume
Cotton products are a resource and are intensive to make so take care that the cotton items you buy are of good quality so take care of your items and make them last.
Need some care tips? Check out How to do Your Laundry like a Wizard here.
When your garments start to frizzle and fray, try to fix them. If it is something like underwear (even Tizz undies can’t last forever) that is not usable or is beyond repair, find a new purpose for it like for example cleaning your bike chain, or your garden flower pots.
To bundle it up
We hope from reading this, you have a little more insight and appreciation for the awesome textile that is organic cotton and love it like we do.
Once you make small changes to the stuff used on the daily (like underwear) bigger changes become more obvious and then starts the shift towards a healthier, greener lifestyle - for you and everyone involved making your fluffy, cotton dreams come true.