The What and Why of Organic
Unless you have been in hiding for the past decade you know that the term “organic” has gained incredible status. What does organic mean? According to the National Organic Standards board, “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on the minimal use of off farm inputs and on management practices that restore maintain and enhance ecological harmony.” Certified Organic is a title that is given to an item only when strict guidelines, made by The National Organic Standards Board, are met. Every step in the production of the item must meet the guidelines, from the soil where the item is grown to the processing facilities in which it is created.
Even in local grocery stores there are often sections specifically created for organic products and foods. There is one sign cant reason that has major corporations and manufacturers making the switch to producing “certified organic” products: consumer demand. Why is there such a huge consumer demand for these products? The simple and honest answer is for health. People choose organic for health, not just for their own health but also for their children, communities, and the environment. Choosing organic is a way of life for many people, and is a lifestyle that is quickly catching on.
Buying Organic: From Cauliflower to Clothes
We live in an ever-changing society where information shapes our lives. Information about farming practices, pesticides and carcinogens, just to name a few, has caused Americas to think twice about what they are eating. Now information about pesticides, cotton crops, and chemical treatment of crops is changing the way we think about clothing, too. Cotton is one of the biggest crops grown for use in clothing production. Although, since it is not a food crop the pesticides, herbicides and chemicals used on it are not regulated. Now you may think, why is that a problem- it’s not like we are eating the cotton. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily true. According to an article from Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), we ingest more of the harmful pesticides than we realize. Pesticide run-off leaches into our water and our livestock ingest contaminated cotton straw and cottonseed in their fed.
What about the farmer and farm workers? Very few if any safety measures are taken to protect the workers from these toxins. Did you know that certain pesticides were first developed and used in World War Two as biological weapons? Now think about going to work everyday knowing you will be exposed to these types of toxins.
Cotton crops alone account for $2.6 billion in pesticides used each year and the cotton crop fits the definition of a chemically dependent agriculture. Even though cotton only uses 2.4% of all cultivated land, 25% of the world’s pesticides and 10% of the world’s insecticides are used on it yearly. In other words, for every one pair of jeans and t-shirt produced, 1 pound of pesticides and chemical fertilizers are used. The problems with clothing production do not stop in the field. During the conversion of conventional cotton into clothing, numerous toxic chemicals are added at each stage – harsh petroleum scours, softeners, brighteners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia and formaldehyde – to name just a few.
Cotton and Your Baby
How does this affect our children? Did you know that a baby’s skin is more porous and thinner than an adult’s skin? That means that their skin absorbs things very easily. Johnson and Johnson states on the their website, “A baby’s skin is thinner, more fragile and less oily than an adult’s. A baby’s skin also produces less melanin, the substance that helps protect against sunburn. It’s less resistant to bacteria and harmful substances in the environment, especially if it’s irritated. Babies also sweat less efficiently than the rest of us, so it’s harder for them to maintain their inner body temperature.” This means that children are at greater risk for pesticide-related health problems than adults. Lotus Organics states that, “Millions of children in the US receive up to 35% of their estimated lifetime dose of some carcinogenic pesticides by age five through food, contaminated drinking water, household use, and pesticide drift”.
Think how much choosing organic baby clothing for your children cuts down on their exposure to toxins. Organic clothing uses cotton that is not farmed in the conventional ways. Pesticides are not used; rather, other safer methods are used to produce the crops, such as crop rotation, physical removal of weeds instead of use of herbicides, hand hoeing, using beneficial insects to counteract the bad and many more. Therefore, workers have better working conditions, water quality is not compromised by run-off, and strong healthy soil is built. The end product is a cotton fabric that is toxin free.
Organic cotton also has other perks besides being toxin free. It is safer, sturdier, cheaper and it feels great! Organic clothing may be more expensive when you first buy it, but when compared to the cheaper cotton product it gives you your money’s worth. Conventionally produced cotton material lasts 10-20 washes before it starts to break down. An organic cotton material lasts for 100 washes or more before it begins to wear down. This is because the cotton fibers in conventionally produced cotton take so much abuse in production because it goes through scouring, bleaching, dying, softeners, formaldehyde spray, and flame and soil retardants before it is even shipped to be cut for patterns.
Why Organic Clothing?
Creating a pure, natural environment is a vital decision for a growing number of parents. With our children exposed to pollutants in many aspects of life, choosing organic fibers is another step towards natural living, both for our sensitive babies as well as our environment.
In summary, here are the top 10 reasons why organic clothing should be on your shopping list:
- It helps protect your children
- It reduces pesticide use
- It protects farm workers
- It protects water quality
- It prevents soil erosion
- It is a sturdier fabric
- It saves you money
- It feels amazing inside and out
- It supports a true economy
- It supports a healthier environment
Editorial provided by Rachel V. Birchler of Mooi, an organic children’s clothing boutique in Pittsburgh.