Those who care about environmentalism are always seeking new ways to be a more responsible consumer. A recent poll conducted by Boll and Branch found that clothing is ranked third amongst industries in which consumers value an organic label, with food and beverage being first, household cleaning supplies being second, and bedding ranking fourth.
Beyond shopping for organic cotton, what more can we look for in cotton products to ensure its sustainability? With rampant green-washing and unreliable organic certifications, it can be difficult to find out if our products are ethically sourced.
The solution, which less than 5% of global fashion brands follow, is traceable cotton.Traceability simply means that a brand is able to identify and trace the history, location, distribution, and application of its products and materials. This practice places a level of trust in the consumer's ability to understand a product's origins and gives a brand the ability to validate their claims about their products.
Using traceable cotton protects not only the farmers who source the crop but also protects the condition in which the products are made. Regenerative farmingand traceable cotton go hand-in-hand, as the agriculture method is protective of the landscape. Regenerative farming allows the land to regenerate, protects resources, and supports soil quality. Below is a list of brands that promise their customers the implementation of both traceable cotton and regenerative farming.
MATE the Label
MATE the Label is a sustainably sourced fashion brand in Los Angeles. On a mission to change the industry, MATE the Label values not only the use of certified organic, non-toxic cotton but also traceable cotton from a small area of India and regenerative farming practices. In another sustainability effort, MATE the Label also offers a circularity program, called reMate Circularity, in which the company's used clothing can be returned, where the textiles will then be broken down and recycled into new pieces. This practice ensures that each new piece of clothing is created more eco-friendly than the last and attempts to keep them out of landfills.
Patagonia, known for its outdoor and adventure gear, places value on protecting the planet. They first collaborated with the Organic Cotton Accelerator in 2018, working on a regenerative farming project in India. They have now grown the program to over 1,100 farmers. With its launch of its 2022 Regenerative Organic Cotton line, Patagonia has promised to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also "rehabilitate soil, respect animal welfare and improve the lives of farmers."
With a stylish crossover of minimalist basics and athleisure, this eco-friendly fashion brand sources its cotton directly from the Better Cotton Initiative, as well as family-owned and operated farms out of Egypt. Kotn products are sustainably manufactured in the Nile Delta. The brand works directly with 2,390 small farm holders, and each Kotn order gives back to the community by donating a segment of proceeds to its ABC Project, which aids in the funding and building of elementary schools across Egypt.
93% of the cotton used by sustainable fashion brand, People Tree, can be traced from the seed to the finished product. Their cotton is dual certified in Global Organic Textile Standard Certified Cotton (GOTS) and Fairtrade Cotton (FLO) and is known to produce 94% less greenhouse gas emissions than regular cotton. People Tree is committed to sourcing suppliers who prioritize the health of the planet. One of their largest sources of cotton, Chetna Organic, based out of India, participates in a rainwater conservation program to prevent topsoil erosion.
The cotton used for Organic Basics is Global Organic Textile Standard Certified Cotton (GOTS) and grown in Turkey on the coast of the Aegean Sea. The company can trace up to 71% of its materials. Organic Basics is presenting a deeper intention to practice sustainability by working on a pilot project with the World Wildlife Fund to create the first regenerative farm in Turkey.
Known for its luxury bedding, Looma sources its certified organic and Fairtrade cotton directly from farming families in the Himalayan Basin. Their cotton is cultivated by hand and free of harsh chemicals and pesticides. The outcome is a cotton that needs 90% less water to cultivate, produces 50% less CO2, and is completely hypoallergenic.
Boll And Branch
Another bedding company, Boll and Branch, claims to be traceable from farm to finish. Their organic cotton is sourced from family-run cooperatives in Orissa. Not only did Boll and Branch opt out of using harsh pesticides and genetically modified (GMO) cotton, they chose the location of Orissa to farm, where it is actually illegal to do so. This displays the strong intention of Boll and Branch to commit to ethically sourced, high-quality cotton.
Choosing brands that use traceable cotton can support community projects across the globe.
Regenerative farming helps support soil quality and protect resources.
Traceable cotton requires a brand to know the origin of its cotton from the entire supply chain.