If cotton is the most plentiful fabric in your organic wardrobe, you are in good company. The Organic Trade Association notes that the sales of organic cotton clothing and household textiles increased 35 percent between 2008 and 2009. The environmental benefits of this organic choice stem from the fact that for U.S. organic certification, growers must produce cotton without synthetic fertilizers or toxic herbicides and pesticides, from non-genetically engineered seed.
The impact that the manufacture of your wardrobe has on the soil and water might be alarming enough, but imagine how farm laborers are affected. The 2010 version of the Global Organic Textile Standard requires not only safe, humane working conditions, including regular employment, fair wages and working hours, but specifies that employees cannot be underage or forced labor, and that they have collective bargaining rights.
Organic clothing is one way that manufacturers meet the growing interest in “eco-fashion,” notes Luz Claudio, in the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives.” Environmentally friendly clothing is now available in haute couture, as well as T-shirts, and an easy way to identify it in the absence of other standards is to choose clothes made with organic fabrics.
Organic Feels Good
Clothing is sometimes the source of contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction. Researcher Christophe-J. Le Coz cites dyes, resins and formaldehyde used in processing fabrics as likely sources of reactions, and notes that synthetic fibers and wool can act as irritants. Sensitive individuals are most tolerant of white cotton. Thus, organic clothing, especially cotton, made without these potential allergens and irritants may feel better to the skin.