The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the world’s leading processing standard for organic textiles, including ecological and social criteria. GOTS ensures that cotton in a product is grown organically and ethically. GOTS defines organic textiles as "containing a minimum content of organic fibres, being processed with the least possible environmental impact, under strict controls on natural and synthetic chemical inputs and with respect for labour conditions." The certification also focuses on what happens after the farm gate, following the cotton through the supply chain to ensure that GOTS certified items are all made with sustainable, safe + healthy, and socially responsible practices.
Some of the requirements for GOTS certification include:
- Requires a minimum of 95% organic fibers
- Fibers cannot be processed with toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, or nano particles
- Evaluation of toxicity and biodegradability for chemical inputs
- All dyes must be nontoxic and textiles cannot be treated with chlorine bleach
- Must have a social compliance management system, with defined elements in place to ensure that the social criteria are met
- Must adhere to ethical labor practices, such as freedom of association and collective bargaining, living wages, and no child labor
- Chlorinated plastics like PVC can’t be used in packaging
So why is organic cotton important?
Organic cotton is made from natural seeds, and there is no use of pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Conventional cotton is notorious for being one of the world’s most chemically intensive crops. Conventional cotton is one of the largest user of pesticides in the United States, right behind corn and soybeans. In 2019 alone, conventional cotton used over 68 million pounds of pesticides. (USDA chemical use survey, 2019)
Conventional cotton is also known for it's massive water usage and waste. A conventional cotton t-shirt requires 2,168 gallons of water to produce, versus 86 gallons of water to produce an organic cotton t-shirt. Organic cotton uses around 71 percent less water than conventionally grown cotton. Conventional cotton is grown on the same soil over and over again, which removes nutrients and degrades the soil quality. Since these crops require more water, they are irrigated heavily, resulting in water waste. Organic cotton production significantly reduces the amount of water pollution from soil erosion and nutrient leaching. Organic soils retain water and nutrients more effectively than conventionally-managed soils, leading to healthier crops.
There are so many benefits to organic cotton.
The most important of which include protecting our ecosystem, reducing water waste, and ensuring a safer + healthier working environment for farmers and garment workers. Organic cotton also creates good quality items that are extremely soft and that you will be able to love and cherish for years.