When it comes to shopping for sustainable textiles, probably the main argument why you want to buy from companies that use non-toxic, sustainable and ethical practices is, you are either going to wear them (clothing), pat yourself dry (towels) or sleep on them (sheets), which means your skin comes in contact with that fabric. The skin is very absorbent and is the largest organ of the body. Everything you put on your skin goes into your body. This is more prevalent with skin care but also important with textiles.
Another aspect is that the textile/fashion industry is a big environmental polluter. There is ‘dirty cotton’, as well as inequality and abuse.
Environmental impact of cotton, sourced from WFF:
Cotton cultivation severely degrades soil quality. Despite the global area devoted to cotton cultivation remaining constant for the past 70 years, cotton production has depleted and degraded the soil in many areas. Most cotton is grown on well-established fields, but their exhaustion leads to expansion into new areas and the attendant destruction of habitat.
Conventional production practices for cotton involve the application of substantial fertilizers and pesticides. Pesticides threaten the quality of soil and water, as well as the health of biodiversity in and downstream from the fields. Heavy use of pesticides also raises concern for the health of farm workers and nearby populations.
Runoff of pesticides, fertilizers, and minerals from cotton fields contaminates rivers, lakes, wetlands, and underground aquifers. These pollutants affect biodiversity directly by immediate toxicity or indirectly through long-term accumulation.
Production and processing of cotton uses a large amount of water. Some experts contend that cotton is the largest user of water among all agricultural commodities. Surface and ground waters are often diverted to irrigate cotton fields, leading to freshwater loss through evaporation, and inefficient water management.
Companies don’t have to certify their products yet. Hopefully that will change and become mandatory in the near future. At this stage, brands can choose what labels to get and set themselves apart as ethical and sustainable.
As consumers, we have the power to drive this trend forward by voting with our money and demand change in that way. If you and thousands of other people stop buying a particular product, the producer can either file for bankruptcy or has to employ a different strategy.
Put your money in industries that have adapted sustainable practices. This guide can help you identify such brands.
OEKO-TEX Standard 100
Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX labels and certificates confirm that every component of the article, i.e. every thread, button and other accessories, has been tested for harmful substances and that the article therefore is harmless in human ecological terms. In other words, it’s free from allergenic dyes, pesticides, chlorinated phenols, heavy metals, formaldehyde, and chloro-organic carriers, and are not harmful to the skin.
Global Organic Textile Standard GOTS
The Global Organic Textile Standard is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.
The Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) ensures that products contain more than 95% of certified organic raw material based on total weight. The GOLS standard features permissible limits for harmful substances, emissions test requirements, and polymer and filler percentages.
BCI Cotton Initiative
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a global not-for-profit organization and the largest cotton sustainability program in the world. GOTS is a higher standard, but BCI still makes global cotton production better for the people who produce it and better for the environment it grows with guidelines for production using less pesticides and water.
GREENGUARD Gold Certification
GREENGUARD Gold Certification are scientifically proven to meet some of the world’s most rigorous, third-party chemical emissions standards for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde or phthalates.
The USDA organic label has among the most meaningful standards for environmental sustainability including prohibiting synthetic fertilizers and industrial pesticides. Animals must eat only organically grown feed (without animal byproducts), can’t be treated with synthetic hormones or antibiotics, must have access to the outdoors, and ruminants (hoofed animals, including cows) must have access to pasture. GMOs are prohibited (though testing is not required).
Cradle To Cradle
Cradle to Cradle Certification (CM) is a third-party sustainability label that requires achievement across multiple attributes:
* use materials that are safe for human health and the environment through all use phases
* product and system design for material reutilization, such as recycling or composting
* use of renewable energy
* efficient use of water, and maximum water quality associated with production
* company strategies for social responsibility.
Organic Content Standard (OCS)
The Organic Content Standard (OCS) is a standard for tracking and verifying the content of organically grown materials in a final product.
NSF certification label means that products meet strict standards for public health protection. It’s a third-party certification that ensures human and environmental safety across several different industries. NSF was originally called the National Sanitation Foundation.
The bluesign® standard brings together the entire textile manufacturing chain to jointly reduce the ecological footprint of a responsibly acting textile industry. Instead of focusing on finished product testing, the bluesign® standard analyzes all input streams – from raw materials to chemical components, to resources – with a sophisticated “Input Stream Management” process.
Climate Beneficial wool comes from animals that were raised with Carbon Farming practices, which means more carbon was sequestered than emitted. Carbon Farming Practices can be measured and monitored for the enhancement of permanent soil carbon storage, and therefore material coming from these landscapes can be verified as Climate Beneficial.
Fairtrade International is a product-oriented multistakeholder group aimed at promoting the lives of farmers and workers through trade. Fairtrade’s work is guided by a global strategy focused on ensuring that all farmers earn a living income, and agricultural workers earn a living wage.
MADE SAFE® is a nontoxic seal for products we use every day, from baby to personal care to household and beyond. They certify that products you use on your body and in your home are made with safe ingredients not known or suspected to harm human health.
Climate Neutral Certified
Climate Neutral is an independent nonprofit organization working to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon world by putting a price on carbon emissions. With Climate Neutral, the entirety of our carbon footprint is measured and verified, from raw material production and shipping to manufacturing and delivery.
Regenerative Organic Certified
Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) is a revolutionary new certification for food, fiber, and personal care ingredients. ROC farms and products meet the highest standards for soil health, animal welfare, and farmworker fairness. ROC is overseen by the 501(c)3 nonprofit Regenerative Organic Alliance.
Certified B Corporation
B Corps meet the highest standards of verified environmental and social performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. It’s the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance.
Forest Stewardship Council
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)certification is considered the “gold standard” designation for wood harvested from forests that are responsibly managed, socially beneficial, environmentally conscious, and economically viable.
1% For The Planet
1% For the Planet is an organization of members that contribute 1% of their annual gross sales to appropriate environmental non profits that align with their values. The idea is for companies that have profited from the resources on earth to protect those resources by funding for a positive change.