Cotton is a fabric we all know and love. It’s a fibre that we associate with childhood nostalgia, it’s breathable and absorbent. What is considered a good option for bedding actually comes with heavy environmental, social and health impacts.
The industry produces 20 millions tons of cotton each year in around 90 countries including China, United States, India, Pakistan and West Africa. Cotton represents nearly half the fibre used to make clothes and other textiles worldwide. While the standards in developed countries such as the U.S. are in place, countries such as India do not have the health regulations to ensure the workers aren’t exposed to harsh chemicals.
The unsafe use of agricultural chemicals has severe health impacts on workers in the field such as cancer and hormone and birth defects. The chemicals also affect the ecosystems that receive excess doses that run-off from farms. Worldwide cotton covers 2.5% of the cultivated land and growers use 16% of the world’s pesticides.
One of the major problems with cotton productions is the water consumption and energy it takes to grow the crops. The crops need mass amounts of fresh water to grow, 20,000 litres in fact to produce 1kg of cotton. This is equivalent to a single T-shirt and pair of jeans. This causes a strain on the world’s water supply, especially in countries which are prone to droughts.
Much of the world’s land has now become completely unusable due to these impacts highlighted leaving behind a toxic barren wasteland that affects thousands of local habitants. The destruction of large-scale ecosystems such as the Aral Sea in central Asia and the deteriorating health and livelihoods of people living there is just an example of an area affected.
The supply chain of the cotton industry is also murky. With the sequence of events in the production process being somewhat unknown. Once cotton is cultivated it is then, ginned and spun, washed and dyed, cut and sewn, then flown around the world. There is long been the knowledge that there are children working in countries such as India for long hours with very little pay and the dye used day by day often contaminates the water supply of local villages.
While it is definitely a good idea to cut down on cotton usage with 100% organic cotton and linen, therefore avoiding the disastrous chemical effects these crops still need large amounts of clean water to survive. A great alternative is Bamboo Lyocell which is one of the most sustainable and contemporary textile materials of the 21st century. In the lyocell process, raw bamboo is dissolved using a non-toxic solvent producing non-hazardous effluent. Together with the water used in the production, the solution is recycled and reused in a closed loop system up to 200 times. Therefore, there are no residues of harmful chemicals and water consumption is reduced significantly. It is also stronger and softer than rayon.
Ettitude is the first and only company in the world to make 100% organic bamboo lyocell bedding.