Below is the body of a blog post I wrote in November 2014 which explains my personal 'why' regarding organic cotton. Since then my convictions have only grown stronger as more details come to light. Nearly all quilting fabrics (I do make the occasional exception), batting and threads which I have bought since then have been organic, as well as bed sheets, towels etc.
The documentary film, The True Cost (currently on Netflix) is an heart-breaking look into the business of fast fashion and also features alarming details concerning conventional as well as the hope offered by organic cotton farming.
Organic cotton fabric - I have bought a little of it here and there for quilting in the past. It cost slightly more and it was rarely true white but I chose it because it was better for 'the environment'.
Then a few weeks ago I stumbled upon this:
'Approximately 25 per cent of the world's insecticides and 10 per cent of the world's pesticides are used on conventionally grown cotton and it's estimated that 50 per cent of all the insecticide used in India is sprayed on cotton. This causes monumental damage to the environment and to the health of farm labourers who are exposed to the chemicals. Non-organic fabric can also use genetically modified seeds....
Unfortunately it gets worse: as the pests develop resistance to these chemicals and the soil loses it fertility, the farmers find themselves in a never ending spiral of debt....illness, depression...suicide
...Organic cotton farming...natural fertilisers...crops are rotated and bugs are hand-picked...Weeding is also done by hand...allows farmers to grow their own food safely and keep animals.....increased opportunities for women working within the organic system...farmers involved also gain skills and training because the organic system is so tightly controlled and education-focused...the farmers are generally paid faster than those in the traditional industry...'
Suddenly 'the environment' was becoming very personal. This double-page spread in the midst of Cassandra Ellis's impressive book, 'Cloth' p88-89 (borrowed from our local library - published October 2013), has started me on an intriguing trail of discovery. Before having children I had spent a total of eight months living in India over the course of two trips, and my husband has had much more time India, even as recently as 2012, visiting some of our Indian friends. (See the label 'India' in the group of tags in the column on the right for more about our ongoing India connections).
The more I read, the more I have been disturbed by what I have learnt about conventional cotton farming, harvesting and printing/finishing.
Gina Pantastico, Director of Operations for Cloud 9 Fabrics recently shared a couple of articles over at Sew Mama Sew which have been most informative yet not too technical:
This first one looked at cotton farming and in the second article Gina gave a somewhat disconcerting outline of harvesting and printing/finishing cotton fabrics..
Another site, O Ecotextiles, covers some very interesting issues in greater depth including, but not limited to, fabric.
What to do? While I still treasure and will carefully use my collection of conventional cotton fabrics, I can see organic cotton featuring much more strongly in future purchases - for the sake of the farmers, the environment (our waterways, air and soil) as well as the health of those who work with and use/wear the end products - and that's every single one of us!
I am very grateful also for companies like Cloud 9 Fabrics and Birch Fabrics who are continuing to release ever more enticing designs in organic cottons. I really want to support the organic cotton system as well as looking after the health of myself and my family. In fact at this point I'm not buying any fabric unless it is organic and have been busy looking into organic batting and organic threads as well as organic bed sheets etc.