We three Green Thread founders are ordinary guys with no great heritage in environmental issues. But we are all family men, with 10 children between us, so we care about the future of the planet in much the same way that we are sure that you do.
When we started to investigate the fabric options for Green Thread, we were genuinely shocked to discover how horrendously damaging conventional cotton is to the environment.
Like most people, we had a nice, clean, healthy image of fluffy white cotton growing in green fields. We had no idea of the damage that all the fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides used in growing conventional cotton are doing to the earth.
So, we decided to look into alternative fabrics for our garments that would be kinder to the environment without ever compromising quality. We thought that if we could find these fabrics, but maintain the best standards then, along with our customers, we could make some difference for future generations - however small.
Amazingly, not only did we find crops and fabrics that would help to look after our planet, but we discovered that these fabrics also have unique qualities that made them an even better choice for making the highest quality clothing.
Conventional cotton v Organic Cotton
Cotton is actually one of the the world’s ‘dirtiest’ crops. It's the most heavily sprayed crop in the world and uses more chemicals per unit area than any other crop grown on the planet.
Cotton covers less than 5% of the world's cultivated land, yet conventionally grown cotton consumes between 25% to 35% of the world’s pesticides and insecticides. That's huge.
Many of these pesticides are hazardous and toxic. They run off into local waterways, contaminating both soil and water. They cause huge damage to local ecosystems and poison plants, birds and animals.
The damaging effects of pesticides to people, as well as to flora and fauna, are well documented and deeply concerning. It is no coincidence that farm workers have the highest rate of chemical-related illnesses of any occupational group in the world. An estimated 1-5 million cases of pesticide poisoning occur every year, resulting in 20,000 reported deaths among agricultural workers and at least 1 million requiring hospitalisation.
Today, less than 2% of the world’s cotton is guaranteed pesticide free. This means that 98% of the cotton we wear is likely to have contributed to the poisoning of lives and the environment in some of the world’s most marginalised communities.
Just think, up to one third of all pesticides in the world (and there are thousands) could be eliminated if we made the choice to only buy organic cotton.
For these reasons, Green Thread only use 100% GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton in all our shirts.
GOTS is the highest industry standard for certified organic cotton. It means that our cotton is grown without using pesticides, insecticides or genetically modified plants.
The impacts of producing our clothes are felt beyond the cotton fields though.
Greenpeace's Dirty Laundry campaign brought to light the toxic water pollution resulting from the release of hazardous chemicals used by the textile industry. These practices are posing serious and immediate threats to our precious ecosystems and human health. An estimated 20% of freshwater pollution comes from textile treatment and dyeing.
However, cotton carrying the GOTS symbol has not only been grown organically, it has been processed organically too. This means that inputs such as dyes and inks have met strict biodegradability and toxicity rules and waste water is treated before it is let out into the environment - protecting local ecosystems and communities.
Growing organic cotton is more difficult and more labour intensive than conventional cotton. Because of this, organic cotton is in relatively short supply with less than 2% of the world’s cotton guaranteed to be pesticide free. As a result the large, international shirt makers struggle to get a sufficient supply of organic cotton and so tend to carry on using the 'dirty crop' - conventional cotton.
But as a smaller, specialist business Green Thread is able to secure a consistent supply of the finest quality organic cotton from ethical sources. We have met and have good relationships with our partners in China who produce and provide the organic cotton to us. We like and share their ethics and we have confidence in their supply. And we know that using organic cotton benefits the farmers that grow it, the environment and the consumer.
Our aim is to make it easy for anyone at all to help the environment, by buying organic cotton shirts. But we don't think you should have to compromise on quality.
If organic cotton were not the equal of conventional cotton, we wouldn't use it in our shirts.
Happily though, organic cotton is generally accepted as being of higher quality than conventional cotton, as the fibres have not been broken down by the chemicals used in production. Organic cotton is softer, but tougher and longer lasting. Organic cotton is also thought to be kinder to the skin.
As with our shirts, we set out to find the best fabric for our socks and underwear that would cause the least damage to the environment - and we were amazed by the plant that we discovered. Bamboo.
None of us had worn bamboo fabric before and we were astonished by its softness, its strength and its amazing hygenic properties (see fabric info). It is the perfect fabric for underwear and socks, especially in warmer climates like ours here in Australia.
But the best news is that bamboo is truly an environmental wonder-crop. By using bamboo to make Green Thread socks and underwear, we are causing absolutely minimal negative impact to the environment.
Bamboo is thought to be the most sustainable crop on earth.
Bamboo also helps our water supplies. Very little bamboo is grown on irrigated land and bamboo requires little water to grow. This makes bamboo more able to handle harsh weather conditions such as drought, flood and high temperatures. Bamboo also grows quickly. A bamboo crop, once harvested, can replenish itself in one year and does not need replanting, as other crops do.
Bamboo also cares for our air. Growing forests absorbs damaging CO2, but deforestation has resulted in fewer trees soaking up rising levels of CO2. Bamboo minimises CO2 even more efectively than young forests. Better still, bamboo actually generates up to 35% more oxygen than equivalent stands of trees and puts that back into our atmosphere.
A huge benefit of using bamboo is that there is no need for pesticides or fertilisers when growing bamboo. Bamboo contains a substance called bamboo-kun that gives the plant a natural resistance to pest and fungi infestation. No pesticides or fertilisers means that growing bamboo has none of the damaging effects on the environment or ecosystems that other intensively farmed crops so frequently cause.
Bamboo's final great contribution to our environment is that it is also totally biodegradable. When your bamboo product is discarded, it will return to the earth with minimal environmental impact.
Beyond the fabric
We know we are not saving the world, but we do believe that every little thing that we can do for the environment helps and we hope that you, our customers, share that belief. We try to take our ethical efforts beyond just the fabric though.
Wherever possible we use environmentally friendly packaging – recycled cardboard, biodegradable bags and so on. And we are constantly trialling new fabrics that are kinder to our planet than their alternatives.
We have personally inspected our factories and interviewed the owners to ensure that child labour is not used, fair wages are paid and conditions are reasonable. We are confident this is true in all the factories we work with.