A guest post about organic cotton from Lisa from Little Leaf Organic.
In lockdown, many of us have been making an eco-conscious effort to turn our homes into greener spaces for ourselves and our families. According to a recent study, 25% of people in the UK claimed that, during the pandemic, they were inspired to live an eco-friendlier lifestyle after they noticed air pollution going down in cities.
What can we change?
There are many ways in which we can make our homes greener, from getting our energy from renewable sources to avoiding single-use plastic. But what about the clothes that we put next to our skin, or the sheets that we spread across our beds?
The answer is simple: we should be buying organic cotton. We know this when it comes to buying produce, as many of us make the effort to buy organic fruit or vegetables.
However, we often don’t realise that the fabric in our homes – from our clothes to our bathrobes to our bed linen – was also grown in the ground.
Cotton is sown in the soil, picked, and spun into the material with which we are all familiar. If we are making the effort to purchase organic vegetables, why aren’t we ensuring that all our fabric products are grown organically, too?
Why choose organic cotton?
There are so many reasons why you should choose to have certified organic cotton in your home – and here are our top ten:
Premium Fine Quality
The first and the most obvious reason why you should have certified organic cotton in your home is that it is simply the best quality cotton that you can get!
When our customers run their hands down our luxurious bedsheets or premium pyjamas, they inevitably exclaim “Wow!” (and some have even thought that it was silk!).
This is because the toxic chemicals and pesticides that are used to grow regular cotton are not used to grow organic cotton, resulting in a purer, softer material. It’s also because all our bed linen has a sumptuously soft 300 thread count and a silky-smooth sateen weave.
Organic cotton is far more durable than conventional cotton. This is because the underlying fibres in regular cotton are damaged by the toxic chemicals that have been used to grow the fabric, which reduces both the quality of the product and its life span.
When cotton is grown organically, no harmful herbicides, pesticides or insecticides are used to grow it, which means that the product is not only softer but stronger, so it will stay with you for years and years.
This is better for both your pocket and the planet, as you won’t need to keep buying new bed linen or new clothes. In fact, our customers tell us that our products feel even better after they have been washed a few times!
Reduces Carbon Emissions
We all know that we need to start drastically cutting our carbon emissions to limit global warming, and one way in which you can do this in your home is by ensuring that all of your cottons was grown organically.
Agriculture accounts for around 14% of total global greenhouse gas emissions and 84% of global nitrous oxide emissions. Conventional, non-organic cotton is one of the worst offending crops; in fact, it has been called the world’s “dirtiest” agricultural commodity.
This is because lots of fossil fuels must be burned to make the synthetic fertilisers that are used to grow regular cotton, which releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Then, when these fertilisers are sprayed onto the cotton crop, they release nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more powerful than CO2 at warming the planet.
Organic cotton is grown without the use of fertilisers or toxic chemicals, so it does not produce these emissions.
Consequently, growing cotton organically leads to a 46% reduction in global warming potential. At LittleLeaf, we reduce our emissions even further by producing our products in a solar-powered factory!
Vast quantities of water are required to grow non-organic cotton. According to the Soil Association, just one conventional, non-organic cotton t-shirt requires approximately 2,700 litres of water to be made.
By contrast, certified organic cotton uses a whopping 91% less water than ordinary cotton. This is because organic farming methods rely more on the available natural irrigation, and therefore significantly less blue water irrigation is necessary.
Organic cotton also requires less water to be made because it is grown without the use of toxic chemicals, whilst ordinary cotton requires lots of water to dilute harmful pollutants and toxins.
Shockingly, it is estimated that as much as one-fifth of the water used to make conventional cotton products is used to dilute pollutants.
Better for Your Skin
The toxic herbicides, pesticides and insecticides that are used to grow non-organic cotton are not only bad for the planet but bad for your health, too.
Tests on clothes made from conventional cotton have revealed traces of allergenic, carcinogenic and toxic chemical residues. These can be absorbed into the skin, causing allergies, rashes and even respiratory problems.
As certified organic cotton is grown without the use of harmful chemicals, you can be sure that none of these toxic substances are sitting next to your skin.
It’s even more important to choose organic when buying clothes for babies and young children, as their skin is so much more delicate and absorbent.
Protects Farmers’ Health
Just as ordinary cotton is bad for your health as a consumer, it’s also bad for the health of the farmers who grow it.
According to GOTS, 77 million agricultural workers suffer poisoning from pesticides each year. This means that some of the farmers who grew the non-organic clothes that line our shop windows or the conventional bed linen on our beds may have suffered health problems as a result.
By buying certified organic cotton, you can rest easy knowing that none of the farmers who grew it worked with toxic chemicals.
Ensures Farmers’ Livelihood.
Buying certified organic cotton also ensures that all of the farmers and workers who manufactured your cotton received a fair wage and good working conditions.
This is because to be certified by GOTS or the Soil Association, a company’s farms and factories are regularly independently inspected to ensure that the strictest ethical standards are maintained.
Additionally, organic cotton farmers do not have to spend money on pesticides, insecticides or herbicides, which increases their income.
Saves Animals and Protects Wildlife
The use of toxic chemicals on farms damages the land and the surrounding habitats. Animals will eat the cotton seeds which have been treated with harmful pesticides, which can cause them to become seriously sick or die.
Moreover, a report by the UN drew attention to the effect that pesticide use has on biodiversity: “Pesticides sprayed on crops frequently pollute the surrounding ecosystem and beyond, with unpredictable ecological consequences. Furthermore, reductions in pest populations upset the complex balance between predator and prey species in the food chain.”
As organic cotton is grown without the use of these harmful pesticides, the crops do not cause damage to the animals who ingest them. In fact, organic cotton actually nurtures the soil, which protects the animals and wildlife who live in and on it.
Nurtures the Soil
As we mentioned above, organic farming methods nurture and protect the soil. This is because organic farming works with, and not against nature, so no artificial and destructive chemicals are sprayed into the land.
Additionally, non-organic cotton is grown as a monocrop, which means that it is grown on its own. This kind of farming slowly degrades and ruins the farmland over time.
By contrast, organic cotton relies on crop rotation to keep the soil fresh and healthy. Farmers grow other plants, such as food crops, alongside their organic cotton.
This fertilises the soil naturally and helps it to retain moisture, whilst simultaneously helping the farmers to save money on food purchases. What’s more, healthy soil is better at absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which helps to cool the climate.
GOTS and the Soil Association examine every stage of production before they award a company such as LittleLeaf Organic with their certifications.
This means that the packaging in which your organic cotton gets delivered to you must be planet-friendly and sustainable, too. To meet the GOTS standard, packaging material must not contain PVC, and paper or cardboard packaging must be recycled or certified according to FSC or PEFC.
At LittleLeaf, we reduce our waste by making our sheet and duvet cover packaging out of our fabric offcuts, which we turn into drawstring bags. These can then be re-used by our customers again and again (they make great shoe bags when you’re travelling!).
Our bedding sets come packed in our specially designed organic canvas shoulder bag, which is great for all your plastic-free shopping.
We also sell wrapping paper which is made of 100% recycled and recyclable paper, uncoated and printed with vegetable-based inks.
More about LittleLeaf Organic
We design everything ourselves here at LittleLeaf Organic, and we’re always looking to introduce more zero-plastic and sustainable alternatives for you and your home.
Our hankies, for example, are a fabulous way to cut out single-use tissues – they’re softer and kinder on your nose and the planet! They come packed in an organic cotton pouch to keep them clean and handy, which replaces the plastic pouch that tissues are wrapped in and makes them a great little eco gift.
We’re also currently giving a pound for every pack sold to Harry’s HAT charity, which helps families affected by hydrocephalus (water on the brain).
So, the bottom line is that organic cotton is better for you, better for the planet, and better for the workers who grow and sew it. However, to ensure that your organic cotton is truly ethical, eco-friendly and sustainable you must make sure that the company that you are buying from is certified by GOTS (and the Soil Association if it’s in the UK).
To have and maintain these certifications, a company is regularly inspected to ensure that the highest ethical and environmental standards are met. If a company claims to be organic but shows no certification, they could simply be “greenwashing”, as there is no way to ensure that their products are truly organic.
Always look for these symbols on any clothes or fabric you buy, and if a brand is also Soil Association certified, they’ll be a registration number next to the symbol.
At LittleLeaf Organic, we are proud to be registered with both GOTS and the UK Soil Association. This means that all of our organic cotton products are inspected at every stage of production, from the planting of our cotton seeds to the packaging in which our products are delivered to you.
All of our ethical luxury – from our sumptuously soft bed linen to our beautiful baby clothes, our silky-soft pyjamas to our fabulous towels and bathrobes – is made from 100% certified organic cotton.
Check out LittleLeaf Organic
Discover more at www.littleleaforganic.com and if you’d like to treat yourself or someone else to some of our gorgeous sustainable and ethical bedding, PJs, towels, hankies, homeware or babywear. I love small businesses like this, don’t you?