Cotton is a fine and so much used material for a good reason. It is breathable, durable and versatile. At the same time, so familiar and mundane that it is easy to forget that the path of cotton to our everyday use is not short, nor as natural as it is in our imaginations.

That is why, even in the face of self-doubt, I decided to write here even the main points of making cotton garments.

The seeds should be sown. Grow, care and water. Fertilizers, pesticides and water are needed. A lot of water! (one person's multi-year drinking water per one t-shirt!)

Indeed, water is becoming a problem whose scale is difficult to comprehend. Because water is usually a limited resource in cotton-growing areas, cultivation can cause even major local damage and human suffering. The comparison to the amount of drinking water is not windswept; mm falling groundwater is the real consequence of irrigation.

In intensive farming, fertilizers and pesticides also play an important role in productive yields. Chemicals control both pests and weeds.

Cultivation of cotton consumes natural resources

The crop needs to be harvested, with the help of chemicals. Clean, comb, sort. Comb and re-sort, many times, to achieve a good quality result.

Spin so that the fibers are arranged in the form of a yarn.

Dye what happens in the broth by washing. Water is needed again. Chemicals.

The yarn should be woven into a fabric. Maybe it mixes other fibers to make the product even more comfortable and easy to care for, or combines more colors into the fabric. We may even press a beautiful pattern on the surface. Or wash to obtain a faded color. Standard work for jeans, for example. Consumes more and more water and chemicals.

You have to plan, plan and cut.

Eventually we get to sew. Add buttons, zippers, badges, decorations.

At this point, cotton has already been able to travel on many continents, very likely in at least many countries.

Finished products are sorted and packaged. Deliver the fine end product to the wholesaler, then to the store. Extracting. Let's bring it up. Sold. Packed again for us to take home.

Many of these steps are assisted by machines. Nevertheless, it is difficult to even try to figure out the number of people needed in the whole process. Still in this world, cotton fields employ people in forced labor-like conditions, including children.

So how is it possible that shops that sell such a large amount of work and require an ecological footprint are sold for only a few euros?

No new cotton

The environmental and social impacts of cotton, as well as production volumes, are so great that I want to treat cotton exactly as it is: a material that has required a lot to be finished and is therefore valuable.

The cotton products sold by Upcycler are recycled or reused cotton. We do not sell new cotton at all because there are alternatives.

Cotton recycling as a material: the whole crop is used

One way to reduce the need for new cotton production is to make better use of once grown.

Up to about 15% of the cotton produced is wasted as cutting and spinning waste *, a small shred and fluff that inevitably arises in the manufacture of clothing and yarn.

Pure Waste utilizes this textile waste from production, allowing the material to be utilized more accurately. The cutting waste is carefully collected and sorted according to color and spun into new fiber, combining the polyester of recycled plastic bottles as reinforcement. No new staining is required. This saves many of the ecological and ethical problems of cotton growing.

Cotton waste recycling

Reuse of cotton fabrics

High-quality, dense cotton fabric is long-lasting and durable.

TAUKO Design make use of discarded rental textiles, most of which are cotton blends.

TAUKO The design recycles cotton fabrics

Jeans are an eternal favorite in cotton products, but also a consumable one, because making one pair of jeans requires a lot of material and at the same time more than 10 liters of water. Jeans are also bleached, worn, washed and dyed a lot before they get their true, street-credible style.

There are several small companies in Finland that utilize the jeans used in their products. Making new products, especially clothes, from finished clothing is a demanding artisanal job.

Piece of Jeans has developed a method in which used clothing is assembled into new products piece by piece.

Recycling of used jeans Piece of Jeans

Models: Susanna Heinonen and Joni Sydänlammi. Photographer: Jussi Viljamaa

What about organic?

So, why couldn't there be organic cotton in the Upcycler range?

All in all, we are producing new material to the world at an accelerating pace. Although organic cotton farming requires less water, fewer chemicals and even lower COXNUMX emissions, organic production still has the production of new material.

I see Upcycler's core mission as reducing the need for new material production as a whole.

reading suggestions

For Ethical Trade, the association has very good, people-oriented material "Cotton Paths in the Global World".

Extensive article on the Fair Trade website Cotton production disciplines the environment - the real price of a cheap shirt is not visible to the consumer

* Source: Pure Waste Textiles

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