Sustainable is better for the planet, but organic cotton products are also gentle to people. Let's take a look at these 'green' products in detail, to find out why organic cotton is a great sustainable choice.

With the focus on sustainability and not harming the planet, we are all drawn into a world of organic, but you might wonder, "Is organic cotton better in any way?". Let's take a look at organic cotton production, how to identify organic cotton fabric and the reasons this material is the sustainable choice.

Cotton cloth has always been synonymous with good quality. And we consider 100% cotton a safe choice. But these days, good quality is not enough reason for people to shop for cotton material. It's the same problem, whether you are looking for a cotton garment like a shirt to wear, accessories for the home, bed and table linen or upholstered pieces of furniture. 

These days, we are all surrounded by terms like ‘organic’ and ‘sustainable’, and as much as it is about being 'on trend', it is also our responsibility as designers and as humans to protect our planet. Take the term ‘organic food’, which we use to describe produce that we have grown sustainably. In the same way, we also produce ‘organic cotton’ in a sustainable way. And we use fewer chemicals, pesticides and fertilisers, and less water for organic cotton production. 

What is organic cotton fabric?

So, exactly what is this organic fabric? According to GOTS, the Global Organic Textile Standards, which is the green (eco) standard according to which Organic Cotton Textiles is produced, organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. The organisation goes on to say that farmers who produce organic cotton use natural methods and natural water to grow it. They use methods that result in naturally cultivated cotton without the use of any synthetic agricultural chemicals such as fertilisers or pesticides. In addition, these cotton plants require less water to grow. And the farming keeps the quality of the soil high, while also limiting soil erosion.

Also, GOTS tells us, the farmers grow organic cotton without pesticides from seeds that have not been genetically modified. Farming methods like these started in the 1980s in the United States, to create more sustainable agricultural methods that would not be harmful to the planet. And this method became very popular, creating a form of cotton material that has become extremely covetable and environmentally friendly.

Although we discuss this in more detail later, it’s important to mention here that producing organic cotton material is more expensive, because organic textile production costs more. The reason? These methods use less water and no harmful chemicals. Also, organic cotton plants don’t yield as much material as conventional cotton ones.

There are plenty of advantages to choosing organic cotton. For instance, organic cotton materials have proved to be softer than conventional cotton materials. They are more comfortable and often made to a higher quality than normal cotton clothing. Also, because organic cotton material production does not use harmful chemicals, this cotton fabric is often used for clothing for babies and young children.

5 Reasons to choose organic cotton fabrics

1. Cotton production is sustainable and ethical

All the production systems for organic cotton yarn are natural, sustainable, ethical and free of chemicals. 

To grow an organic cotton plant, one has to fertilise the soil in a particular way and use a specific type of seeds in the soil. We cannot use genetically engineered seeds for the production of organic cotton fibres. This agricultural method also uses chemical-free pesticides and an irrigation system that requires less water. This is a more sustainable solution to growing cotton.

For organic cotton with certification, farms have to be sustainable organic farms, so they use no harmful chemicals. Farmers have had to find natural methods that produce the same results without harming the environment. This includes using less water to grow the organic cotton plants.

Typical methods include introducing insects that control pests instead of using synthetic pesticides and natural methods to enhance soil rather than fossil fuel based fertilisers. Organic cotton farmers have managed to find ways to use less drinking water when they grow the cotton plants, making the method a lot more environmentally friendly and saving drinking water in the process.

There is another very important sustainable aspect. Not only do organisations like these make sure that the conditions for growing organic cotton are met, they also make sure that those people working on organic cotton farms work in a tolerable and humane environment. 

2. This cotton type is gentler on the skin  

It happens that you might have bought a 100% cotton product at some point in your life. Perhaps some fashion clothing, towels or linen. Then, when you use the product for the first time, you find out you're allergic to it. The reason is simple – it’s directly related to how we produce the material and how we possibly exposed it to toxic substances and chemical intensive treatments such as pesticides during production.

Most cotton material production involves using harmful chemicals; sometimes even the dye used to colour the material has chemicals in it.

Organic cotton material production is done without using any such chemicals, so products such as bed linen, a shirt, sleepwear and other fashion or leisure garments made from organic cotton is natural and hypoallergenic and doesn’t affect sensitive skin. 

You can rest assured that when you shop for any of maake's fabrics, we have vetted them for chemical safety and supplier responsibility. And we make sure that when we print on an organic cotton material, we use less water in the printing process, too.

3. It's softer, stronger and lasts longer

As we mentioned earlier, because they are so comfortable and durable, we often use organic cotton textiles to make clothes and other items for babies and young children. 

The reason is simple: these cotton textiles are natural, gentler on the skin and feel soft to the touch. They may cost more, but this is not always the case. However, even when they do cost more, many people are happy to pay extra for their luxurious feel.

Organic cotton material is soft because it has longer fibers than standard cotton. As we hand pick organic cotton, the fiber doesn’t break like a conventional cotton fibre does. Instead it feels quite extravagant.

4. More sustainable, biodiverse cotton 

Because cotton needs so much water, organic cotton farmers have found various ways to gather rainwater and use it instead of drinking water. These days, to water 81% of organic cotton, we mostly use rainwater instead of drinking water. 

Farmers are saving a massive 91% on irrigation, too. In fact, soil nourished without harmful chemicals doesn’t need as much water. 

These are some of the ways that organic cotton is produced and how this is helping to create a more sustainable ecosystem. If you'd like more information on the subject, see maake’s take on social responsibility and sustainability. What’s more, you can read about how we save water in our digital textile printing process; in fact, this process uses no water at all.

5. Organic fabric prevents global warming by reducing carbon emissions

Climate change is negatively affecting people and the planet. It has caused several weather shifts such as temperature changes and extreme weather patterns. 

Unfortunately, our society and habits are to blame for these situations. Since the 19th century, we’ve used plenty of fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil) to modernise our world. 

We didn’t intend to harm the environment, but we have. We're now releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere. 

Producing organic cotton emits 50% less carbon dioxide than standard cotton growing. That's just another reason you should shop for sustainable cotton material! 

Certified organic materials: GOTS and Oeko Tex

Several worthy global organisations have created standards to measure whether cotton is certified organic or not and whether it has been produced sustainably, without chemicals and by using less water. These organisations include Fair Trade UK and the Global Organic Textile Standard, or GOTS, which we talked about earlier. They operate all over the world, including in the United States, Europe and the UK. 

Their standards measure how manufacturers create the cotton material, the colourants they utilise to dye the cloth and the supply chains involved in the cotton trade. These methods are all carried out sustainably and transparently. And these methods are then rated accordingly. 

Terms such as ‘GOTS standards on crops’ certify that the cotton crops are grown organically. They also focus on the environment, saving water and farmers’ livelihoods.

See our guide on textile certifications here.

There’s another side to the organic cotton story

As in life, nothing in organic cotton production is perfect. Let’s take a look at some of the disadvantages of organic cotton, which we touched on a little earlier in this blog… 

We already know that organic cotton produces less than conventional cotton from the same amount of land. In fact, we need 25% more land to yield the same amount of organic cotton as the regular cotton variety. 

The world doesn’t have the space, so farmers have had to look for other solutions, like deforestation, which would cause even more global warming. 

Sometimes producing organic cotton involves using natural pesticides. There are chemicals in these pesticides that can also harm the environment. In fact, some natural pesticides use even more toxic chemicals than the synthetic pesticides and insecticides people use when they grow conventional cotton. 

Let's talk about genetically modified cotton plants

It's a fact: during organic cotton production, we don't genetically modify the material.  That's despite brand manufacturers producing organic cotton sustainably. And this can cause problems. 

However, genetically modified cotton is resistant to pests, so we don’t need pesticides. This kind of cotton also produces healthy soil that doesn’t need fertiliser. As we mentioned earlier, organic cotton is far more expensive to produce than normal cotton, as the cultivation process for this organic material is more complicated and the crop yield is less. 

There are environmental and social issues, too. The social aspect is a global issue; it involves low wages and bad working conditions for labourers. 

Is selecting organic cotton a must for your printing?

At maake we don’t just provide sustainable material to print on, although we do offer more than 15 types of organic cotton. Our collections include both organic and natural items such as linen and hemp. 

Although some materials have a more sustainable profile these days, stock availability and prices are erratic, so your business needs to keep an open mind when choosing the material you’re going to print a design on. 

Whatever natural material you choose, you can be safe in the knowledge that the digital printing methods we use at maake utilise no water, less energy than a bathroom radiator ( and that energy is 100% renewable energy). These methods create no more than a thimble of waste ink per 1km of printing. 

We print using inks that meet GOTS 6.0 and Oeko tex Class 1 standards, meaning that your materials meet the stringent standards you expect for your sustainable and infant-safe natural products.

The future of cotton

Remember this and make better choices when you choose cotton fabric and cotton garments for products for personal use:

  • Organic cotton farming is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically. It is also anticipated to have several other positive environmental, social and health benefits.
  • Globally, designers, manufacturers and retailers are supporting the production of organic cotton. They know that this type of material is more sustainable and the benefits it will have to the planet and future generations.

        Shop cotton organic fabric and fabric blends at maake

        Add some of these organic cotton fabrics and textile blends when you shop…

        • Optic White Organic Panama: This durable organic, bleached material with GOTS cerfitication is a version of maake’s Panama textile. Great for bags, curtains and home accessories. Similar to a midweight canvas material, this one is also available with a natural base.
        • Organic Calico Natural: An organic and unbleached version of our Panama textile that is certified by GOTS. Very hard-wearing, and also good for bags, curtains and home accessories. Because of its natural composition, you’ll find that colours appear lighter and more muted when you print on this organic material. The unbleached material will also have slight imperfections.
        • Organic Jasmine Lycra Jersey: This organic cotton lycra jersey is soft and has great stretch and recovery. Smooth in texture, it’s certified safe for kids, making it excellent for kids clothing, leggings and T-shirts. Colours print a little lighter or muted than on polyester jersey material which is not organic material.
        • Organic Lily Jersey: This 220gsm cotton jersey material boasts a 4-way stretch. It’s soft and medium weight, ideal for leggings, kids clothing and T-shirts. This organic material is easy to sew and doesn’t fray. Colours print lighter and more muted.
        • Organic Panama Natural: This organic, unbleached material has GOTS certification. It is very hard wearing, great for bags, curtains and home accessories. The natural base prints beautifully. Also available with an optic white base.
        • Organic Poplin: The organic version of maake’s popular Cotton Poplin is mostly used for bedding, crafts and fashion garments such as dresses, shirts and outer layers. Ideal for all year round, it’s light and smooth and prints beautifully.
        • Organic Satin: Lightweight and organic version of maake’s satin material. Perfect for bed linen, home fabrics, accessories and fashion clothing. It’s soft with a smooth print face and luxurious texture. This organic fabric prints beautifully.

         

        Explore all organic cotton fabrics and blends at maake

         

        August 01, 2022 — Artemis Doupa