Cotton and Organic Cotton
We all know cotton - it’s everywhere! Cotton is a crop and it’s used to make towels, bed sheets, t-shirts, jeans and lots more. Shops love to shout about cotton being ‘natural’, and while cotton (often called ‘white gold’ due to its global worth) certainly comes from the soil, the way it is grown is anything but natural. Here’s the thing.
‘Organic’ cotton looks and feels just like the regular cotton you know. It’s just as soft and it wears just as well. But there’s one big difference between organic cotton and regular cotton. Organic cotton is grown using age-old and natural farming methods that promote biodiversity and respect the environment, wildlife and people. Regular cotton on the other hand is grown using pesticides. Pesticides are insecticides (bug killers), herbicides (weed killers), and fungicides (fungus killers) and they are highly toxic. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies 50% of pesticides as ‘hazardous’ – hardly encouraging! 16,000 people die each year from pesticide poisoning – usually the workers in developing countries that we never hear about. Pesticides pollute soil and water, poison wildlife and can leave chemical residue on the cotton things you buy – and it does not wash out. But nobody tells you that stuff.
Organic cotton is simple. It’s just beautiful, soft cotton that is made the old way - a way that respects people, planet and wildlife. When you choose organic cotton you are supporting a way of life that is environmentally and socially responsible. No poisoned workers, no polluted soil or water, no poisoned wildlife, and no unseen chemical residue on your clothes. Sometimes it costs a little more, but we think you’ll agree, it’s worth it.
Simple ideas are often the best, no?
Bamboo is rather special. It is the fastest growing plant in the world, growing to its maximum height in just 3 months and reaching maturity in 3-4 years. It grows naturally without the need for any pesticides or fertilizers and, unlike cotton which is a very thirsty crop, bamboo requires very little water to grow.
Bamboo is actually a grass, so once it is cut it regenerates very quickly without the need for replanting. An acre of bamboo can produce 10 times more than an acre of cotton. So you can see that bamboo is very sustainable. But how is it to wear?
Bamboo clothing is extremely soft and silky. It’s very light and comfortable to wear next to your skin. Very absorbent, it wicks away moisture, which then quickly evaporates from the bamboo, keeping skin drier and more comfortable. Bamboo is both very breathable, great for keeping cool in the heat, and also thermo-regulating, meaning it keeps the wearer warm in the cold.
While the growth and cultivation of bamboo are certainly eco-friendly, the manufacturing process that turns the plant material into a finished product is not. Although alternative methods are being developed, the process most used involves the use of strong chemicals. And certification of the entire process for producing bamboo is not yet clear and controlled in the same way as it is for organic cotton.
Hemp is the ‘real deal’ of sustainable fabrics! It grows very quickly, without the use of pesticides and without the need for the large amounts of water, making it very environmentally friendly. Unlike some plants that deplete the soil of some of the natural, vital nutrients, hemp actually revitalizes the soil. It also grows abundantly, with the same piece of land producing 250% more fiber than cotton. Yep, hemp’s good for the planet, but what about making stuff from it?
Hemp is perfect for making clothing. Its softness and breathability makes it very comfortable to wear, and it mixes well with other fabrics such as cotton and silk. It is also extremely strong and durable, much more so than cotton, so it keeps its shape really well and lasts for a long time. And hemp has excellent insulating properties that make it very warm. Hemp is now being embraced by clothing designers and brands worldwide. Its strength and durability mean that it is also great for making other things like bags and accessories.
Alpaca wool is one of the rarest natural fibers in the world and is used to produce luxurious clothing. The fiber comes from the alpaca, an animal similar to the llama that is typically bred in the Andes of southern Peru. Alpaca wool comes in many natural colours and is well known for its excellent quality. Warmer than sheep’s wool, and without a prickly feel, alpaca has a softer feel often described as silky. And it is also hypo-allergenic.