Organic cotton: everything you need to know about the comfiest ethical fabric for summer

Organic cotton: everything you need to know about the comfiest ethical fabric for summer

Happy summer, people! It’s finally time to be thinking about our summer wardrobes, whether you’re off on holiday or having a staycation here in the UK.

Maybe it’s a sign of my age, but these days I’m not only conscious of where my clothes have come from but what they are made of. On a warm day I can’t stand to be in polyester or viscose. These fibres make me feel so sticky, and sweat marks are not a look I’m going for.

My fabric of the moment is organic cotton. Since making a conscious decision to choose more ethical products I can’t get enough of this fabric, as it’s such a luxurious yet affordable fibre which does good and feels great. If you’re also keen to explore this ethical material then read on – I’ve created a beginners’ guide with everything you need to know to get started on your organic cotton journey.

Scottish ethical fashion blogger Styled by Alice wears stripy organic cotton summer dress from People Tree

This cotton dress from top ethical fashion brand People Tree is my new summer favourite. It’s so soft and comfortable!

What is organic cotton?

Put simply, organic cotton is grown without harmful chemicals or pesticides, whilst focusing on maintaining healthy soil and a biodiverse environment, and conserving water and other natural resources. There are strict guidelines to follow for farmers to gain organic status, with Organic Content Standards (OCS) and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) the two main certifications to look for. Both are good but GOTS is great, as it means these garments also address environmental and social issues in their production. There’s also the Better Cotton Initiative which isn’t a certification scheme, but a project that is encouraging cotton farmers to preserve resources and farm more responsibly.

So while chemical-free production is great and all, you may be wondering: why is buying organic cotton actually important? Well, sadly there are some very shocking statistics around cotton production.

Conventional cotton farming ravages our environment and has led to the death of hundreds of thousands of cotton farmers in the past 20 years, either due to the toxins from production or the hideous pressures of the industry leading to suicide. Supporting organic cotton also supports human beings, and with 250 million people involved in cotton production globally, choosing organic is creating a more sustainable fashion ecosystem that we should all get behind.

As for the environmental impact of growing cotton, 2,700 litres of water are needed to create one t-shirt. That’s enough water to hydrate a person for two and a half years. Meanwhile, all the pesticides used to grow this cotton are run off into rivers and water sources. In fact, cotton production uses more pesticides than any other type of farming. Not cool.

Scottish ethical fashion blogger Styled by Alice wears organic cotton dress with sunglasses and summer accessories

What are the benefits of wearing organic cotton?

Let’s move on to a happier note: organic cotton farming is a slowly but steadily growing industry, and real change is happening. Sustainable cotton certification bodies are educating farmers on the best practices to not only protect the longevity of their businesses but also the environment. Organic cotton farming uses collected rainwater in production to conserve this resource, and helps protect the local biosphere by avoiding pesticides. What’s more, this industry is providing jobs and education for women on a greater scale than previous farming methods. That’s right: shopping for organic cotton is a feminist issue too.

The benefits of buying ethically-sourced cotton will not only be felt by those who produce it but you too. The main plus for us wearers is that this fabric is sooooo soft. Seriously, once you feel the difference you’ll never go back. Because it is grown without pesticides, organic cotton is perfect for sensitive skin, especially newborn babies.

Not only can you enjoy sustainably sourced cotton in your clothes, but also other essentials such as underwear, bedding, towels, make-up pads, and even sanitary products. I recently made the switch to reusable organic cotton pads for taking off my make-up and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. My skin looks and feels great and I’m saving money in the long term compared to buying throw-away cotton rounds.

Chances are, if a brand is mindful in its cotton sourcing then it’s also taking other ethical factors into consideration, which means when you seek out organic cotton you are also on track to source out some amazing sustainable fashion brands. Even High Street retailers who aren’t known for their ethical credentials are, er, cottoning on (sorry!) to the demand for organic cotton, so the more you buy the greater the scope of choice will be. Currently, only 0.1% of the world’s cotton crop is organic, but we as consumers have the power to encourage growth and change that for good.

Ethical fashion blogger Styled by Alice wears organic cotton Breton stripe dress with green accessories for summer

Where can I buy organic cotton clothing in the UK?

Thankfully, right now lots of brands are promoting this sustainable fabric so it is easy to find! You can source this super soft material in both High Street shops and ethically-focused brands, though it’s important to know that not all cotton is created equal. Look for the highest quality sustainable cotton you can afford for the softest feel.

People Tree is one of the original companies to specialise in organic cotton and a great place to start, as is Thought Clothing. For tees, I’m currently loving the Good Tee Co, as well as Spark Company. For you fellow maximalists out there Lucy and Yak is a brand you simply must check out: its rainbow dungarees and sassy oversized trousers are quirky and affordable.

High Street brands that are broadening their organic cotton offerings include Weekday, ASOS, & Other Stories, and Monki.

What brands are your favourite for organic cotton finds? I’d love if you shared them in the comments below.

Stay cool; stay ethical,


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