1MW Guide to Sustainable Fabrics – Organic Cotton

Susta-Style by Bronte Hogarth

We know it can be difficult to understand exactly what sustainable fashion means. As Bronwyn Darlington, 1MW Ambassador and our sustainable fashion expert says…

Sustainable fashion is an umbrella term that encompasses the processes aiming to reduce the negative environmental and social aspects of our clothing at the production and consumption stages… It’s a holistic approach to improving and maximising the positive actions of our clothing in its lifecycle.”

Fashion and clothing production is a huge contributor to climate change because of the carbon pollution involved in each step of fashion’s journey (known as fashion miles) from fibre/fabric growth, manufacture and production, and finally consumer delivery.

Especially the material your clothing is made from plays a BIG role in it’s environmental impact! We have recognised many people are not sure what sustainable materials to look out for! There is so much research being done to create new materials, or sustainable alternatives of ones we already know, so we thought a great topic for our next Susta-Style series would be a – 1MW Guide to Sustainable Fabrics. We are going to breakdown the most important sustainable fabrics being used today, and also shine a spotlight on fabric innovations that lie ahead in the future.

Organic Cotton is the first sustainable fabric we will look at.

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 2.57.49 PMOrganic Cotton:

Conventionally cotton is one of the most checmical-laden grown crops in the world. Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. If cotton is to be sold as organic, it requires a third party certification from independent, accredited certification agencies.

Organic production systems:

  • Replenish and maintain soil fertility
  • Reduce the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers
  • Build biologically diverse agriculture
Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 4.16.35 PM

The purchase of one T-shirt and a pair of jeans made from %100 organic cotton eliminates at least 150 grams of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides from the environment.• Brands like Certton or Nudie Jeans are good examples of %100 organics.

What to watch out for:

Retailers often won’t tell you every part of a garment’s story. If you are purchasing organic cotton and it’s not also fair trade assured, or it’s processed and treated with conventional dyes or nasty chemicals, then it’s still leaving a sizeable carbon footprint on the earth. Sometimes it will be an organic cotton blend (which is still better, but means it could contain polyester or other fabrics created from petrochemicals). What you can do:

  • Try to buy %100 organic cotton items.
  • Wherever possible, try to buy organic cotton in the shades it’s naturally grown in: cream, pale green, & light brown. Not dyeing the fabric reduces the environmental impact.
  • OR look for garments that are coloured using natural or vegetable-based dyes (this is getting popular again, it’s a fun thing you can do at home too)
  • Look for credible lables such as ACO (Australian Certified Organic) or GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) meaning the product is certified organic, sustainable, and eco-friendly.

When looking for sustainable fashion it’s really important to do your homework and understand all the elements of the garment. Look closely at the labels and try to buy from accredited sources.

Look out for next weeks Susta-Style post on Organic Wool.

*Fact from The Research Triangle Park

Don’t forget to head over to our website! We are daughters, mothers, sisters and grandmothers getting on with practical climate action to live better for us and the planet. Join the movement at www.1millionwomen.com.au

  • Susta-Style is a weekly post on sustainable fashion, shopping and design.

4 responses to “1MW Guide to Sustainable Fabrics – Organic Cotton

  1. It actually isn’t a subject I know much about but does cotton require loads of water to produce. I read 20+ bathfuls of water for one T-shirt. So regardless of chemicals cotton doesn’t seem sustainably viable product for us to grow here in Australia. Can anyone confirm this information?

  2. Hello Trudy, Thanks for your comment. Definitely neither conventional nor organic cotton are perfect. Organic cotton does still use water to produce, but by beginning with healthy soil, organic cotton farmers it is hoped need not supply intense irrigation for their crops — the plants themselves use water much more efficiently due to the inherent health of their surrounding environment. Pesticides used on conventional cotton crops are well known for seeping into local streams, rivers and even public water supplies so the organic method of production stops these these dangerous agricultural by-products ending up in our water. The world of sustainable production is still growing more each day, so we are looking for the better choices 🙂

  3. Pingback: Green Your Family’s Fashion | The Little Green Playpen·

  4. Pingback: 1MW Guide to Sustainable Fabrics – HEMP | 1 Million Women·

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