It is no secret that over the past few years there has been a distinct change in our society, with a wonderful shift towards eco-friendly, organic, sustainable, and fair-trade items. While this covers everything from the food we eat, to the bags we carry our groceries in, today I am going to focus on the organic and sustainable clothing options available to you and your family – and most importantly, explain what it actually means!
Are you often confused about the difference between sustainable and organic, or maybe just have no idea what either mean?
Well, a few years ago before I started my business I felt the same.
The main thing you need to know is generally in the handmade clothing world, all organic cotton clothing is sustainable, however not all sustainable clothing is organic.
Where the cotton is not organic, the sustainable clothing label often refers to clothing made from second hand, repurposed, or vintage fabrics. This is sustainable because they are using fabrics that already exists, they are not adding to the waste problems we are currently facing, and instead they take something that may have otherwise been destined for the trash and create gorgeous clothing.
I personally think this form of sustainable clothing is a fabulous concept! Conventional cotton is a huge market currently, and there is an absolute abundance of conventional cotton clothing that is being sent to the tip every day, sustainable clothing businesses who repurpose fabric which has already served its initial purpose and has been toughly cleaned, removing all of the nasties is a wonderful cost-effective option of updating your wardrobe without adding to the ‘fast fashion’ waste.
Organic cotton clothing is quite different, organic cotton farming is a very regulated sector, GOTS is one term you may often hear, it refers to the Global Organic Textile Standard.
GOTS monitors the entire supply chain and testing of organic cotton, they ensure that the cotton is grown in an environment separate to any harmful pesticides or chemicals, they ensure that only fair-trade labour is used to harvest the cotton, as well as during the manufacturing process, GOTS also only allow the use of dyes that are non-toxic and environmentally friendly. They have strict environmental and social policies which business must follow, including regulations relating to waste water, and irrigation.
Organic cotton is a pesticide-free, environmentally sustainable and ethical choice alternative to regular (conventional) cotton. The production practices of growing and developing organic cotton use far less natural resources, better preserves soil fertility and cleaner waterways, leaving behind a smaller agricultural footprint supporting a more biodiverse ecosystem and healthier communities.
What is the difference between organic cotton and conventional cotton?
Why does it matter?
The production of conventional cotton (all cotton that is not labelled as ‘Organic’) has a negative and unbalanced environmental impact. Conventional cotton production relies on the heavy use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides that promote chemical-resistant pests, pollutes the environment and reduces biodiversity. A typical cotton crop needs a LOT of water, for example 11,000L is required to produce 1kg of cotton, a typical adult t-shirt requires 450g of cotton; this water consumption is 91% higher than what is required in organic cotton farming. This intensive irrigation can lead to degraded soil fertility, and the dyes that can be used in an uncontrolled production phase can exacerbate negative environmental impacts.
Australia has been moving towards banning free single use plastic bags for some time. From 1 July 2018, free single use plastic bags will be phased out from major retails stores, making them banned virtually nationwide.
Bans of single use plastic bags in various states started back in 2009, with Queensland and Western Australia being the latest states to ban single use bags on 1 July.
Each year, major supermarket chain customers would use an estimated 6 billion plastic bags. That’s a lot of plastic bags!
So now what? There are plenty of options for reusable bags, but have you considered making your own?
They are not as difficult as you may think! Alana from Rosie Petal Patterns has a fabulous reusable bag pattern for the DIYers! Based in Australind in the South West of WA, Alana developed a pattern to suit the major supermarket bag packing racks – making them easy to pack, no fuss!
This is what Alana has to say about developing her pattern:
“Around August last year I began experimenting with fabric shopping bags. I was surprised to find there was a bit of a science to it! After consulting with my audience at Rosie Petal and experimenting with my prototypes, my check list of “must haves” were: They must fit in the bag holders at all the major shops, they must be compact enough to be stored inside my handbag, and they must be strong and comfortable to handle and carry. And of course, be beautiful! Many months have passed since then, and I am so happy to wake up to new stories of people having fun sewing their BYO bags. I love stories of stashes being sewn up instead of lingering on the shelves, and how they are being gifted to dear ones, school fetes and fundraisers. A practical gift is the best kind in my book!”
For once in my life, I am actually prepared for a change! I’ve been planning this for ages, as I ALWAYS forget to bring grocery bags with me!
I purchased Alana’s pattern some months ago to test them out in preparation for this change in Queensland. The pattern is really easy to follow, with both pattern pieces or measurements provided, depending on which works better for you. They don’t take long to make, but I do suggest if you are making several at a time, cut them all on one go and make them in a ‘production style’ (ie make all straps at once, sew all bag components first etc). Alana also has her own pattern group, so if you are stuck, you can always ask for tips and advice.
I love how you can completely personalise the bags – use bright fabrics, use your favourite licensed character fabric, upcycle with vintage sheets, spots and stripes – the options are endless!
They also make a fabulous handmade gift for friends and family, or end of year gift for teachers.
We are so so excited to be able to bring you our very first featured Mini Maker! We are unashamedly passionate about everything Australian Handmade and want to do everything we can to grow the Australian Handmade movement. This includes encouraging the next generation of makers…the mini makers! We believe it is so important to foster kids creativity and passions. We are going to feature regularly on our blog, some amazingly talented kids and their creative work.
Now onto our very first mini maker…we are proud to introduce you to Aleera!
When I started this journey almost 5 years ago, I didn’t know where it would lead me.
I have always loved handmade or artisan made items. I loved that I found something that was made by one person, it had that person’s imprint on it, it was unique and made in small batches. I had something special in my hands and that made me feel special too.
As it often does, it started with a desire to make some handmade clothing for my daughter. Ana was a petite baby and nothing fitted her very well. So I decided to make some of her own clothing.