Cotton, Inc.’s Five Tips for Sourcing Eco-Friendly Materials

Cotton, Inc.’s Five Tips for Sourcing Eco-Friendly Materials

Sunday, January 04 2015

Cotton, Inc. has been promoting the fiber commonly known as the “fabric of our lives” for over 40 years. They continue to innovate with technology, but cotton itself continues to be inherently environmentally friendly.  

In this 40 Years of Progress video, J. Berrye Worsham, President & CEO of Cotton, Inc. says:

Technology is the cornerstone of improving sustainability in cotton. The greatest environmental advantage of cotton is that it’s a natural fiber and therefore is renewable as cottons energy comes from the sun. For every pound of fiber that’s produced, it produces 1.5 pounds of seed that can be converted to other resources.

In this interview, James Pruden, Senior Director of Public Relations for Cotton, Inc. provides brands with advice on how to source fabric that will produce eco-friendly products.

Pruden says to first and foremost, “Consider the source.” He explains how to do this across five key areas:

1.  Data:  Consider the source data for any preliminary research. LCAs (Life Cycle Assessment) are greattools that can help guide decisions. However, each one is unique and uses different criteria to present results. Comparing one LCA to another is rarely an apples-to-apples situation. Sustainability indexes are also great for providing direction, but in order for decision-makers to make truly informed decisions, they need to understand how certain scores are weighted.

2.  The Source Material:  Compared to synthetics, natural fibers like cotton are typically less environmentally detrimental because natural fibers are renewable crops and products made from them can decompose readily at the end of their lifespan.

3.  The Source of the Source Fiber:  Does the fiber come from a country, region or manufacturer that shows demonstrated improvement in production practices, a commitment to ongoing improvement, and the means to fulfill that commitment? The last point is important for maintaining a sustainable supply chain over the long-term.

4.  Additional Environmental Gain:  Cotton provides more than textile fiber. Consider whether there are organizations working to reduce the environmental impact of processing and manufacturing of products from the source material. Cotton Inc., for example, works independently and with public companies to research institutions to identify and share new cotton textile chemistries and processing efficiencies.

5.  Additional Costs:  There can be additional costs that may be attached to producing a less environmentally-taxing product. Are they using certain raw materials, processes or chemistries that might make the product less economically sustainable?

Cotton Field

Brands that want to be more mindful of the sustainability of the materials that go into their products can discuss these key topics with suppliers.