The Sea of Islands
Well over 20 million metric tons of cotton will be produced this season.
That’s 16 million Toyota Corollas.
And clothes? Everyone needs clothes. Everyone.
So what’s the big fuss about organic cotton? Well, think about how demanding the industry is on its producers: as the world’s most in-demand non-food crop, the stakes are high. Herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers are all amply used to protect and grow the crop so it gets bigger and faster. In fact, cotton demands more of these toxic chemicals than any other crop.
Cotton plants also consume a behemoth amount of water. It can take thousands of litres of water to produce a single T-shirt.
Ever heard of the Aral Sea?
Shared by Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the Sea started regressing in the 1960’s due to exhaustive irrigation projects carried out by the Soviet Union to support cotton production. Now better known as the Aralkum Desert, its sands are infested with pesticides and herbicides, and are carried by airstream to the corners of the world, including Antarctica, where they have been traced and found to be present inside wildlife.
That’s just one example of desertification and how devastating the effects of cotton production have been on the environment. There is so much toxic water and water scarcity today that the landscape of our earth is literally changing before our eyes.
Cotton would appear to be a natural fabric, but it’s far from it. Plagued with remnant pesticides and herbicides, even after the milling/manufacturing process, it may certainly be a reason behind some unanswered questions about our health, like the source of cancer, birth defects, and reproductive dysfunction.
“In 1991, a train loaded with Metan sodium, which is used as a soil sterilant before planting cotton, derailed and spilled its contents into the Sacramento River, resulting in the death of every living organism in the river for 40 miles. A few years later heavy rains washed the chemical Endosulfan from cotton fields and into Big Nance Creek in Alabama and killed almost a quarter of a million fish.”
How can we help prevent environmental devastation like this?
Look for organic cotton.
Organic cotton by principle means none of that stuff. No pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, GMOs, or chemical fertilizers. It drinks 60% less water! All the collective degradation of the soil, corruption and depletion of water supply, and the risks to the imperative health of the famers and labourers who work with cotton are reduced in such a way that organic cotton farming is actually sustainable. And that is organic. And it’s beautiful.
Avoid polyester, nylon, and rayon.
Synthetic materials like polyester can take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Clothing can be up-cycled or recycled, but when you throw out clothing made from plastic materials, they’re there to stay for centuries. Avoid clothing whose marketing uses phrases like ‘wrinkle free’ or ‘stain-resistant,’ as a common solution for these treatments is, you guessed it, more detrimental chemicals.
When in doubt, buy quality. Just assume that even one $60 high-quality garment could potentially outlast three $20 cheapies… same cost, clearly not the same environmental footprint. Treat it well. If it lasts longer, you won’t need to sweat about making the Earth sweat.
Don’t forget your detergent.
This is a major step. Make the conversion now.
Just don’t forget the detergent. All that effort to find a quality fabric, just to bathe your newfound treasure in chemicals each wash? There are a host of natural detergents that can now be commonly found in grocery stores and health food stores alike.
Buy ethical. Be kind to your fellow humans.
Look for fair trade and ethically sourced.
It’s well-known today that textile production chemicals cause cancer, asthma, neurological damage, hormone disruption, and reproductive issues. Working conditions are hazardous, and safety or health isn’t always a major concern. Fair trade and similar ethical trade agreements between manufacturers and sellers ensure the safe and positive working conditions of those that work in the industry.
Buy vegan. Be kind to the voiceless.
Watch out for wool, silk, cashmere, leather, fur, and feathers.
Finally, buy vegan. Not just cruelty-free, but also vegan. Cruelty free means that component materials and final products were not tested on animals. Vegan means that none of the ingredients came from animals. Some companies claim just about anything. Look for companies that cite both, or that have certifications from groups like The Vegan Society, PETA, Leaping Bunny and others to know that the claim holds water.
Given the choice, no animal would choose to be a piece of clothing. There is no greater way to show your compassion for animals than to vote for their life with your dollar.