We hope you’ve settled in to the new school year and your children are all enjoying their exciting learning experiences!
Here at EcoOutfitters, we’re incredibly proud of our range of sustainable school uniforms. We had a vision to supply environmentally friendly school clothes for children, and we knew there was one thing we would never compromise on – our 100% organic cotton.
Although cotton is often portrayed as a soft, pure and natural fabric, the reality of the situation is that non-organic cotton (which the majority of children’s clothing is made from) is widely considered to be the world’s most environmentally unfriendly crop.
Nearly half of all clothes and textiles worldwide are made from cotton (around 20 million tonnes), with the rest coming from synthetic products (WWF, Thirsty Crops, 2003), so you can see that if its production is not ethical, then the world has a big problem on its hands.
Around 90 countries worldwide produce cotton, but 75% of global production occurs in China, United States, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and West Africa. And not all of these countries have a good track record of being eco-friendly.
So why is non-organic cotton so damaging to the environment? Well, here are just some of the reasons:
Conventional cotton uses chemicals
Cotton farming uses more pesticides than any other area of agricultural production. Despite only 2.4% of the world’s crop land being planted with cotton, it accounts for 24% of global insecticide and 11% of pesticide sales (WWF). Seven out of the 15 most carcinogenic chemicals known to man are used to grow cotton (EPA). This high use of pesticides poisons our air, water and soil, and has a severe impact on ecosystems, causing harm to plants and animals. Beneficial insects in and around the cotton fields (i.e. the natural enemies of pests) can be killed and other animals eating these insects end up poisoned.
On top of this, all processing stages of cotton production, including bleaching, dyeing and finishing, use large amounts of toxic and hazardous chemicals. Up to 250 ml of chemicals are typically used in the production of a single cotton T-shirt. Apart from being harmful to the environment, their use has potentially damaging consequences to the health of both field and factory workers, leading to tumours, cancers, cerebrovascular disease and lung disease.
Conventional cotton pollutes rivers
Many cotton regions are located in important river catchment areas. To avoid water logging and salinity (saltiness) of soils, drainage and leaching systems are used. The drainage water returns to the rivers, bringing with it not only salt, but pesticide residues and fertiliser as well. Run-off of pesticides can lead to pollution of rivers, lakes and wetlands, making it unsafe for humans and animals to drink. Fertiliser run-off alters the river’s nutrient system, and in turn the ecosystem, by causing excessive growth of algae which affects the biological equilibrium and can kill fish.
Conventional cotton is often Genetically Modified (GM)
The use of GM or ‘transgenic’ cotton varieties has increased hugely in recent years, reaching around 20% of the global crop area in 2002 (WWF). Many of these crops will be cultivated to resist insect pests and herbicides (weed killers). The danger here is that genes for herbicide tolerance from GM crops can be transferred by pollen dispersal to closely related cotton plants growing nearby, giving rise to labeling problems for organic cotton produce.
The production of fertilisers uses large amounts of finite energy sources and leads to the release of huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. On top of this, the application of nitrates to agricultural land produces nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more destructive than carbon dioxide in terms of global warming. Cotton processing plants are often located in far-flung areas of the world, meaning transportation methods are definitely not carbon footprint-friendly.
Conventional cotton wastes water
To produce one kilogram of cotton (about the equivalent of a t-shirt and a pair of jeans) it can take more than 20,000 litres of water. On top of this, 73% of global cotton harvest comes from land which has to be irrigated (WWF, The Impact of Cotton on Freshwater Resources and Ecosystems), drawing water from a river to be distributed over the irrigated area, and this directly affects the quantity and quality of soil and water.
One well-known example of water wastage due to cotton production is the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan – it was once the world’s fourth largest lake, but two rivers which fed it were over-used for producing cotton, and the surface level has decreased dramatically in recent years, leading to the extinction of around 20 different species of fish.
Conventional cotton destroys natural habitats
The loss of natural habitats for plants, birds, insects, animals and fish isn’t only caused by an area’s transformation from wilderness to a farm growing cotton crops, but also by the surrounding infrastructures, including roads, buildings, irrigation systems and dams.
So, what’s the solution?
If you’re committed to protecting the environment, then 100% organic cotton is the answer.
At EcoOutfitters, we produce all our garments from 100% pure organic cotton that’s certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) meaning our products are tested against a strict set of environmental and social criteria.
GOTS has guaranteed the organic status of our textiles – from the harvesting of our pesticide-free raw materials through to our environmentally friendly manufacturing and labelling – meaning you can be assured that swapping from conventional cotton to our 100% organic cotton will help to reduce your household carbon footprint.
If you’d like to know more about 100% organic cotton environmentally friendly school uniforms, then please have a look at our range. Apart from our usual stock, we have new products coming soon, including a pinafore with a stylish bow feature and coconut shell button, classic shorts in grey for boys, and school socks for both boys and girls.
So happy guilt-free shopping! The environment will definitely thank you for it!
All the best,
Irina and Marina