A magnificant sacred kingfisher, perched on a branch high above the ocean. This particular bird, well known in New Zealand, continues to thrive around coastal lands, estauries, and seaside cliffs. How fortunate we are in New Zealand to be able to capture beautiful scenes like this on our doorstep. Although not quite ‘100% pure’ as we are often marketed overseas, our natural environment is still largely untounched and pristine, and a lot of our animal species and flora still flourish. Something that unfortunately is no longer the case in many places around the world.
For those of you familiar with our blog, you would have seen our post called ‘The Fairtrade Difference’. That post discusses the reasons why we place high importance on ensuring the clothing brands we stock carry the Fairtrade certification. The other key component we require in our clothing is an organic certification. You might be thinking ‘does clothing really need to be organic’? It’s not like food where some benefit can come from not ingesting the chemicals. However, clothing being organic is at least as important as it being Fairtrade. When we choose to purchase non-organic, we are choosing to wear pollution, both figuaratively and literally – let’s explore how.
Figuratively Wear The Pollution – The Environmental Impact
India, in the heart of the subcontinent, has a rich heritage. Well known for majestic temples, colourful festivals, and spices; it is a place that continues to fascinate overseas tourists. With the mountains in the north, great plains and desert in the centre, and beautiful coastal lands in the south; it’s landscape is diverse and beautiful. However, in some places this is slowly getting stripped away.
Environments are crumbling; getting mercilessly destroyed beyond repair. The subcontinent countries of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are some of the worst affected. From polluted waterways and poisoned lands, to deforestation and extinction of numerous animal species. This is what we are doing to our planet.
The clothing industry must carry a large amount of the blame for this. You may be surprised to learn that clothing is now reported to be the second most polluting industry in the world. That’s right, second only to the extraction of oil, an industry notoriously dirty.
So where does all this pollution come from? Let’s first look at the land. As you can see in this comparison chart from GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), conventional non-organic cotton uses 16% of all the world’s insecticides, and 10% of all the world’s pesticides, on not even 2% of the world’s cultivated lands. These chemicals poison the workers farming the cotton and the environment – which in turn poisons animals. Add this to the fact that non-organic cotton seeds are genetically modified (GMO), it’s no wonder there is such strain on the land.
Perhaps even worse though is the pollution of the water ways. Toxic dyes used in clothes manufacturing are flooding into rivers and other bodies of water in these countries, often from deliberate dumping of waste water. This renders the water undrinkable, and destroys the surrounding farmland. Spare a thought for the fish too. For these helpless sea creatures, it is no longer overfishing that is the biggest threat to their existence. New research has come to light suggesting that the chemicals in these dyes are disrupting and altering hormones in certain species. This is leading to development and reproduction issues, especially around the gender. Species simply won’t survive if they can’t reproduce.
For a practical example, let’s look at how this level of pollution could impact kingfishers. These birds are small, delicate and come in at a weight of only 55 grams. It is a bird that loves to hunt by diving into the water to catch live fish. What chance would they stand in a polluted environment? Not only would one of their major food sources be impacted, but it would only take a tiny amount of chemical to kill these little guys.
How is organic clothing different then? Firstly, on the farm there is no GMO cotton and pesticides are banned. The biggest difference is in the factory though. Hazardous chemicals (dyes) are prohibited, with all chemicals needing to meet strict toxicity and biodegradability standards. Further, waste water is treated. This means no dumping in water ways, which protects people, their water supply and the fish! GOTS goes further to guarantee no child or forced labour in the factories.
Literally Wear the Pollution – The Impact on Us
Pay attention because this is something most people don’t know. Those harsh dyes that are wreaking havoc overseas; they are still present in the clothing when we buy it. Many of these dyes are toxic and can get absorbed into our bodies. How? Because our skin is an organ.
A reaction to one of the many chemicals is not uncommon and can range from a rash or allergy to respiratory problems. Some of these dyes are banned in the European Union for health reasons, yet they are commonly used in Third World countries by big companies. It is of no great surprise that they are causing problems. Most concerning, people are risking the health of their children. Babies are most at risk from these chemicals because they are small and still developing.
GOTS is once again the standard in this area and their reassuring criteria outlines the benefits of organic clothing. They do not allow allergenic, carcinogenic or toxic chemical residue in any of the clothes they certify. Further, they monitor every stage, from the farm to the factory. Look for the GOTS label, because it is your guarantee. We are pleased to confirm that all the clothing we stock, from both the Etiko and No Nasties brands, has been certified under these standards!
Is this okay? Humans who are trying to ‘look good for less’ are destroying natural beauty, from trees and plants, to helpless animals. Why do we get to take preference over nature, and over those workers adversely affected overseas? Further, why are putting our own lives at risk?
Organics in clothing is just as important as it is in food. It also must go hand in hand with the Fairtrade certification for clothing. Fairtrade focuses on the people, but does not capture the whole process and impact. Organic compliments perfectly, by ensuring the environment, waterways, workers and purchasers are not impacted by harsh pesticides, insecticides, and dyes.
You may choose not to wear the environmental impact of every purchase of conventional clothing, but someone or something somewhere has to. Plus at the very least some of the chemicals are getting into your body. The choice is yours – so say no to wearing pollution!