All About Organic Cotton Certification from Kasper Organics

All About Organic Cotton Certification

We’re all familiar with the Organic logo on our food.  As the popularity of organic living increases, more and more people are looking to start using organic cotton in their homes as well.  Unlike organic foods, there are no regulations on use of the term “organic cotton.”  In fact, conventional farmers can claim they have certified organic cotton when they don’t have anything even close to organic cotton.

Will the real Organic Cotton please stand up?

Fortunately, certification boards exist for farmers to verify they are producing the real deal.  The process can take up to three years, and farms must go through a stringent verification in order to become officially certified organic.  This helps the consumer greatly, however, by allowing you to know you’re getting actual organic cotton instead of an intruder.

Certification Terms

If there are companies claiming to be growing “certified organic cotton” that aren’t actually doing so, what should consumers look for?  Keep an eye out for these certifications to know you’re getting the real thing:

  • GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) This is the most desirable certification, it ensures not only organic content but also socially and sustainably responsible processing
  • OE (Organic Exchange)
    • You’ll usually see OE 100 or OE Blended.  OE100 is 100% organic cotton but it might not be processed organically.  OE Blended contains at least 5% organic cotton.
  • OCS (Organic Content Standard)
    • This certification helps to assure organic farming practices
  • USDA Organic (United States Department of Agriculture)
    • USDA Organic certification requires that crops not be treated for the previous 3 years prior to certification with a prohibited material and that no prohibited herbicide, pesticide or fertilizer can be used. GMOs are also banned when becoming USDA certified, as well as some farming practices.  While this is the most recognizable organic label, it is extremely time intensive to become USDA certified and quite costly so smaller farms often forgo this certification.

How much organic cotton is being grown?

Cotton accounts for a significant amount of the crops grown worldwide.  It’s also the largest water-consuming crop in the world.  Organic cotton uses less water and helps to boost the local water supply and food quality of nearby farms.  Organic cotton is now grown in over a dozen countries, by over 200,000 thousand farms and over 500,000 bales are grown annually.  Even with these massive numbers, less than 1% of cotton grown worldwide is certified organic!  Organizations are working to educate cotton farmers on the benefits of growing organic cotton, as well as to expedite the process of organic certification.

In America, organic cotton is mostly grown in California, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Texas.  Over 80% of the organic cotton grown in the US is grown in Texas.

Who are these farmers?

Most farmers growing organic cotton have been cotton farmers for generations.  While we are increasingly losing our connections to our ancestors who farmed here in America, millions of people make their living farming worldwide and farming is still a massive part of many communities worldwide.  Farmers are often eager to switch over to organic practices once they learn the benefits such as:

  • Decreased water use
  • Healthier soil
  • Increased ability to grow other plants nearby
  • Cleaner water for their community
  • Higher pay
  • Less expense overall (GMO seeds can be up to 10 times more expensive than organic cotton seeds.)
  • Greater crop yield
  • Significantly less health risks

Plus, many farms become certified Fair Trade as well as obtaining organic certification.  This serves as a major benefit all the way from farmer to seamstress.

How do companies become certified?

The organic cotton certification process is an extremely lengthy process.  Each certifying organization has slightly different regulations. The general process is fairly similar.  It can take several years for the process to become completed.  However, as the demand for Organic cotton grows, the process will hopefully become less time intensive as more staff can work on certifying the farms.  Certification and organic practices don’t end at the farm, however.  The processing facilities, spinning, weaving, milling, etc. for conventional cotton use massive amounts of chemicals.  Organic cotton textile certifications must go from the farm to the consumer.

In order to become certified textile companies must:

  • Use non-GMO cotton seeds
  • Never use synthetic pesticides
  • Undergo certification verifying the spinning factory can process organic cotton and adhere to organic practices
  • Certify organic processes at the farms
  • Farms must have an ecosystem management plan in place
  • Apply through the accredited third-party & pass all inspections, as well as an annual inspection
  • Rotate crops
  • Farms must avoid defoliants
  • Undergo contamination and residue testing
  • Obtain all the proper scope certifications, this varies based on certifying organization but can include certificates for Farming, Ginning, Spinning, Weaving, Dyeing and Finishing, Sewing and the Retailer

The inspections and process often include a 2-3 year period where the farm is transitioning from convention cotton growth to organic.  Many of the third party certifiers work alongside farms to help ensure the process and help farmers understand the new requirements for their farming practices.  An in-depth look at all finances will take place as well to ensure that all funds are being spent on proper items.  In addition, all storage, harvesting, processing, and water facilities will be assessed and viewed in the inspection process.  

The process is extremely lengthy and involved.  In the end, it’s worth it to create a cleaner and healthier product for all involved.

How can I help?

The best way to help increase the yield of organic cotton grown is to vote with your dollar.  By buying organically grown, and processed, cotton the demand increases.  As demand increases more farms will make the switch.  If everyone switched over to organic cotton the impact would be drastic on our global food and water supply.  

 

Keep an eye here on our blog to learn more about organic and natural fibers.

Organic Cotton 101 from Kasper Organics

About Organic Cotton

At Kasper Organics we pride ourselves on sourcing only the highest quality and cleanest products we can find. Sourcing products mostly made from organic cotton grown in the USA. Many customers come to us after spending years reacting to their own clothing and textiles and are thrilled to find relief by switching to organic cotton. Others come to us seeking fabric that carries less of an environmental impact, and less of a health risk to the farmers (and their families) growing the crops. Organic cotton fills all these desires and more.

Conventional Cotton Basics
The growth of conventional cotton accounts for a significant amount of toxic chemicals, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers. Over 15% of the world’s pesticide use, and 25% of the world’s insecticide use, goes into the production of conventional cotton. Additionally, conventional cotton accounts for drastic amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and groundwater damage. Farmers growing conventional cotton are not only more likely to be paid an unfair wage, they often suffer lifelong health effects or even death, as a result of their trade. In the usa, it is likely to be the migrant workers and their families who work in the fields, are poorly paid and suffer from exposure to toxic chemicals.

The Organic Difference
An increasing number of people are struggling with autoimmune and chronic health diseases. Respiratory illness, allergies, and environmental sensitivities are also drastically on the rise. People are turning to organic foods as a result. Doesn’t it make sense to choose organic cotton fabrics as well? Why put so much emphasis on what goes into our bodies while ignoring the sensitive organ that covers our entire body. Absorbing from everything that touches it?  When we wear conventional cotton, we are spending all day (and night) with toxic residues from our clothing, bedding, etc., all over our bodies. Have you ever been exposed to poison ivy or poison oak?  You had an intense reaction – and you didn’t even have to eat it. Exposure to your skin alone was more than enough!

Cream, brown and natural organic cotton blankets
Super soft organic cotton blankets

Organic cotton offers numerous benefits to farmers and consumers. Consumers lower their toxic load, benefit the environment, and get a higher quality product. Farmers benefit not only with their well-being, but with a better yield, numerous benefits to their farm, like more biodiversity and healthier soil, so they can feel secure knowing that they are preserving their farmland into the future. And helping to preserve our natural environment, and prevent it from becoming increasingly toxic.

Quality
While the upfront cost may be slightly more than conventional clothing at your big box stores, organic cotton clothing will hold through many more washes, and stay looking and feeling great. Getting softer with each washing. And when you have worn out an organic cotton item, you can compost it and give it back to the earth! Or cut it up to make non-toxic hankies and rags.

How to Start with Organic Cotton
Organic cotton clothing, towels and bed linens are all good starting places. Anything that goes directly against t your skin, or you are spending significant amounts of time in are good considerations for organic cotton. Try not to feel overwhelmed. Start small and replace things in your wardrobe and home gradually. Budget for a purchase of one or two items each payday suggest some items as birthday and holiday gifts.

Socks are a really great place to start. (for gift giving, as well as gift receiving.) Your socks help snug against the vulnerable skin on your feet all day! And it’s a small item. Lot’s of people buy organic cotton socks as gifts. Before you know it you will have lots of clean, healthy organic clothing that you will not only love to wear, but feel healthier in, and proud to know that you are making a difference! Not only for the environment but you are creating healthier, fair-wage jobs with every purchase.

Let’s talk certification. This page is still a work in progress, so the information provided below is not a complete overview.

GOTS: Global Organic Textile Standard

The information below is excerpts of information from their website. You can read more here:  GOTS

General Description

“The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain . . . “

Aim

” . . . to define world-wide recognized requirements that insure organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labeling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer.”

You can see the GOTS Certification for Organics and More, the manufacturer of our sheets, blankets and towels here:
GOTS Certificate

More soon.