Why isn’t your favourite brand organic? (pt 2)

In our previous post, we talked about what we’re trying to do here at Sigh and why we feel that it’s important that the production of our clothes is natural, organic and sustainable. But why don’t all brands feel the same way? Is the organic movement – whether in fashion, farming, wines or elsewhere – a genuine school of thought, or is it just a passing trend more closely related to marketing than anything else?

Clearly our answers could be interpreted to be somewhat biased! But, to cut straight to the point, we believe that any clothing brand that isn’t at least moving towards organic production is, to a certain extent, operating irresponsibly. How irresponsibly? Well, that’s exactly what we, as a society, have to decide. And, while the responsibility could be argued to be ours as individuals, we can only pursue a more natural lifestyle when offered the choice. And our decision as a clothing company to use only certified organic materials is an attempt to make that choice easier.

While the ratio of organic to inorganic cotton is slowly increasing, currently less than 1% of the world’s total annual crop is organic – we’d like to add our tiny consumption to that percentage! And, in doing so, we’re able to provide more options for beautiful clothes made with both the wearer and their environment in mind. It’s on us to decide what’s fair, what’s hurting the planet, what’s sustainable, and ultimately what’s right because we as individuals have to take responsibility if our governments won’t. Our thinking was simply that perhaps how and where we spend our money is one key way of making our voice heard.

Even if you make the reasonable assumption that your favourite brand is abiding by industry regulations, big corporations have often cut corners in order to make a profit  The law is and always will be the minimum for clothing companies looking to make money for their shareholders. So, as it stands, we’re trying build the future we want for ourselves and for our children upon that often shaky foundation. Is it time to accept that – with future generations in mind – the bare minimum will not suffice? Let’s take a look at the sorts of issues we’re faced with when buying inorganic fashion products.

From an environmental perspective, standard inorganic cotton farming is fairly disastrous:

1. Cotton is an extremely pesticide-intensive crop. These pesticides are washed out of soils, polluting rivers and groundwater.

2. The chemicals used eliminate not only pests but also their natural enemies, resulting in reduced bio-diversity.

3. The production of industrial fertilisers uses large amounts of energy and emits equally large amounts of carbon dioxide.

4. Excessive application of nitrates causes the release of nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more destructive that carbon dioxide in terms of global warming.

5. The textile industry uses more than 8,000 chemicals to make the fabric sold annually around the world. Many are toxic and persist in the environment. They include heavy-metal-rich dyes and fixing agents, bleaches, solvents, and detergents.

6. Perhaps most significantly, intensive cotton production requires large amounts of water, extremely problematic in its own right, but this also causes both soil salinisation and degradation of soil fertility – meaning the whole process is entirely unsustainable.

We’ll return to similar issues in the near future, when we take a look at the human issues raised by inorganic cotton production. And we’ll also look at the major advantages – both human and environmental – of the shift to organic dyes.