No material comes without a cost, it’s true! Nevertheless, conscious choices on your part and ours can make an awful lot of difference. We may have long let the word organic wash over us like white noise, but that’s why we are here to bring it back into focus.
It may seem like a minor subject but opting for organic cotton can add up to some significant numbers. The WWF says that it takes 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton needed to make just one t-shirt — that is a big number to swallow, we can’t lie. However, if you produce cotton without fertilisers and pesticides, organic cotton, then this can shrink by a power of 10, with the Soil Association claiming the same garment would use 243 litres to produce in comparison. It may still seem a lot but cotton has its benefits! It’s durable, long-lasting, non-allergenic and sturdy; meaning less waste, a longer life span and it’s natural - so no nasties dissolving into ecological pollutants.
You might also be surprised that organic cotton could affect what you eat. With the seeds that it’s grown from going towards vegetable oil that could work its way into your cookies or crisps. Hence, natural is the way to go.
At Mayamiko we aim to use GOTS certified cotton as much as possible and as this isn’t available in most of the communities we already work with, we have partnered with Cotonea. Cotonea works with cotton farmers in Gulu, Northern Uganda, to produce organic (and ethical) cotton which goes towards making the beautiful fabric we use. In northwestern Uganda, on fields which have lain vacant for decades due to war, farmers have recently started to grow organic cotton again. The fertile land is naturally watered by rain and its location near the equator allows for several yields during a year. Fairly paid organic cotton also equates to good earnings for farmers who can now afford to pay for healthcare and education for their children.
While some argue that organic cotton may require more inputs due to its lower yield than treated cotton, the counter argument is that organic cotton farmers are more able to diversify their fields meaning more security. Its production sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people by using natural processes rather than artificial inputs. Importantly, organic cotton farming does not allow the use of toxic chemicals or GMOs (genetically modified organisms) which means farmers and their families aren't exposed to toxic chemicals through their food or water supplies. Instead, it combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote a good quality of life for all involved. Better for people and the planet.
Caring for the environment is important not only for your locality but the many people across our planet facing much harsher and erratic environmental impacts. By 2025 it is predicted that around 2/3 of the world's population will face water shortages. While organic cotton can be 80% rain-fed, non-organic cotton is often grown in water-scarce areas demanding large amounts of irrigation, not to mention the chemicals that can later infiltrate water supplies. In 2015, 26 million metric tons of cotton was produced worldwide (using 16% of the world's insecticides), mainly for clothing, yet amazingly only 1% of this was organic cotton. Just because a garment is labelled as green, sustainable or eco-friendly, does not make it organic. The Organic Cotton Standard ensures the organic content of your clothes can be tracked to source, while GOTS ensures just and sustainable processing. One more reason to check the labels. So your purchasing power is important, opting out of fast fashion and paying attention to the journey your clothes have made to you really can make a difference!