Over the past six years that I have spent working where coffee meets sustainability, I have become an outspoken advocate for organic agriculture. I muse, write, and rant (happily) about the benefits of organic farming – from worms in compost to stabilized yields to organic farming's potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – but usually I'm just thinking in terms of coffee farming. Occasionally, I branch out to learn and talk about other edibles – milk is an easy one, as a former barista – but I admit that I hardly ever think beyond the food on my dining table. This is silly, I know, because I don't even need to leave the dining room (or the analogy) to find another crop to explore: pick up a napkin and wipe the crumbs from the tablecloth, because cotton farming tops the list for chemical dependency – pesticides, in particular – when it's not grown organically.
It's easy to forget that what we put on matters as much as what we put in our bodies, at least when we're talking about the environmental impact. According to clothing company Patagonia, "fully 10 percent of all agricultural chemicals in the United States are used to produce cotton, grown on just one percent of all major agricultural land." This time last year, Patagonia shocked customers, supporters, and critics by publishing a Black Friday/Cyber Monday ad encouraging people not to buy products – including Patagonia clothing and outdoor gear – that they don't need. The company's Common Threads initiative is unique among retailers, and its commitment to the environment is fundamental to its identity, but did you know that 100 percent of their cotton is certified organic and that it has been since 1996? As they say, "The move didn't compromise quality and it provoked a fundamental change in our attitudes about agriculture ... many of us have shifted to buying organic foods and clothing for ourselves and our families."
If the statistic about chemicals on cotton grown domestically led you to wonder about the difference that organic cotton makes on an international scale, UK's Soil Association is the perfect place to look, especially now that they have teamed up with the Global Organic Textile Standard to promote organic cotton through the Cottoned On campaign. I can't help but love this pledge, especially in the context of our ongoing Save Our Soil campaign. I encourage you all to follow the link to Cottoned On and to "choose to support farmers and protect the environment" by pledging to buy organic cotton – as well as organic coffee, of course!