Are you living a double standard... or do you truly “walk your talk”?
Chances are you value a healthy lifestyle and dodge genetically engineered foods whenever possible. And I’m certain you care about the environment as well as the hard-working individuals – especially the independent organic farmers – who provide the food you buy.
But when you go shopping for clothes, do those values go out the window?
If you’re like most people, you give little thought to your clothes buying habits. You probably don’t pay much attention to where your clothing was made or how its creation might have affected the environment or the workers who made it.
And least of all, you likely don’t dwell on the potential for your new clothes to adversely affect your health.
Unfortunately, we no longer live in a world where shopping decisions are inconsequential.
Just as the foods you buy massively impact your health, the environment, and the people who produce them, so do the clothes you buy and wear.
Fast Fashion: The Second Largest Polluter in the World... Second Only to Big Oil
Did you know that the clothing industry has become the second largest polluter in the world, second only to oil?
Forget about the images of rampant car exhaust, spewing smokestacks, and even raw sewage running into waterways. While they are indeed significant sources of pollution, they may not hold a candle to the mess that the fashion industry is creating.
Today’s incessant demand for cheap clothes – or so-called “fast fashion” – is creating a nightmare for the planet.
Just check the labels inside some of your favorite garbs. You’ll quickly discover that most, if not all, were shipped halfway around the world.
Aside from the potentially toxic substances used to help manufacture them (more about that in a minute), you can likely assume these clothes:
- Took a lot of water and other natural resources to produce
- Contaminated the environment with chemicals
- Were made by underpaid workers in less-than-ideal conditions
- Were shipped via container ships that gobbled up more than their fair share of dirty fossil fuels
And that’s just the manufacturing and transporting of these “throwaway” clothes...
Once they’re in your possession, caring for them is a whole other issue, and what happens to them when you no longer want them is another. In Britain alone, 7 tons or approximately 10,000 items of clothing are discarded and incinerated or buried in landfills every 10 minutes – a tragic assault to the environment!
The Steep Cost of Cotton – America’s Favorite Fiber
Most people believe cotton is a naturally breathable and healthy fiber, courtesy of years of claims made by the cotton industry.
But, in truth, conventionally grown cotton is a living nightmare for the environment and its natural resources. It requires massive amounts of water, chemical pesticides, fertilizers and defoliants for harvest.
Grown all over the world in China, India, the U.S., Pakistan and Brazil, here are some alarming facts about conventionally grown cotton:
- Cotton farming takes up less than 3 percent of the total farmland around the world, but consumes 10 percent of all agricultural chemicals, up to 25 percent of pesticides, and 7 percent of all herbicides
- Each of the 13 million acres of cotton harvested every year in the U.S. is sprayed with an average of 13 pounds of potentially hazardous pesticides, herbicides, and defoliants
- A third of a pound of toxic agricultural chemicals is needed to produce one pound of cotton – or the amount of cotton needed for just one T-shirt
- To make one T-shirt, the industry uses about 400 gallons of water, removing that water from drought-threatened rivers and lakes
- Half of the $2 billion spent on chemicals each year to spray on cotton crops around the globe is classified as “hazardous” by the World Health Organization (WHO)
- The EPA considers 7 of the top 15 pesticides used in cotton in the U.S. as “possible,” “likely,” “probable,” or “known” human carcinogens
These statistics don’t include the billions of pounds of nitrogen synthetic fertilizers used for cultivating cotton. These massive amounts of chemical fertilizers routinely pollute groundwater and emit nitrous oxide, the most destructive of greenhouse gases – 300 times worse than CO2 per weight!
The runoff from these fertilizers can create aquatic "dead zones" in waterways, killing off species of aquatic life. Plus, they destroy soil fertility and the soil’s ability to store rainwater and sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere.
As if the amounts of pesticides used aren’t atrocious enough, because insects are developing greater resistance, farmers are increasingly forced to apply even larger amounts for effective control.
GMOs, Cotton, and Your Health: The Hidden Threat
You may not realize it, but over 90 percent of the cotton grown in the U.S. is made with genetically engineered (GE) cotton.
Worldwide, 70 million acres are planted with GE cotton, including most of what’s grown in China, India, and Pakistan.
Herbicide-resistant GE cotton is heavily sprayed with Roundup, including its active ingredient glyphosate.
The cotton industry is the highest user of glyphosate, a “probable human carcinogen” according to WHO.
Bt cotton, a variety of cotton genetically engineered to produce its own internal pesticide, was introduced in 2002. The problem is, when it gets inside your body, either by eating or absorption through your skin, it can continue to produce toxic pesticide!
Contrary to the claims that Bt cotton would reduce pesticide usage, this cotton crop ended up requiring more pesticide – about 13 times the amount farmers previously used!
The newest “Frankencotton” creation – dicamba-resistant cotton – coupled with the EPA’s approval of the use of the herbicide dicamba have opened the doors to a massive increase in the use of this toxic herbicide.
Dicamba is a known developmental and reproductive toxin. The most recent research suggests it is a DNA damage agent and hazardous to humans.
Even its maker estimates that dicamba use on cotton to fight superweeds could go from 364,000 pounds to 5.2 million pounds per year in 34 U.S. states!
How does all this affect you? Not only are several of the pesticides used on cotton known or suspected carcinogens, their residues remain in the fibers and may not wash out, at least not in the first few washes.
Your skin is your largest organ, and what touches it passes through. Therefore, the chemicals and pesticides used on conventional cotton can enter your body through your skin.
A Tale of Cotton Production’s Devastating Effects on a Once Thriving Seaport
At one time, the beautiful nation of Uzbekistan used to have a thriving seaport and bountiful fishing industry. Today, the fish are long gone and the water’s edge is 50 miles away. All this happened in only a few decades.
In the early 1970s, the water level of the Aral Sea between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan began receding. Whereas fishermen in that region once caught 40 tons of fish per year, the fish were now starting to die.
All that’s left of the seabed today is a toxic wasteland of salt and pesticide residues.
Uzbekistan is an example of how things can go from bad to worse when conventional cotton production takes priority over the environment and livelihood of its people.
In this situation, the human toll is even worse than the toxic landscape. The second largest cotton exporter in the world, Uzbekistan is home to unimaginable human rights violations.
A third of the population labors for the government-owned billion-dollar cotton industry, including children over seven. During harvest time, schools close and teachers bring the children to the cotton fields to work.
No one can refuse to pick cotton – teachers can be fired and students can lose their schooling privileges.
Worse, everyone picks the chemical-laden cotton with their bare hands, without any gloves or protective gear. Pickers often resort to drinking from the irrigation canals as clean drinking water is scarce.
And they suffer financially, too. Many workers end up in deeper debt by the end of the harvest season because they aren’t able to pick enough cotton to make up for what the government deducts from their pay for food and lodging.
That’s just Uzbekistan... Similar human rights violations and environmental travesties are common in other cotton-producing nations, too.
Take India for example. An estimated 300,000 farmers have committed suicide in the past two decades over the climbing debt created by patented seed laws that prevent farmers from saving and sharing seeds.
Yet, when you walk into a clothing store or shop online, no trace remains of the plight of these cotton farmers and pickers. The blood and anguish are left behind, half way around the world.
Killer Clothes: The Fashion Industry’s Dirty Little Secrets
Once the cotton is picked and made into cloth, it finds its way to the garment factories, most likely also overseas.
Garment factory workers often labor in sweatshops in nations like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan and Vietnam. Typically, they are underpaid – or not paid at all – and can work 18-hour shifts in unsafe and abusive conditions.
Women are most at risk of these illegal labor practices, yet continue to endure them out of fear of poverty. Labor laws largely remain unenforced and those profiting from these operations turn a blind eye, denying the inhumane conditions.
Sweatshops are just one of the dirty little secrets that the fashion industry would rather keep to itself.
Another one is chemicals.
Most people have no idea of the number of potentially hazardous chemicals used in non-organic clothing production:
- Cotton is first bleached white. If chlorine is used, the process releases carcinogenic dioxins into the environment.
- Conventional cotton cloth is typically dyed with synthetic chemicals. Azo-aniline dyes can cause mild to severe skin reactions.
- To give clothes a fresh, unwrinkled appearance and to prevent mildew during shipping, formaldehyde resins are applied. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and the resins are linked to eczema.
- Synthetic clothes can contain potentially hazardous substances, including perfluorinated chemicals, flame retardants, and trichloroethylene. Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, has been found to cause “developmental and other adverse effects” in laboratory animals.
- Synthetic microfibers can severely wreak havoc on the environment, polluting waterways and endangering marine life. And when fish and shellfish consume these synthetic fibers, they ultimately end up on people’s dinner plates.
- Nonylphenol ethoxylates, or NPEs, are used in non-organic clothing production as surfactants and break down into toxic nonylphenol (NP). This chemical is a hormone-disruptor and is hazardous at very low levels.
NPEs are released into the environment during production – and when you wash your clothes. Even wastewater treatment facilities, if they exist, can’t break them down fully.
Just how widespread of an issue are NPEs? Greenpeace International recently commissioned an independent lab to analyze 78 articles of clothing from 15 leading brands and 52, or two-thirds of the items tested positive for NPEs.
Organic Cotton: A Healthier, More Responsible Choice
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to find non-GMO, organic and Fair Trade-certified clothes when you go shopping?
As of 2017, organic cotton made up only one percent of the global cotton production.
Yet, organic cotton has been shown to be much better for the environment, the farmers and workers, and you.
Here are some key features of organic cotton production:
- Its non-GE seeds aren’t treated with fungicides or pesticides
- No harsh chemicals, toxic herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers are used, reducing the use of non-renewable energy
- Plants are 80 percent rain-fed, reducing reliance on local water sources
- Reduces field emissions from fertilizer, and reduced nitrogen and phosphorus deposit into water
- Increases soil protection which helps prevent erosion
- Plants are allowed to wither naturally or exposed to frost for harvest, avoiding the use of toxic defoliating chemicals like Round Up or glyphosate
- Promotes safe work and better livelihoods for farmers and pickers
Organic cotton farming supports the environment by embracing the concept of regenerative agriculture – an approach to farming systems that regenerates topsoil and enhances biodiversity now and long into the future.
Guided by a specific set of principles and practices, regenerative agriculture improves the health of the land, and as a result, positively impacts the air, water, ecosystems, food, animal welfare and human health.
Now There’s Proof That Organic Cotton Benefits Communities, Soil, and Water Supplies
Textile Exchange, a nonprofit dedicated to sustainability, recently conducted an 18-month study to demonstrate the benefits of organic cotton farming. This study, called the Organic Cotton Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), found that organic cotton production, compared to conventional cotton, had:
- 46 percent reduced global warming potential
- 70 percent less acidification potential (as with acid rain)
- 26 percent reduced soil erosion potential
- 91 percent reduced “blue” water (the amount of surface water and groundwater needed to produce a product)
- 62 percent lower energy demand
In contrast to conventional cotton, the LCA found that 95 percent of the water used to produce organic cotton is green water, or rainwater and moisture stored in the soil. Little or no irrigation is used, a huge plus for drought-prone areas.
Thanks to the LCA, we now have proof that organic cotton production provides positive benefits for farmers, communities, soil, water and more.
Now, it’s just up to clothing manufacturing companies and shoppers to embrace it...
Even though organic cotton is only a small piece of the worldwide cotton industry, as of 2011, approximately 219,000 farmers in 20 countries were growing organic cotton, led by India, and followed, in numbers, by Syria, China, Turkey, United States, Tanzania, Egypt, Mali, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Pakistan, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Benin, Paraguay, Israel, Tajikistan, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Senegal.
The Only Way to Know If You’re Getting True Organic Cotton
When shopping for cotton clothing, don’t fall for marketing gimmicks like "All-Natural" cotton or "All-Natural" fibers. These meaningless words don’t guarantee you that the items are free of harsh, toxic chemicals or genetically engineered fibers.
All cotton sold as organic in the United States must meet strict federal regulations regarding the type of seeds used and how the cotton is grown and processed.
Much like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets superior standards for organic food, Global Organic Textile Standards, or GOTS, provides third-party certification for the organic textile industry.
GOTS oversees the growing, processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, trading and distribution of all textiles made with at least 70 percent certified organic fiber.
Just as with organic food standards, a textile product carrying the GOTS Organic seal must contain a minimum of 95 percent certified organic fibers, while one with the “made with organic” label must contain a minimum of 70 percent certified organic fiber.
GOTS-certified textiles must be produced without conventional cotton’s pesticides, bioengineered ingredients, formaldehyde, chlorine bleaches, heavy metals or other harsh chemicals detrimental to humans and the environment.
When buy certified organic cotton clothing, always look for the GOTS Organic seal – it’s your only way to know it is truly organic.
Resurrecting American Organic Cotton Farming
Texas produces almost half of all the cotton grown in the U.S. The high plains, a region of 41 counties in Texas, are responsible for 90 percent of the organic cotton harvested in the entire country.
Yet growing organic cotton on the high plains isn’t easy.
In a region where 91 percent of the cotton grown is genetically engineered – and 90 percent of it contains the Roundup Ready gene – contamination has become an unavoidable part of an organic cotton farmer’s life.
Under current patent law, the burden falls on the organic farmer to keep genetically engineered cotton out of his or her fields!
When all the surrounding fields contain the GE variety, it becomes a continuous battle. But battle they must...
If DNA tests done by inspectors detect more than five percent of Roundup Ready cotton contamination in an organic field, the organic, non-GE cotton farmer can be sued and even lose their organic certification.
In addition to contamination, organic farmers worry about the spread of unwanted chemicals from neighboring fields. Chemical drift can kill an organic, non-biotech crop.
Clearly, there needs to be a way to support this cooperative of organic cotton farmers – the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative – and to honor their struggles. And to help support the growth of not only organic cotton, but to also promote the return of textile manufacturing back to the U.S.
That’s where Marci Zaroff and MetaWear Organics enter the picture...
About Marci Zaroff and MetaWear Organics
Early on, Marci Zaroff had a vision... Why couldn’t clothing and household linens be eco-friendly and fashionable at the same time?
In 2012, Marci – the original “green fashionista” – set out to address the growing demand for eco-friendly, made in the USA T-shirts.
Part of the team that developed GOTS, she began looking for a U.S.-based partner who had the capability to produce GOTS-compliant custom goods.
She soon met dye maverick CAS Shiver and MetaWear was born.
In true eco-fashion style, MetaWear produces GOTS certified apparel that is cut, sewn, dyed and printed all under one roof. And sources only U.S.-grown organic cotton in homage to the hard working American organic cotton farmers who are trying to do the right thing.
Their ecological and efficient turnkey business model encompasses all five “P’s” – not just one or two: people, planet, profit, passion and purpose. Here’s what makes MetaWear unique as a clothing manufacturer:
- They source only fair-trade- and GOTS-certified organic cotton grown in the U.S. to produce their T-shirts for men, women, and children
- Instead of harsh chemicals and toxic dyes for coloring their T-shirts, they use fiber reactive, low impact dyes, and “Seaink,” a hi-tech dye process that uses a seaweed-derived base without formaldehyde, PVC, resins, or binders.
- They are the first and only U.S. GOTS certified screen printer. Their shirts are scrutinized at every step, from fiber cultivation through screen-printing, guaranteeing the supply chain remains sustainable environmentally and socially.
- Their factory in Virginia uses geothermal and solar energy and pays all workers a living wage. No sweatshops!
- They produced the world’s first Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) Certified fashion T-shirt. C2C certification focuses on material health, material reuse, renewable energy, water stewardship, and social justice.
Marci has been working as a consultant for us for several years now, helping us create our own line of GOTS-certified organic cotton mattresses, organic bed sheets and towels.
MetaWear is proud to be leading the charge in revolutionizing the textile industry and supporting regenerative agriculture – and I could be more honored to join them in both visions!
The Dirt Shirt – the Antithesis of Fast Fashion
The Dirt Shirt is a high-quality T-shirt made in the U.S. from farm to finish – grown, spun, cut and sewn.
A true symbol for regenerative agriculture, our GOTS-certified organic cotton Dirt Shirt stands for everything that Fast Fashion doesn’t…
- NO genetically engineered cotton and the hazardous herbicides that go with the
- NO dangerous microfibers than can threaten waterways and marine life
- NO harsh chemicals and toxic pesticides and defoliators to harm farmers and workers
- NO destruction of soil quality and polluting of air and waterways
- NO residues of carcinogenic or other hazardous chemicals and pesticides than can enter through your skin
- NO sweatshops or unfair labor practices, instead providing a fair living wage and safe, positive working conditions for farmers, pickers, and factory workers
- NO plundering of precious natural resources like energy and water
Because I believe so strongly in regenerative agriculture, we’re participating in and donating all profits from my Dirt Shirts to the Care What You Wear Campaign. This campaign benefits the regenerative agriculture movement through non-profit organizations like the Organic Consumers Association (OCA).
Available in black and white, you’ll treasure these high quality and well-made organic cotton T-shirts. Form-fitting and sleek looking, there’s no compromise on fashion with these stylish shirts!
The women’s Scoop Neck Dirt Shirt comes in a flattering, slightly fitted style with a rounded scoop neck (see Marci modeling it in the photo below), and the men’s Crew Neck Dirt Shirt comes in a true athletic fit (see me in my shirt below). The kid’s shirt is traditionally styled.
All shirts are pre-shrunk, so be sure to order your true size. Shirts are washed and softened during the manufacturing process, so you get a ready-to-go T-shirt that feels almost as soft as cashmere on your skin!
Like a looser, roomier fit? Simply order the next size up.
Stand Up for Regenerative Agriculture – Care What You Wear
What you wear should make you feel good, both on the inside and the outside.
You should feel good about where your clothes came from and how they were made – including all the hands that touched the cotton, the cloth, and the finished product.
It’s really all about caring – and doing the right thing.
After all, if you don’t care, who will?
It’s up to you to have a voice and take a stand. When you own one or more made-in-the-U.S.A. Dirt Shirts, you do both. You:
… Make a statement that you support the regenerative agriculture movement that promises to preserve and make the land healthier every year.
… Say “no” to sweatshops and unfair and unsafe labor practices in the cotton fields and in the garment factories.
… Reject the senseless use of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals and pesticides that are poisoning the earth and your body.
We’re standing by our word… The profits from every Dirt Shirt we sell on this site will support the regenerative agricultural movement. That’s right, 100 percent of profits.
When you support regenerative agriculture, everything benefits – the air, water, ecosystems, food, animal welfare, and of course, your health.
Won’t you take a stand and care what you wear? Order your Dirt Shirt today!