1) It’s Better for People – That’s where the “fair trade” part comes in. In the case of Nomads’ operations, no children under the age of 16 make their products. Men and women receive equal pay and opportunity within the workplace. The company pays men and women the same pay plus pays a fair wage to all workers that is either at or above the national average. And to ensure safe working conditions, workers receive regular breaks and holidays.
2) It’s Better for the Planet – That’s where the “organic” part comes in. Cotton has the second largest agricultural use of pesticides in the world. Twenty-five percent (25%) of the world’s insecticides and more than 10% of the world’s pesticides are used on cotton. The worst part is, not all of those pesticides stay on cotton fields. It is estimated that only 25% of pesticides sprayed from a crop duster actually hit the crop. The rest drifts for miles and lands on other food crops and residential areas. Make no mistake: these pesticides are harmful. Four of the top nine pesticides used on cotton are classified as cancer-causing chemicals (cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite). According to a 1997 study by the International Labor Organization, 14% of all occupational injuries in the agricultural sector and 10% of all fatal injuries can be attributed to pesticides. It takes one pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to conventionally grow the three pounds of cotton needed to make a T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
3) It’s Stylish and Trendy – Designers who are creating fair trade organic fashion seem to be way ahead of the curve when it comes to creating hip and flattering styles that don’t look like what every other person is wearing. They’re distinct without being outrageous (unless you WANT to be outrageous – you can find that, too.).
4) It’s Affordable – Fair trade organic fashion won’t break the bank. In fact, prices are very comparable to what you’d expect to pay for a product that is quality made, unique, and beneficial to the people who made it.
5) It’s Available – An increasing number of retailers are carrying fair trade organic fashion on their racks. But you’ll find an even greater selection online. Blouses, dresses, coats, scarves, pants, and more are easily available.
6) It’s a Great Way to Use the Power of Your Purse – At Big Green Purse, we’re big advocates of shifting the way we spend our money to products that offer the greatest environmental benefit. We also like using our spending power to inspire corporations to be more responsible environmental citizens. Whey you buy fair trade organic fashion, you’re not just doing something for yourself, the people who made your clothes, and the world we all live in. You’re sending a direct message to companies that they need to clean up their act if they want your business (and believe me – they definitely want your business!).
Don’t believe me? According to Nomads, in 1997, large apparel companies purchased 2.15million lbs of organic cotton, which eliminated an estimated 43,000 lbs of pesticides and 485,190 lbs of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Over the years there has been a gradual increase in developing and executing products manufactured by using organic cotton. As a result of consumer interest, organic cotton fibre is used today in everything from personal care products (sanitary products, make-up removal pads, cotton puffs and ear swabs) to home furnishings (towels, bathrobes, sheets, blankets, bedding), child accessories (toys, diapers), clothes of all kinds and styles (whether for lounging, sports or the workplace) and even stationery and note cards. In addition, organic cottonseed is used for animal feed and organic cottonseed oil is used in a variety of food products, including cookies and chips. More organic products are being developed with less environmental impact, thanks to the power of the purse.
What to Look for When You Buy Fair Trade Organic Fashion
Documentation – The most reputable companies back up their claims with third-party certification or independent verification. For example, in the case of Nomads, their factory in India meets the guidelines laid down both by Skal, an organic certifying agency based in the Netherlands, and by the American Organic Trade Association. The company also abides by requirements that keep organic cotton separate from conventionally grown cotton at all production stages. Care is taken to protect the organic integrity of the fiber. The fabric is processed with low impact dyes and finished with prescribed agents only. Organic fiber products are stored such that contamination from environmental sources and prohibited substances is avoided.
Waste Handling – Also consider how a producer handles its waste. In the case of Nomads, waste fabric from their garments is recycled to make bags and rugs, and saris are recycled to make new garments, as well.
Philanthropy - Finally, look for companies that give back some of their profits to help support the communities they care about. Nomads supports charities in India that encourage the education of rural children, provide community health services, and support shifts to an agricultural economy based on growing herbs, which are less susceptible to the impacts of climate change.
Whether you’ve never bought fair trade organic clothing before or your closet is full of it, take a look at what Nomads has to offer to get an idea of what’s available. While you’re on their website, make sure you read the inspiring story of Duncan and Vicky, the company’s founders. They met in India in the late 1980s, pretty much broke but enthralled with the people they met their and the clothing they made. A shared love of India and its culture inspired them to start up the company that is Nomads.
Like I said, fair trade organic fashion rocks!