Organic Fabric Saves Lives... Suuure it does
I know what you're thinking. These days the media is full of trumped up alarms about concerns that are really pretty minor in the big picture. And at a time when many families are still struggling to recover from a tough economy, you may be skeptical when someone says you need to spend more money on buying organic fabric. So what on earth is the point? How about saving lives - including your own?
They're Too Expensive!
If your thinking is that organic means expensive, then you must have missed our post from a few weeks ago, and you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn that organic fabrics are not necessarily more expensive!
But the reasons we should wear organic go much much further beyond our personal finances. Organic fabrics and textiles make good sense and have a whole lot of benefits you may not have even considered before.
Clothes Poison You - And We Have The Science To Prove It!
Organic food makes sense to a lot of people - you are what you eat, after all. If someone asked you to name the most important product to buy organic, you'd probably say food. So when it comes to organic fabrics, you might dismiss the necessity because it's only on the outside of your body. Wrong.
Did you know that cotton contains by far the most pesticides of any product? Your cotton clothes are covered in very high amounts of pesticides. You may say "so what?" because you always wash your new clothes before wearing them, but many pesticides are so potent that they can't even be removed through normal laundering! What's worse, if you throw them in a laundry basket with other clothing, the pesticide residues can transfer to them and contaminate the whole lot!
"So there are pesticides on clothes - how does that affect the wearer?"
Well, you know how a nicotine patch works? That's right - your skin absorbs EVERYTHING.
These pesticide residues are absorbed through the skin, which is risky even for people in good health. And for children or people with compromised immune systems, this pesticide exposure could be downright deadly. Pesticides in fabric can cause breathing problems, neurological damage, cancer and blistering skin rashes.
A major report by Greenpeace found high residues of phthalates, cancer-causing amines and the toxin NPE in up to two-thirds of major brand clothing samples tested (including Zara, Armani and Levis!). Is conventional fabric really that contaminated? Greenpeace says yes, and I'm not arguing!
Risks to Workers
If you think all that pesticide exposure for you as the end consumer is bad, just think about the effect it has on the workers who produce the textiles! Most cotton farming is done in the developing world, where farmers are often so poor that they can't afford safety equipment to work with these toxic chemicals, and have to handle them with bare hands. Because these agricultural chemicals are so expensive, they are also often forced to store their pesticides inside their homes, where they can contaminate food and drinking water supplies, just to prevent pesticide theft. Conventional farming is not only pesticide-heavy, it is also a sure route to poverty for most of the workers, as prices are on a race to the bottom.
The United States also gives subsidies to conventional US farmers, leaving many farmers in the developing world in crippling debt. Further to this, Genetically Modified cotton seeds are said to have contributed to the suicides of over 270,000 Indian cotton farmers, further forcing them into an unmanageable cycle of debt. By contrast, as well as focusing on the chemical and pesticide usage on the raw materials, many organic certifications stipulate that the farming must also pay the workers a fair wage, so that farming as a means of livelihood isn't one of guaranteed poverty. These better products re-balance the global economy, making a better world for everyone.
But What Actually Happens When You're Exposed to These Pesticides And Chemicals?
The health toll from this exposure to these toxic chemicals is very high for agricultural workers. In addition to asthma and reproductive problems like infertility and birth defects, the pesticides themselves can also cause cancer. When you can afford to make a more ethical choice, why wouldn't you want to choose the option that causes less suffering to our fellow humans?
Risks to the Environment
You don't have to be a hippie tree-hugger to know that the earth is in sad shape. Between deforestation and water shortages all around the world, we can't pretend anymore that our actions don't have a direct and indirect impact on the environment. Pesticides are a very controllable aspect of the environment. All of those pesticides used in conventional agriculture run off into the groundwater, contaminating not just the soil but drinking water and the water used on growing food crops.
I know you may be sitting there thinking - no one cares if I make my products organically! Let me tell you - you couldn't be more wrong!
Consumer awareness is leading to greater demand for organic products, as demonstrated by the growth in organic textile sales. Not only are consumers becoming more aware of the health benefits, but savvy consumers recognize the superior quality and realize that investing in sustainably produced materials is a smarter decision.
If half of global consumers are willing to spend a little more money for socially responsible products, then you would be mad not to incorporate organic fabrics into your designs. Businesses will also see benefits to the bottom line when they choose to use sustainable fabrics, which generally have higher quality standards.
Life And Death Organic Fabric
As you can see, organic fabrics are not just a nice luxury. Whether you're sewing for yourself or designing for a business, organic fabrics can quite literally be a matter of life and death. Organic fabric saves lives and organic agriculture creates a better, more sustainable future.
If you'd like to receive monthly updates on ethical textiles, and learn more about what ethical textiles are available to you, then please do sign up to my mailing list!