When John attended the inaugural Textile Exchange meeting in 2002, he learned conventional cotton production is an environmental and social devastation.
In 2019, over 28.5 million pounds of chemical pesticides and 1.8 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizers were used to produce conventional cotton in the United States alone; this intense chemical reliance leaks into four areas of welfare:
Did you know that growing 1,000kg of non-organic cotton produces the same waste as a standard vehicle driving 7,421 miles?
This footprint accounts for the time between planting seeds to the ginning process and is caused mainly by agricultural inputs, such as pesticides, mineral fertilizers, tractor operations, and irrigation.
Topsoil is more than dirt; it is a non-renewable resource that contains a vital ecosystem built up over thousands of years.
It is estimated that half the earth's topsoil has been lost in the last 150 years because of chemical-based farming, leading to soil infertility, excess sediment in streams and rivers - which can harm wildlife and cause flooding, and poor water retention in soil.
Conventional cotton is grown almost exclusively with irrigated water.
Not only does this add incredible pressure to places facing water scarcity (by 2025, this may include up to two-thirds of the world’s population), conventional cotton pollutes the rivers, lakes, wetlands, and underground aquifers of nearby communities with pesticide, fertilizer, and mineral runoff.
Exposure to chemical-based farming has been proven by the Agricultural Health Study to lead to a higher incidence of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, and asthma, putting communities surrounding conventional cotton farms at great risk for health issues.
Virgin polyester uses non-renewable petroleum as its raw source, using an estimated 342 million barrels of oil every year, as cited by A New Textiles Economy Report 2017. Recycled polyester is made by melting down existing plastics and recreating it as new polyester fiber. It does not depend on petroleum for production.
Polyester requires high amounts of energy to produce, up to 125 MJ of energy per kilogram produced. Recycled polyester uses fewer resources than its traditional counterpart, a savings by the global industry of 5.7 billion liters of water, the energy equivalent to 498,924 US homes powered for one year, and driving 1.7 billion miles in an average sized car in just two years.
The CFDA, Council of Fashion Designers of America, claims that they have never been able to trace back polyester to its raw material source, stating that petroleum is one of the hardest raw materials to trace. Recycled polyester certified through Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is tracked through the supply chain, so we know exactly where our fiber comes from.
Virgin polyester emits 14.2 kg of CO2 per kilogram of clothing produced and in 2015 polyester produced for clothing emitted 282 billion kg of CO2. Besides this, polyester sheds microplastics throughout its life and in routine consumer washes. According to A New Textiles Economy Report 2017, polyester contributes to the estimated 500,000 tons of plastic microfibers that are shed into the oceans annually. Recycled polyester represents a reduction in GHG emissions by more than 70% as compared to virgin polyester. Recycled polyester also diverts plastic from the environment (via sourcing from existing plastic) which reduces soil contamination and air and water pollution.
Quality of Material
Polyester and recycled polyester share in quality of material, each creating long-lasting, strong clothing. Garments created from recycled polyester aim to be continuously recycled with no degradation of quality, allowing us to minimize wastage. This means polyester garment manufacture could potentially become a closed loop system.
That first Textile Exchange meeting inspired horror and motivation in John.
The benefits of utilizing organic cotton outweighed the risk of entering an unknown market.
Switching to organic cotton benefits the environment by:
Reducing global warming potential by 46%, non-renewable energy demand by 62%, and acidification potential by 70%.
This is achieved by eliminating toxic and persistent pesticides and mineral fertilizers, which are petroleum-derived.
The main cause of topsoil erosion and degradation is the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Since organic cotton does not implement these into its production, it is capable of preventing 90% of this devastation, potentially allowing for better crop production, water retention, and healthier ecosystems.
Organic cotton gets 95% of its water from natural sources including rainwater harvesting and healthy soil that is able to retain water.
These conservation practices allow organic cotton to reduce irrigated water consumption by 91%, easing water scarcity in farming communities.
Not only does organic cotton eliminate the threat to the health of these communities, but it changes people’s lives. While it’s much harder to quantify the social and economic benefits of organic cotton, there are a few things we can look at to be able to say that organic cotton changes farmers’ lives and their communities for the better. 96% of organic cotton farmers report that they practice composting and 88% of them are able to grow their own crops for additional income.
Benefits of Recycled Polyester
Easy to Maintain
Did You Know?
Polyester is the most widely produced fiber, taking 52% of the fiber market share in 2019.
Recycled polyester is most often produced from PET plastic bottles, but can also be made from other post-consumer plastics such as ocean waste, discarded polyester textiles, or from pre-consumer processing residues such as fabric scraps.
Global plastic waste is around 300 million tons every year - this amount is comparable to the weight of the entire human population!