What are the benefits of organic bed linen?

August 07, 2016

What are the benefits of organic bed linen?

What are the benefits of organic cotton bed linen? 

We want the best cotton for your skin, your little ones and for the earth we live on.

In a nutshell, the main benefits of certified GOTS organic cotton are:

  • Organic from seed to shelf. No toxic chemicals  have touched the cotton or product at any time. Not during growing, dying or finishing.
  • Better for sensitive skin. Organic cotton keeps harsh chemicals away from sensitive skin. We have had our own experience of our children ending up with big red rashes from nappies or underwear made from conventional cotton. No matter how many washes we did it just didn't stop. 
  • No toxic chemicals released to the environment. This is critical for the health of people, waterways, animals and land around the farms, mills and factories
  • 90% less water. Organic cotton farming has been shown to use 90% less irrigated water than conventional farming. This means organic cotton is said to be around as thirsty as bamboo. 
  • 50% less primary energy. Organic cotton farming has been shown to use less than 50% of the primary energy required for conventional farming. 
  • Stops devastating harm to farmers. Organic farming protects farmers from the incredibly high costs of GM seeds and conventional pesticides. Costs that have been linked to escalating suicides in farming populations for years. 
  • Supports food farming. Organic farming supports crop rotation, food supply and protects waterways
  • Organic cotton better protects everyone's health. Unfortunately, a range of chemicals used in conventional cotton products, such as Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs) have been linked to severe health issues such as breast cancer. We don't want these anywhere near you, your family or the people who make our products. Even in the US conventional cotton farming has been linked to cancer. 
  • Supports human rights. GOTS requires that not just the environment, but also workers are looked after, in line with international human rights rulings on living wages, access to unions and other basic rights.  

What is GOTS organic and why do we choose it?

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the leading organic textile standard worldwide. Certified organic cotton means that our beautiful products are made without harmful chemicals at any stage in growing or processing.

No toxic pesticides, dyes, bleaches or finishing chemicals and no genetically modified (GM) seeds or plants are used. No nasties from start to finish.

This is a harder task than you would think!

Funds from Fairtrade payments even go toward helping to buy up non-GM seeds as they are out of reach for many farmers during peak times. It is currently reported that Monsanto controls 95% of the cotton seed market(1) which is why it is integral that organic alternatives are secured for farmers. All of our products are certified by GOTS. This certification provides full transparency throughout our supply chain.

What are the requirements of GOTS?

Other requirements of GOTS are that the supply chain is fully accessible, transparent and audit-able (including any inputs from third parties) and that:

  • organic processes are used throughout the entire process, meaning every single input is tested for toxicity and biodegradability
  • toxic solvents, GMOs, carcinogenic amine compounds, chlorine bleaches, formaldehyde, heavy metals are prohibited
  • packaging material cannot use PVC and all paper or cardboard must be sustainably sourced
  • all stages must have practices in place to minimise waste and discharges
  • wet processing units must keep full records of the use of chemicals, energy, water as well as waste water and sludge disposal and treatment
  • as well as a range of social requirements that must uphold the standards of the United Nations International Labour Organisation (ILO), covering human rights, access to collective bargaining and unions, safe and fair work places, anti-discrimination and fair work hours and termination. 

This means that GOTS differs from some other organic or chemical standards as it strictly oversees not just the chemicals that might end up on your skin - but all chemicals used throughout farming and processing, the environmental impact of all processes, including energy, water and waste and on habitat/wildlife, and the social and human rights practices and impact of operations. 

The toxic chemicals used in conventional textile farming or processing (cotton or otherwise) have been linked to incredible harm for farmers and workers, consumers and entire water, land, food chain and wildlife eco-systems.

Toxic pesticides and processing chemicals have been reported to be responsible for over 20,000 deaths each year and the poisoning of 77 million cotton farmers(2).

Suicides due to pesticide use, the associated costs and stresses, have been reported to have been the cause of over 300,000 deaths in India in the past 20 years (which puts it at a rate of about 1 suicide every 30 minutes).

This is not just an issue in India.

Globally, WHO has estimated that pesticides are estimated to cause 20,000 deaths each year in developing nations while being responsible for 10,000 cancer-related deaths in the US each year.(3) In terms of environmental impact, there is a staggering impact on the health of soils and waterways and pesticides are even estimated to be the cause in the US of the death of over 67 million birds. So imagine this on a global scale.

In rural villages, it has been found that these pesticides get into food chains, finding their way into breastmilk and causing devastating neurodevelopmental and physical impacts in children in villages close to pesticide use or conventional textiles factories. 

Worse, a range of toxic chemicals are conventionally used throughout the dyeing, processing and finishing stages, washing into waterways, oceans and food supply chains. Many of these have been linked to issues of hormonal and endocrine disruption both in the areas where they made and for the end user.

Organic cotton farming requires just 1/10th of the irrigated (or 'blue water') of conventional cotton and less than 50% of the primary energy. This has been said to be about on par to bamboo from a water need point of view. 

So you can see, that when we wanted to make something that was doing significantly less harm to the environment, animals and people, in order to be truly cruelty free, to humans, the broader environment and animals, we dedicated ourselves to sourcing fabric that was purely GOTS organic. From the very start, right to the very finish. 

What about "organic bamboo" bedding, bed linen and fabric? 

Unfortunately, GOTS organic does not recognise fabrics made from bamboo as organic fibres. This is due to the chemically intensive processing required to turn hard bamboo fibre into soft fabrics. Claims around 'organic' bamboo that we have seen have been in relation to the way the bamboo has been farmed, not further down the process. 

Bamboo crop farming is something that can readily be done organically, and is a sustainable crop. But unfortunately the process of turning that hard bamboo fibre into a soft material (correctly called a 'rayon' or 'viscose') is full of chemicals and is not nearly as sustainable a process.

In fact organic cotton is assessed to be a more sustainable fibre than "bamboo fabric" (more correctly known as viscose or rayon made from bamboo)

Some factories use a Tencel or lycocell close loop process, which is a great step in the right direction as it is intended to reuse a lot of the chemicals in a loop and treat any waste, but it still requires significant chemical and this is not recognised as an organic process.

It is then important to find out if once the viscose made from bamboo is created, what chemicals are then used in dyeing and finishing. Often, because the original creation of the viscose isn't organic, the rest of the process isn't either. 

So you will find that 'organic bamboo' refers to the way the bamboo itself is grown, but unfortunately, we aren't yet at the point where the rest of the processing can be accredited this way.

A few suppliers make a 'bamboo linen' but often people will mislabel a viscose as a bamboo linen. Strictly, a bamboo linen can only be used on a true fabric that has only been processed by mechanical means (like hemp or flax linen).

At this stage, noone has come up with a product that is soft enough for what we want to use. This process creates quite a stiff, thicker linen. We are on the look out and have been working with groups to see if this can be developed!