Conventional cotton vs. organic cotton
Cotton is actually one of 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 at least 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.