We love cotton. The fiber is soft on our skin and easily washable. Cotton comprises 30-40% of the clothing that we wear today (FAO). In the apparel industry, cotton is considered to be the most extensively used natural fiber. Although we love this fiber, the production of it unfortunately comes at a cost. This blog takes a dive into how conventional cotton harms the planet and its peoples and why eMpulse chooses to use only GOTS certified organic cotton. Upholding our mission and values requires an ethical approach to producing new pieces of apparel, hopefully resulting in mindful pieces of wearable art that we can all feel positive about.

 Conventional Cotton Calamities

Cotton grown in today’s market is extremely resource intensive and leaves an extensive impact on natural and social environments. Cotton is a thirsty crop, especially in regions that it should not be farmed. To grow the cotton needed to construct 1 average t-shirt, the plants require more than 1,000 gallons of water (Mekonnen and Koekstra). Indeed, the water used to grow India’s exported cotton in 2013 could have supplied 85% of the country’s 1.24 billion people with about 27 gallons of water daily for a year (Turner). Wow. Additionally, these plants require heavy doses of insecticides and pesticides to perform as farmers expect them to. As a result, farmer's and communities near or downstream from cotton farms face the everyday reality of toxic chemicals in their water sources (Textile Exchange).

Some more quick facts about conventional cotton farming and production:

  • 95% of the cotton seed market is owned by GM (genetically modified) giants
  • Farmers are stuck in expensive contracts with little control
  • Farmer's and surrounding communities' health is effects by the toxic chemicals used and increased rates of cancer are shown in these farmers (The True Cost)
  • It is grown as a monocrop—destroying biodiversity and soil quality
  • No mandatory checks at conventional factories
  • Toxic dyes are allowed to be used, which can be absorbed into our bodies (GOTS 1)
  • The death of the Aral Sea is a result of conventional cotton farming, which relies primarily on irrigation to feed plants. It almost completely dried up in just the span of 50 years (See below). 

Source: NASA 

Organic Cotton Victories

Here at eMpulse, it is our mission to choose a more ethical path. Part of this path is upcyling, where we use existing apparel already in the market to create fresh yet retro one-of-a-kind pieces. This creation process is inherently low impact—meaning little to no natural or human resources from this planet are necessary. Another direction we take involves designing and creating new apparel. While we acknowledge that this path does require resources, we look towards ethical operations to do so.

One of these ethical operations involves sourcing GOTS certified organic cotton (Global Organic Textile Standard). Organic certification is necessary to protect the integrity of the production process. GOTS is the leading global organic textile processing standard for organic fibers (GOTS). It uses social and ecological criteria to ensure safe harvesting through responsible manufacturing.

Source: GOTS 

Seeing GOTS on our label means that 95% or more of the product must be organic. It also signifies that hazardous chemical inputs are prohibited. This refers to growing the actual crop and processing it—meaning that no hazardous pesticides can be used nor any toxic additives in the processing like flame retardants. Growing organic cotton produces 94% less greenhouse gases than conventional (GOTS). Actually, 75-80% of organically certified cotton is rain fed (Textile Exchange). Avoiding reliance on irrigation is extremely important to bypass any moral Aral Sea disasters from occurring.

GOTS organic cotton also signifies that the workers in the supply chain are treated like actual human beings. GOTS utilizes 3rd party verification to regularly check that:

  • They chose to be employed,
  • Have the freedom of association and collective bargaining
  • Child labor is not used
  • Discrimination is not practiced
  • No harassment and violence
  • See this GOTS fact sheet for more info

Source: Shuttershock

Questioning Organic Cotton

 It has come to our attention that the increased demand for organic cotton has outpaced the production of it. This has resulted in unethical practices along the supply chain. While GOTS relies on 3rd party verification for all processes from the field to fashion, other un-certified organic producers do not need to live up to such rigorous standards. So, when you, as the consumer, see ‘organic cotton’ be sure to look for reliable certification. If it is not certified, there is a good chance that it might not be organically or ethically made.

 Ethical Outlook  

We take production very seriously. If we are going to utilize new resources from this planet, they must live up to our ethical standards. This is why eMpulse will only ever source GOTS certified cotton for the sake of the planet and its peoples. We also want to make sure that YOU feel comfortable and mindful while choosing our products. We are always researching new fibers and technologies to provide the most sustainable product that we can. 

Continually Questioning the Norm,

eM and the eMpulse Team 



FAO. 2009. “Profile of 15 of the Word’s Major Plant and Animal Fibers. http://www.fao.org/natural-fibres-2009/about/15-natural-fibres/en/.

GOTS. 2019. “Ecology & Social Responsibility.” https://www.global-standard.org/images/resource-library/documents/GOTS-flyers/GOTS_CompareF2F_Flyer_Final_Web.pdf.  

Mekonnen, M.M. and A. Y. Hoekstra. 2011. “The Green, Blue, and Grey Water Footprints of Crops and Derived Products.” https://waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/Mekonnen-Hoekstra-2011-WaterFootprintCrops.pdf

Textile Exchange. 2016. “Material Snapshot: Organic Cotton.” VF Corporation and Brown and Williams Environmental LLC. https://textileexchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/TE-Material-Snapshot_Organic-Cotton.pdf

The True Cost Movie (2015) & "A Conversation with Larhea Pepper, an Organic Cotton Farmer and Magaing Director of Textile Exchange" https://truecostmovie.com/larhea-pepper-interview

Turner, Jane. 2019. “The Ethics of Cotton Production.” Ethical Consumer. https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/fashion-clothing/ethics-cotton-production.

January 08, 2021 — Kristy Karrer