How ‘Green’ is Green Cotton?

Ellen Goverde
December 16th 2012

The latest trend in fashion is organic clothing. These clothes are made with organic materials and raised or grown by organic agricultural standards. Examples of such organic materials are cotton, jute, silk, ramie or wool. These materials are grown without herbicides, pesticides or any genetically modified seeds.

Intuitively we expect these organic clothes to be more environmental friendly and sustainable than polyester textiles, until you realize the natural color of cotton is not green, but brown.

Popular retailers such as H&M and Zalando have campaigns concerning ‘green’ clothes. They focus on the environment and they promote the use of organic clothes because it is less harmful for the environment. Their marktet strategy is to link the outdoor clothes with nature and they believe that people will buy organic clothes when they will experience nature.

An example of such a green brand is One Green Elephant, as implemented in the collection of retailer Zalando. This brand has a green elephant as its logo and only uses 100% organic cotton for their clothes. The cotton is grown, processed and produced without pesticides or other toxic chemicals. They also take a greater responsibility by dying and treating the clothes with concern for the environment. The clothes have a longer lifetime because of the organic cotton. You can even join a green club on their website.

Green cotton seems just wonderful, until you realize the natural color of cotton is in fact brown. Most clothes we buy at Zalando are of a different color. For dying these clothes the manufacturer uses chemicals to first bleach the cotton and secondly to color the cotton. So maybe clothes made by 100% polyester are less harmful for the environment than dyed cotton. And why would organic clothes sustain longer than clothes made with herbicides, persticides or any genetically modified seeds?

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