Sustainable Fashion: The Importance of Organic Cotton

FACT: Fashion destroyed the fourth largest lake in the World ... that’s pretty huge

The 2016 documentary about the disappearance of the Aral Sea in Central Asia due to cotton production shocked the world and sparked a wider awareness about the importance of choosing your clothing and cotton suppliers extremely carefully. The Aral Sea was once the fourth largest lake in the world – losing that vast amount of water and beauty due to the ‘fast fashion’ industry is hard to comprehend and many members of the public have simply been unaware and uninformed that their cotton purchases are having such a huge impact on the planet.

FACT: Conventional cotton production causes poverty and ill health

The rivers that fed into the Aral Sea were used to irrigate the surrounding agricultural areas for conventional cotton growth. This not only used a huge amount of water but also an unthinkable amount of pesticides and toxic chemicals .... all of which then leaked back into the rivers and the Aral Sea.

The cocktail of harmful pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers required to produce conventional non-organic cotton are incredibly hazardous to the planet as well as to the health of local people. Now that the bottom of this once vast lake is exposed by the decades of diverting its rivers for irrigation projects, the lake bed now releases pesticides and other toxic chemicals into the atmosphere poisoning the local land and people with carcinogenic dust blown around by the increasing windy climate. Stacey Dooley’s documentary ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’, showed a huge increase in the disease Tuberculosis in the people living in the Aral Sea region. In Indonesia, Dooley discovered that the Citarum River has been found to contain toxic levels of chemicals such as mercury, lead and arsenic – the local children play in this water and it is relied on for everyday use such as bathing and washing clothes.

In conventional cotton farming poor working conditions are immense, with children forced to work long days collecting the crop with their bare hands and in insufficient clothing.

So how does organic cotton make a difference?

Organic cotton farming has many social and economic benefits – never using GM seed, farmers are not controlled by the GM companies and the healthy fertile soils enable them to grow other crops for food and income. Costs are also much lower as there is no money spent on fertilisers and pesticides and the organic crop has a higher value.

FACT: Organic cotton production is better for the environment

The main benefits of not using pesticides and fertilisers are obvious, but this also helps build up the quality and fertility of the soil, locking in CO2 and reducing CO2 emissions. This soil also retains more water, greatly reducing the need for artificial watering – organic cotton is 80% rain-fed as it uses it more efficiently.

All of My T-shirt Wardrobe’s products are organic and ethically produced – many are manufactured by Continental Clothing Company which has worked closely with the Carbon Trust and created a 100% organic label with 90% reduction in CO2 compared to an identical product manufactured using conventional energy sources and all of their organic cotton products are GOT’s certified. Just a single one of their EarthPositive T-shirts saves around 7 kilograms of CO2, whilst one of their unisex hoodies saves up to 28kgs of greenhouse gases. 

The rest of our products are manufactured by Stanley Stella, whose garments are all GOT's certified, meet OEKO-TEX standards, fair wear and PETA approved vegan. 

Look out for the badges on each product to see their individual eco credentials. 

All of our designs are printed with ethical animal friendly/vegan, non-toxic inks. Knowing how our clothing is produced is so important.


About the Author

Organic Cotton T-shirts Designer

Sarah Heward is the founder of My T-shirt Wardrobe. Her aim is to make organic cotton clothing accessible to all, with fun, unique and personalised designs. This article has been written following lots of research into the benefits of organic cotton and the catastrophic effects of conventional cotton farming.

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