As awareness grows amongst us on how to live a more eco-conscious life through our daily choices, one inevitable facet that will arise is clothing. Researching this topic, the unethical actions of many big clothing manufacturers will firstly become apparent and then an overwhelming state of helplessness, followed by a little glimmer of hope as there are a handful of producers that take sustainability seriously, then the mustered courage to try to make a difference and finally, I hope more often than not the journey begins. At Tiny Tapir, we have been pioneers of sustainable items since 2008 in Malaysia and sometimes being ahead the curve is exasperating as mass awareness needs to be created. We’re now witnessing the awareness of reusable bags finally taking place, thanks in part to many of the NGOs who have joined the cause. Today let's discuss the benefits of Certified Organic Clothing. Is it really worth the extra money? Are they really better? Let's bang out the obligatory 5 points that are seemingly obvious to most but may be enlightening to some.
Pesticides on cotton. Do your part to reduce your impact on our planet. Cotton only makes up 3% of total farmed land area but it accounts for 25% of the insecticides and 10% of all pesticides used worldwide. We all know the effect insecticides have on our health and planet as a whole so why not make a difference with what you wear.
Impact on wildlife. The US EPA estimates that up to 2 million birds may be killed annually from just one of the many insecticides used on cotton. Ethical clothing not just at production but also at source is something we should consider.
Processing with chemicals. Non organic cotton clothes require dozens more chemicals, including bleaches during the long process of turning raw cotton into fiber for clothing. These chemicals go back into our waterways and ultimately our sea and the rest I need not explain.
Cotton is by far the most breathable of materials for clothing, with Organic Cotton you can ensure that the cotton used by your child has no pesticides, fertilisers or other chemicals when growing organic cotton. We do this obviously not only for our environment, our children’s future but our children’s wellbeing. To ensure that they don’t by any chance ingest any harmful chemicals from clothing.
Organic certification ensures that what we buy is really “Organic” and it goes beyond just fabric. What is it to be certified? We’ll delve into what GOTS certification is below.
Firstly Is it worth the extra moola? The most common feedback from Malaysians is that Organic Cotton Clothes are more expensive then what they can buy from the Pasar Malam? We understand that point of view, with an relatively anemic currency compared to our southern neighbour, those of us earning in RM and middle income are just unable to purchase quality goods at a reasonable price. The one thing we need to keep in mind is 'fake cheap'.
Fake cheap can be defined as very costly mass produced goods that are sold at low prices. Of course at the expense of the environment and/or people, they are presented to us in the most palatable of designs and of course cheap up front. Most people don’t consider the toll that the purchase takes on us in the long run. Everything has to give somewhere and where unethical cheap is present, it comes back to haunt us. When something is cheap, we are immediately attracted to the possibility of saving a few bucks when in a reality it is the last things we should be naively believing. What we really need to be challenging ourselves with is our purchasing habits, to reflect our values, ethics and eco-consciousness.
Ethically produced items are going to cost more but their prices are real, that’s really how much it costs to produce an item if it were done ethically, while keeping margins in the supply chain to ensure the product gets to the consumer. Many individuals only see the superficial discounts provided by retailers/brands and turn a blind eye to what happens beyond that first level transaction. For an item to be produced ethically it starts with the farmer/grower getting fair payment for his/her labour, then the manufacturer, then the distributor and finally the retailer. If the producer, manufacturer, distributor and retailer don’t get a reasonable amount that is sustainable, that product will obviously seize to exist in the market. So when we’ve established that ethical is always better, how do we ensure that standards are maintained in a free market economy? One of the methods are independent certifications.
In the clothing industry, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard International Working Group) certification is the gold standard. GOTS has a wide range of strict standards for the entire processing chain, including ensuring that the workers and environment will not be harmed during the processing of the clothes. GOTS prohibits the use of the kinds of chemicals commonly used in clothing processing that can cause cancer, birth defects and other serious illnesses. They only allow low impact chemicals in order to protect the consumer’s health. GOTS also has stringent criteria on waste water treatment, has goals for reduced energy and water consumption and try to ensure there are safe working conditions, no child labour and discrimination.
As it stands, although it is fast becoming a trend in the US, organic cotton clothing is already hard to find and not to mention GOTS certified clothing. Sometimes one would wonder if these stringent certifications are counter productive to making Organic Fabric Based Baby Wear more accessible to those of us residing in currency poor countries like Malaysia but on the other hand some sort of regulation for the greater good has to be in place.
As retailers we have to try to balance the factors of cost, quality and design for the benefit of our clientele. Some producers are just too expensive for the Malaysians masses, so we try to strike a balance. One of the brands that we carry is Woobaby, which is ethically produced in China but certified by IMO (Institute of Marketology) under GOTS Certification. You can find these eco-friendly, Certified Organic Children’s Clothes here: tinytapir.com/store
Adult organic bamboo clothing from the USA (BambooDru) can be found here: tinytapir.com/store
So are Certified Organic Clothing really better for us and our environment? That should be apparent from our above discussion but we’ll leave that conclusion up to your own conscience. Like us on Facebook keep up with our latest discounts.
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