Sustainability, deforestation or climate change are just a few examples of terms that have gained enormous popularity in recent years. But what does sustainable clothing actually mean? What distinguishes them from the regular goods that can be bought almost everywhere? In order to shed some light on the dark, we have compiled a brief summary of the most important factors to consider when buying sustainable clothing.
In general, it is the same in the clothing industry as in the food industry. No genetically modified seeds may be used in organic products. For this reason, only cotton that has neither been genetically modified nor treated with chemical fertilizers may be called organic or organic. As a result, the soil on which the organic cotton is planted is not as polluted as that of regular cotton. This is due to the fact that natural pesticides and fertilizers are used. Conversely, this has a positive effect on us humans. Thus both the workers are protected, since they do not come into contact with artificial or even poisonous chemical substances, and the final consumer, who wears the T-shirt directly on the skin.
The GOTS seal is a meaningful seal that marks the use of organic cotton. It identifies manufacturers who value sustainable clothing. The non-profit organisation does not focus only on the use of organic cotton, as with the OCS (Organic Cotton Standard; https://www.pcu-deutschland.de/ocs-standard/zertifikat) label. The company is also committed to the elimination of chemical pesticides and the fulfilment of certain criteria relating to environmental management. It is the world's leading standard for processing textiles from organically produced natural fibres. Even more detailed information can be found on the official website (https://www.global-standard.org/de/the-standard/general-description.html).
After clarifying what impact organic cotton has on sustainable clothing, it is also important to know what Fairtrade means in this context. Organic cotton accounts for only a small percentage of the huge cotton market because organic farms are still mostly small. However, these often lead to better working conditions, as they are usually not dependent on third parties (vendors, pest controllers, etc.). The Fairtrade seal points out that there are regulated working conditions and that the payment for the workers is fair. This certification also excludes child labour, which unfortunately still exists in many regular companies. Not only the use of ecologically degradable materials is important when it comes to sustainable clothing, but also the conditions under which the clothing is manufactured. If workers or even children are exploited, this leads to unsocial conditions in the long-term perspective, which also have a bad effect on the producing country and therefore cannot develop sustainably.
Synthetic fibres such as polyester, together with cotton, are the most commonly used raw materials in the clothing industry. Unfortunately, many customers are unaware of the environmental impact of regular polyester fibres. Smaller fibres of this raw material are released again and again, which then end up in the sea through the sewers. This is problematic because the small fibres contain microplastics, which has negative consequences for all living creatures in the sea.
In summary, if you are interested in sustainable clothing and would like to support companies in this area, it is best to look for all these seals. If companies only display one of these seals or even use synthetic materials such as polyester, you will at least know that they are not as sustainable as they claim to be.