When we first launched Needs More Cushions, we focused exclusively on artisan-crafted fabrics. Made in small quantities, hand-woven and hand-dyed, these traditional textiles offer an ethical homewares choice. After all, supporting artisans in remote parts of the world whilst helping to keep traditional crafts alive is way better than buying mass produced tat with no meaning.
We still love (and will continue to sell) mudcloth, baoule and batik for this reason, but we recognise that everyone's tastes are different - and that there are other ways to create a more ethical and sustainable home.
That's why we've launched some new collections, including our Fairer Fabrics range, made from organic cottons and oeko-tex certified cotton - aka fabrics that have less of a negative environmental impact.
We've carefully selected our organic cotton fabrics to offer maximum contemporary style, including our organic cotton velvets in mustard, grey and navy. We've also aimed for a competitive price point so we can provide a genuine ethical alternative to the velvet designs available in other stores.
So, what's the deal with organic cotton anyway? Is it really better than conventional cotton, and if so, why?
Organic cotton uses less water
Organic cotton uses far less water than conventionally grown cotton - around 71 percent less in fact. That's a pretty big plus when it is estimated that one kilogram of conventional cotton takes around 10,000 litres of water to produce. Now there are some nay-sayers out there who argue that organic cotton actually uses more water. However, this claim has been largely discredited, with evidence instead suggesting that organic farming practices help to create healthy soils which make better use of water inputs, are more resilient in drought conditions and help to build biologically diverse agriculture.
Organic cotton = no nasty chemicals
Organic cotton is grown in a way that minimises harmful environmental impacts. The crops aren’t treated with pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) which can be harmful for farmers, workers, entire wildlife eco-systems, and, eventually, consumers.
With thousands of cotton farmers suffering from pesticide poisoning each year, the move away from harmful chemicals has to be a good thing. And it's not just farmers that are impacted; factory workers too are breathing in these nasties whilst making garments, home textiles and other goods using conventional cotton.
With the volume of these chemicals washing into waterways, it's hardly surprising that pesticide residue is being increasingly found in foods, farm animals and even breast milk. Crikey. If consumers choosing organic cotton helps to minimise this level of harm, then count me the heck in.
Organic cotton can give farmers more control
Where conventional cotton involves farmers becoming increasingly indebted due to the volume of synthetic chemicals they need to buy, organic cotton production operates at far lower cost. Instead, local resources, such as compost, manure and natural pesticides, which are easier to obtain and cheaper to buy, can be used.
Organic cotton is also a rotation crop (conventional cotton - not so much) which means farmers can also grow other food crops, creating diversity and greater food security, reduced dependency on the volatile cotton market and greater resilience when the weather fails to play nice.
Even better, the organic production model is usually based on long-term partnerships between all those along the supply chain, strengthening farmers' economic security. Empowerment is one of our core values so this additional choice and control really resonates with us as a key benefit.
Its also helping to save the planet
According to the Textile Exchange, organic cotton is 46 percent less harmful to global warming, provides 70 percent less acidification of land and water, reduces the potential for soil erosion by 26 percent, reduces surface and groundwater use by 91 percent and may reduce energy demand by as much as 62 percent.
That's pretty impressive huh? Ultimately organic cotton production uses less energy and the resulting healthy organic soils then store more carbon, thus helping to combat climate change.
When you work through the myriad benefits that organic cotton offers, it's easy to see why it's a great choice for our clothes and homewares. I had no idea about the harm being done by conventional cotton - a fabric that I'd always considered to be 'natural' and non-harmful when compared to say nylon or polyester.
I hadn't ever thought of the environmental consequences - and I was completely unaware of the horrible conditions that cotton farmers, pickers and textile workers are subjected to as a result of all the toxic nasties involved. I'm truly shocked and intend to use my purchasing power to push for better by seeking out organic clothing and home accessories wherever I can.
Do you think you'll change how you shop given the information outlined in this article? And are there enough style choices available? Let me know in the comments below.