The Benefits of Organic Cotton | Q&A with the Founder
At Thought, we believe that small changes can make a big difference, and we create everything with the greatest respect for people and planet. So when it comes to selecting fabrics, we aim to choose the most sustainable, natural yarns — and organic cotton is one that runs throughout our collection.
Our founder and creative director, Rachel Kelly, gives an insight into the benefits of organic cotton:
Why is using organic materials so important?
I would say the primary importance of using organic materials is because the crops aren’t treated with harmful pesticides so it protects farmers and workers, consumers and wildlife eco-systems. It ensures there is enough water supply and it’s not all taken for farming.
What are the benefits of choosing organic cotton over regular cotton to the customer?
There are emotional benefits, like playing a part in minimising environmental impact through being able to make a choice in benefit of the planet. The physical benefits are equally as important — lack of harmful chemicals and natural, breathable fibres mean it’s incredibly kind to the skin.
What steps does Thought take when using organic cotton?
For 2020 we partnered with a supply chain in India to develop our first Fairtrade and fully GOTS certified t-shirt collection. This ensures working conditions and wages comply with Fairtrade standards and the end product is 100% organic cotton including the dyes and the wash, not just fibre. GOTS or Global Organic Textile Standard is recognised as the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibres and defines high level environmental criteria for the supply chain. The end to process is organic, not just the fibre.
What are the benefits to the planet over conventional cotton?
Conventional cotton is generally grown as a mono crop, which can destroy soil quality and create a fragile ecosystem. It also uses synthetic fertilisers, contaminating the water supply and contributing to greenhouse gas.
Organic cotton is grown in crop rotation, where other plants are sown to encourage biodiversity. This protects soil quality, minimises CO2 and preserves water through healthier soils. Organic cotton needs about 95% less ground water than conventional cotton, making it better for the farmers and their communities and minimising its environmental footprint.
What makes something organic?
In order to be classed as an organic fibre, the crops need to be grown through non-genetically modified plants, and without the use of any synthetic agricultural chemicals such as fertilisers or pesticides. The production also needs to promote and enhance biodiversity and biological cycles and protect farmers and workers. To have a fully organic garment is more complex as every part of the manufacturing process needs to also be organic from dying and printing, even through to the packaging and labelling that goes on the garment.
What different organic materials are available?
It’s getting better but there are limited choices for consumers with organic cotton being the most widely used and available. There are also those which are less available such as flax also known as linen and also organic hemp. The latter two are more difficult to source and less commercially available.
What are the downsides of using non-organic materials?
The downsides are long-term impact on the environment — the use of excessive fertilisers and pesticides cause irreparable damage. In developing countries, cotton is thought to account for 50% of total pesticide which means a lot of chemicals are seeping into the earth. Inevitably over time this increases greenhouse gases and the likelihood of contamination of the same soil that grow vegetables.
Have you got any tips for upgrading to an organic wardrobe?
There are a lot more options and it’s easier now to find, great basics but also style driven pieces. If you don’t have anything at all in your organic armoury I would start with the basics. Our Fairtrade and GOTS certified t-shirt collection would be a great place to start as you can wear it close to your skin to get a feel for it but it’s also a real versatile essential. Once you’ve discovered that it washes better, lasts longer and doesn’t bobble in the way that regular cotton can and feel ready to add a few more pieces we have timeless organic cotton tops, super soft denim and organic cotton dresses to add to the mix.