Happy Earth Day, fashionistas!
If you’re anything like us, so far your journey in pursuing a fair trade and ethical lifestyle has been mostly motivated by the impact on the people who make the things we wear.
Admittedly, we know very little about the materials used to make our clothing, or the environmental and health impacts.
That’s why we were SO excited to team up with Katy from Ethical Infant! She has a wealth of knowledge to share about the importance of shopping for organic cotton.
Enjoy her informative post and then head over to her ADORABLE etsy shop and pick up some cute organic, FAIR TRADE baby clothing and tote bags! You can take 10% off today for Earth Day using code Share10!
In Style and Love,
Like so many of you granola girls out there, for years, I have embraced and celebrated organic foods. You are what you eat, right? Well, it wasn’t until my first baby was on the way that I really started tuning into non-food based exposure to chemicals and pesticides. Protecting ourselves, and our little ones from toxic exposure really boils down to two major factors; what goes in us, and what goes on us. I knew that I was going to try to nurse exclusively, and that I’d attempt to do my best in the food department, once my little one arrived. But what about what was going to go on me, and my baby? In prepping for baby’s arrival, I started to dig deeper into how items were made. It is my firm belief that when you know better, you do better. Agreed? Good.
So, let’s get started by learning a few new words together. Now repeat after me, Aldicarb…..Parathion…..Methamidophos….Acephate….Malathion… No, I am not reading a Pop Tarts ingredient label (although it may not be all together different), I am reading to you a list of the 5 most prevalent pesticides used in cotton farming – three of which the World Health Organization has deemed “Extremely Hazardous or Highly Hazardous”. Let’s continue.
The dangers of pesticide exposure apply to EVERYONE, however children are among the most vulnerable. Infants in particular face unique exposure to dangerous pesticides because of how they interact with the world. They crawl on the ground and put most every thing in their mouths. This would include but certainly not be limited to – their hands, clothing, bedding, toys and pre-chewed gum found at the park (was that only my kid?). Okay, continuing. “Pound for pound, they (infants and children) drink two and one-half times more water, eat three to four times more food, and breathe two times more air than adults. Therefore they absorb a higher concentration of pesticides than adults.” (PANNA.org) Information like this tends to bring out the mama bear in me – how about you?
Additionally, because they are growing so rapidly, little ones are more susceptible to the effects of pesticide exposure than adults. From birth until early childhood and beyond, our little ones’ developing brains and bodies are in the midst of complex and fragile developmental processes. As noted by The Environmental Justice Foundation (2007), “many developmental processes can be irreversibly derailed by pesticide exposure.” It should be noted at this point that there is no standard that determines the amount of exposure that is deemed dangerous.
As I looked into products that I was going to need for my little one I realized that most items were made primarily from cotton (and so was most of my wardrobe for that matter). Taking this fact into consideration, I decided that cotton was the textile that I needed to focus my attention on. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Conventionally grown cotton occupies only 3% of the world’s farmland, but uses 25% of the world’s chemical pesticides (HAE Now, 2013). Yes, cotton is considered the world’s dirtiest crop due to its heavy use of pesticides. It’s terrifying to think that Aldicarb, cotton’s second most used insecticide, is lethal to both humans and animals. A single drop of this pesticide, absorbed through the skin can kill an adult. Aldicarb is commonly used in cotton production in 25 countries world wide, including the U.S. Moreover, many of the top 10 most commonly used pesticides in cotton farming, particularly those that are petroleum based, can be found in clothing, EVEN AFTER WASHING!
In all honesty, I was horrified by all of the information that I was finding, regarding the dangers of conventionally grown cotton. The more I read and the more I learned, the more I was ready to just crank up the heat in my home and let my little one lay around in the buff. They’d be safer… and cute. I promise though, none of this is at all intended to scare you into creating a nudist colony. Remember, when you know better, you do better. I promise good news is on the way.
But, before we get to the good news, here is a bit more that you might want to know about conventionally grown cotton. For the sake of time, I’ll just give you a few of the highlights, or lowlights, as they happen to be. According to both the EFJ and the Pesticide Action Network of North America:
- 65% of conventional cotton production ends up in our food chain directly through food oils or indirectly through the milk and meats of animals feeding on cottonseed meal and cotton gin by-products.
- The byproducts and leftovers from the ginning process consist of cottonseed, stalk, leaves, burrs, twigs, dirt and everything else that is not used in cotton textile production. Byproducts are frequently sold to food companies to undergo further processing to create cottonseed oil, additional additives and fillers in processed foods for livestock feed, and soil compost mix.
- Cottonseed meal is routinely fed to animals for dairy and meat production.
- Leftover cotton cellulose fibers that are too short to be spun into textiles are used as food additives. Cellulose is added to a wide range of foods as a thickening and stabilizing agent. Cellulose, which is basically a plastic, has migrated into numerous foods.
Ok, are you thoroughly freaked out now? I was too. But I did tell you that good news was on the way. Here it goes.
Let’s get back to the really important part – our little ones. Knowing what we now know, how can we protect our families and ensure that the products that we put on them are not causing them harm? The answer is simple – shop Organic. Thankfully, numerous companies, organizations, and individuals have begun to call for a stop to dangerous farming and production practices. There is a movement to return to safe and sustainable cotton. No, organic textiles are not just the next groovy thing for granola lovers to gravitate to; they are a matter of health and safety for us all. Our personal choice to support organic agriculture is critical.
The dangers to human and environmental health that exist with conventionally grown cotton are not present with organically grown cotton. It’s true, finding organic items for yourself and your little one might take a bit of extra searching on the internet, and putting in requests with your local shops, but it’s worth it. Protecting our families can sometimes seem like one of life’s greatest struggles; but it can also be one of life’s greatest joys. Personally, I’ve decided to ditch the dread and focus on the good that I can do for my precious little people. I hope that you will join me.
Remember, our shopping choices affect the cotton industry by increasing grower and manufacturer demand for pure, safe, organic products. Together, as a community of conscientious mamas, we can create market demand by choosing organic products for our food, clothing, and other cotton textile needs. The next time you are shopping for clothing, bedding, or personal care products, I hope that you can think back to this article. When we know better, we do better. When it comes to cotton, a wise choice is to shop organic for our family’s health and for the protection of those involved in producing the products we love so much.
EJF, 2007, The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton, Environmental Justice Foundation in collaboration with Pesticide Action Network UK, London, UK http://ejfoundation.org/sites/default/files/public/the_deadly_chemicals_in_cotton.pdf