Many of the fabrics we wear are derived from the earth. Cotton is one example and grown from cotton plants in fields. The plants’ fluffy white fruits are harvested and then spun into the threads that form the fabric that we know and love. Once woven, cotton is light, breathable, soft and non-irritating to the skin. That’s why it’s so popular and the most worn natural fabric across the world.
Still, while cotton is easy to wear, it isn’t always kind on the environment. Which is why it has been billed the ‘world’s dirtiest crop’by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). From water pollution, to wildlife poisoning and the poor treatment of workers, intensive cotton farming can impact the environment and people in negative ways.
The picture is very different for organic cotton, though. Organic cotton farming replaces the nefarious inputs of intensive cotton – like nitrogen fertilisers and harmful pesticides – with less harmful natural replacements, such as green manure. The result is a cultivation that isn’t so detrimental to the planet or people.
There are various sustainable cottons available but in the golden age of greenwashing a certification is the best way to know that what you’re buying is truly sustainable. The GOTS certification is one of the most trusted around. It’s becoming the gold standard. That’s why we use organic cotton in many of our sustainable basics, like our Perfect Oxford Shirt.
What is GOTS certified cotton?
Here are some key points on the criteria to meet the GOTS certification:
- Fibers must be at least 70% natural and from organic agriculture
- Genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned
- Strict monitoring of the entire production chain
- Controls on chemicals used and wastewater treatment
- The safe treatment of workers is required, and child labour prohibited
- Regularly verified by independent inspectors.
5 reasons (certified) organic cotton is a sustainable choice:
- Keeping our water clean
The intensive production methods used in traditional cotton farming are pollutive to our oceans, rivers and water supplies. This is the same water that we drink, bathe in, and source food from. Organic farming is better because hazardous synthetic pesticides and fertilisers are banned, so fewer harmful chemicals end up in the water. Some farms may even use innovative closed loop systems to eliminate waste entirely. Not only that, organic farming fosters healthier soil, which acts like a sponge, soaking up water during floods and holding it for longer in times of drought.
- Eliminating synthetic pesticides
Conventional cotton alone is responsible for around 15% of all insecticides sold worldwide and the toxic effects of pesticides on bees alone, one of nature’s most important pollinators, has doubled in a decade. Organic farmers use natural methods to control pests and diseases, like trap crops. By using these gentler methods, there are fewer harmful effects on the ecosystem and also the people handling the crops.
- Being kinder on people and communities
It should go without saying that sustainability is also about people. Yet, workers’ rights and welfare are just not looked after in large-scale cotton farming – where the majority of the cotton produced goes towards making cheap ‘fast fashion’ items that have to compromise the welfare and pay of workers to keep prices down and sell items en masse. The best organic farms look after their workers and pay them a fair wage. Local communities also benefit from the mixed crops that organic farms typically grow, as well as the more protected environment around the farms.
- Capturing more CO2
Heat records were broken all around the world in 2021, so it’s reassuring to know that organic cotton farming can help lessen CO2 and mitigate climate change. There are a couple of key reasons why. Firstly, organic farmers use natural methods – and avoid importing fossil-fuel based fertilisers. Secondly, the healthier soil that organic farming cultivates ‘sequesters’ carbon more efficiently – keeping more CO2 in the soil and out of the atmosphere.
- Longevity also equals sustainability
Sustainable fashion isn’t just about eco-friendly fabric, it’s also about quality. If you own an item that’s well made it’ll last longer and you won’t need to replace it so often with a new item that redoubles the environmental impact. That’s why it’s important to also consider the quality of the cotton and not just the ‘organic’ label. You might be surprised to hear that lots of so-called organic cotton is low quality but with certified cotton, including the 100% organic version used by SANVT, you can be assured of a premium fabric. Your garment’s going to last.
Find our more about the different types of cotton here.
Sustainability: about cotton and beyond
We live in a world where sustainability has moved from a fringe concern to front of mind. And wearing more sustainable clothes can be one of the most impactful day-to-day improvements we can make.
At SANVT we aim to produce essential basics that are as sustainable as possible and many of them, such as our heavyweight t-shirt, are made from certified organic cotton. But it’s not just about cotton, we also pursue sustainability an operational level by neutralising our carbon emissions, partnering on reforestation projects, delivering in plastic-free recyclable packaging, and working with eco-friendly factories located locally within the EU. For us, sustainability must be a universal part of making clothes.
Find out more about our sustainability here. And you can also take a look at some of our certified essential basics below: