As consumers, we’re inundated with endless clothing options. Unfortunately, we live in a world of fast fashion, in which the price of most brand-name clothing is so low that we’re enticed to continually purchase more. The low prices on sale tags, however, are not indicative of the full costs—both social and environmental—of the items that we purchase. Rather, the full costs are paid every day by the planet’s ecosystems and workers around the world, many of whom grow and pick pesticide-laden cotton under deplorable conditions.
As Adria Vasil writes in the 2008 national bestseller, Ecoholic, cotton production uses 10% of the world’s pesticides and 25% of its insecticides. Many of these chemicals are carcinogens, and all of them pose serious risks to ecosystems and human health. Chemical residues also remain on cotton during clothing manufacturing, meaning that factory workers and, ultimately, consumers, are exposed.
In addition to the problems caused by chemicals, the cotton industry also uses massive amounts of water, and is guilty of human rights abuses, including child labour.
So, what’s a socially and environmentally conscious fashionista to do? Don’t despair! Fair Trade and organic cotton options abound. Although uncommon in most popular retail stores, several businesses in Ottawa sell socially and environmentally responsible clothing, including clothing made with organic or Fair Trade cotton.
While it remains difficult to find clothing that is produced with cotton that is both Fair Trade and organic, remember that certified organic cotton remains your assurance that workers and the environment have not been exposed to harmful pesticides and insecticides.
The following Ottawa stores sell clothing made with Fair Trade and/or organic cotton:
Mountain Equipment Co-op, 366 Richmond Road
Green Tree Eco Fashion, 358 Richmond Road
Adorit Boutique, 153 York Street
Terra20, 2685 Iris Street
And, if you prefer to shop online, here are two great websites with numerous organic and Fair Trade options:
www.mightynest.com (This site carries a wide selection of organic bed and bathroom linens!)
Although these products are typically more expensive than what consumers are used to paying for pants, sweaters, and the like, their higher prices reflect the high ethical and environmental standards to which they are produced. Ultimately, by purchasing Fair Trade and organic cotton clothing, we choose to participate in a socially and environmentally responsible mode of consumerism. Although fashion trends change by the season, sustainable consumerism will always be in style!