Many of us spend extra time and money sourcing organic foods. Yet if you polled those same people, I imagine you would find the majority don't think twice about organic fabrics. So what's the big deal, you might ask? It's intuitive to be concerned about whether fruits and vegetables have been treated with chemicals or preservatives, but fabrics? Is this taking the organic aspect too far? Are organic fabrics worth it?
Most people know all about thread count and how it pertains to sheets. And if you're spending top dollar on high thread count sheets, you assume you're getting premium-quality bedding, right? Not necessarily. While high thread counts can make for better sheets, it's the actual thread that matters most. In fact, bedding made from a higher-quality fiber with a lower thread count will actually out-perform linens with a higher thread count but poorer quality fiber.
If you're looking for fabrics with a higher-quality fiber, sourcing organic textiles is good option. Organic textiles are usually made from one of two materials: organic cotton or organic hemp. Hemp can be grown very easily without pesticides, and it's a highly renewable resource. But unfortunately, past politics have gotten in the way and made this versatile green resource illegal to grow here. This means if you are wearing or using hemp products, you can bet that at the very least, the fabric has been imported. (Currently 33 states have introduced pro-hemp legislation and 10 allow its production. But since growing or buying seeds is still against federal law, famers are fearful of being busted. This is a shame because hemp fabric, as well as paper, would be extremely inexpensive and eco-friendly to grow here. For more information on industrial hemp farming in the US, visit Vote Hemp).
So let's move on to cotton. Cotton is "the fabric of our lives", right? Picture those beautiful cotton fields against the blue sky and fluffy clouds, and we think "pure and natural". Well, we couldn't be more wrong. Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the US. According to the Sustainable Cotton Project, conventional cotton farming uses about 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percent of the pesticides. The process of growing conventional cotton poisons the soil, air, and ground water. Many of the chemicals used were originally formulated as nerve gases for warfare! This has led to many health problems in humans and wildlife around cotton fields, as well as for the workers. Furthermore, bedding often contains additional chemicals, added later in the production process.
At a glance, conventionally grown cotton is hard to distinguish from cotton that’s organically grown. The difference is that Certified Organic means the cotton has been grown, harvested, processed, and manufactured without chemicals, and with a lower carbon footprint than traditional cotton. Growing organically takes more time, requires more knowledge and skill, and for now, costs more. But I think it's worth it. Even if you don't care about the environmental impact, consider the amount of time you spend in bed. Then think about how much time you spend sleeping on sheets that were manufactured using harmful chemicals. And if you suffer from allergies, including skin allergies, making the switch to organic linens should be even more of a priority.
On the upside, more and more companies are offering organic textile options. Even our bigger chain stores are jumping on the bandwagon, which makes their price more competitive. An easy way to make the switch is to just start slowly transitioning to organic linens. Buy one set of organic sheets or towels and go from there. I did just that a couple of years ago, and now I find I don't want to sleep on anything else. For me, it's time to purge the rest and splurge on another set.
Have you made the switch? If so, what were your reasons, and do you feel it was worth it?
(Image credits: West Elm via Apartment Therapy)